The town of Arborville was quiet as the grave today, not because of any great mishap but because it was the afternoon of the big football game, during which student player Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch) had the opportunity to ask out cheerleader Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith). It was going to be a busy night for the town's teens, but what they didn't reckon on was a ball of fire falling from the sky, and a scavenging vagrant going to investigate. He finds what appears to be a meteorite containing a gelatinous substance that covers his hand - and it really hurts.
Though this science fiction horror remake was produced by the original's Jack H. Harris, it was written by the director Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont, which may explain why it comes over as being drawn from the work of Stephen King rather than an adaptation of a story from E.C. Comics or Joseph Payne Brennan. The smalltown setting is the same as the original, here an offpeak tourist resort, and the cast of characters are familiar, with the script taking care as in a King novel to build them up in tidy sketches no matter how long they would be around in the actual plot. In fact, this was one of the most ruthless Hollywood horror movies of its era when it came to dispensing with characters.
Taking the Steve McQueen role was Kevin Dillon, a juvenile delinquent much given to crashing his motorbike and about the right age to leave the town far behind, if he doesn't fall off his vehicle once again. As expected, the teenagers are the ones with integrity and nous, and the parents are strict and, y'know, just don't understand the kids of today, much in the way Steve had problems getting anyone to believe him about the menace until it was almost too late. The anti-authority theme is taken further, however, with the police being distinctly unhelpful and the military being aggressively domineering when it comes to containing the Blob, as if the film was taking that suspicion of those in charge to its logical conclusion.
The Blob itself was well-realised for the most part, although the special effects were variable if a lot more ambitious than its source. There's plenty of terrible back projection and the addition of rubbery tentacles isn't entirely convincing, however we do get some nice gore scenes as the victims are dissolved, with fairly ingenious methods of allowing them to succumb to the gelatinous menace. In addition, there were a few good setpieces: the Blob uses the sewers to get around town, so naturally there is a man who gets sucked down the waste disposal unit. And everyone who has sat in a cinema with an idiot sitting behind you talking all the way through the movie will smile at a certain bit in this.
When they show up the supposedly heroic military want to use the Blob as a weapon in the Cold War, and have an even greater interest in the monster. There were a good many neat acting opportunities as the likes of Jeffrey DeMunn (remembered by Darabont for inclusion in his series The Walking Dead decades later) as a tough but fair Sheriff - except where teen troublemakers are concerned - and cult favourite Candy Clark who has a great scene in a telephone booth enveloped by the ravenous, rampaging Blob. But it's the kids who save the day - or do they? The ending was left open for a sequel which never materialised - I suppose the next version, if there is one, will have a computer generated Blob. In its way this version, undoubtedly a remake which more or less lived up to the potential such a ghastly creature promised, was to the eighties what the original was to the fifties. Also with: that old urban myth about buying condoms. Electronic score by Michael Hoenig.