The Old and the New: The Blob (1958 and 1988)

In the world of film, there have been plenty of arguments about original movies versus remakes. Some may argue that the first version is superior, thanks to a purer execution in its idea or perhaps the methods of the time better working. Others may argue that a remake can be the better work, perhaps in better realizing the original work’s ideas or using better effects to pull off what the earlier work could not properly show. The debates rage back and forth, and some may lay down a blanket statement for its side. Personally, I feel that the case can vary based upon the films. Sometimes the original can work well, other times the remake can achieve better goals. In this case, I thought it might be worth examining an example of this split. After all, noting the elements in both can help to better understand the processes between an original and remake. In this case, I shall examine two films of the same subject, separated by 30 years from one another. The subject is The Blob, first made back in 1958 and earning a spot among classic ’50s sci-fi movies. Later, it would be remade in 1988, with the remake gaining a cult following over the years. Now, how do these two versions of the same work compare?

Both films work from the same basic plot. One night, a meteorite falls from space just outside of a small town. From within this meteorite, a strange amoeba-like creature emerges and begins crawling out in search of food. It wraps itself around its prey, dissolving them down into its body. A group of teenagers discover the creature and try to warn the authorities, only to be met by resistance from disbelieving adults. It is only once the creature grows in mass and its hunt more prominent, do the townspeople finally come together to fight for their survival and just maybe stop this alien creature. From this common point, along with a shared theme of distrust, come two diverging approaches. Firstly, the original 1958 film has its focus on the generational divide. In an age when sci-fi movies had their focus on adults and scientists, the movie stood out with its focus on teenagers trying to stop this seemingly unstoppable creature. It also offers a promise of hope in its narrative, as adults come to see past their prejudices and help out these desperate teenagers. The 1988 film, meanwhile, takes a more pointed angle in its distrust. Though there are issues between teens and adults, a more focused distrust comes from the government. They arrive claiming they they seek to simply quarantine and save the town, yet their attitudes suggest they know more about the creature than they let on. The result is that, in a way, the remake gives more of an enemy and explanation beyond just the blob itself.

As for the creature itself, the titular blob, both films offer great visions of this alien threat. In the original, the creature oozes and crawls with a creeping manner, even if the effects do not quite capture the full potential. That said, the idea of this monster, of a creeping blob that simply seeks to feed and eat, is a powerful one and it is no surprise that the creature should become such a classic movie monster. In fact, there is a particular detail that I find striking in the original. Namely, it begins as a clear-colored blob, but grow redder over the film as it consumes its victims. Meanwhile, the remake takes advantage of more modern effects to truly capture the terror of this blob. Often, there are clear views of victims enwrapped within the blob’s amorphous form, dissolving and breaking down in its acid-like body. The visual is a horrific one, and delivers a strong punch. That said, the remake’s conceit of the blob being able to form tentacles feels like an excessive touch. Despite the original’s weaker effects, there is something to be said for the simple effectiveness of a single, moving mass seeking out its prey. There are times that the remake certainly delivers that core terror, but occasionally it offers ideas that stray from the simple effectiveness of this monster. Now, is there a particular version of the film which I recommend?

Personally, I find that the 1988 version makes for a better watch. While the 1958 film certainly has its place in movie history, I find that the film has not aged well in certain regards. For instance, a fair amount of the film finds itself dragged down in dialogue that is delivered in a more amateur style. Along with that, budget limitations of the day mean that the blob itself is often relegated to an offscreen threat, until near the end of the film once it becomes a massive threat. Not that hiding a monster is necessarily bad, as it could build suspense. However, the result is frequent description of what it does, instead of a real showcase of its destruction. Most of all, the pacing of the movie feels bogged down, as the combination of weak performances and budget restrictions result in the movie dragging its feet and not fully delivering on its monster movie punch until near its end. Meanwhile, the pacing of the 1988 film moves along at a brisker flow, developing its story with solid twists and turns. Along with that, improved special effects allow the movie to deliver some visceral scenes of the blob’s attacks, at enough of a pace that it does not feel like the movie forgets to deliver on the horror of this creature. Ultimately, while the original film has a great idea along with a memorable movie monster, it feels like the remake is able to deliver more on the promise of that idea.

Oftentimes, arguments can rage back and forth on whether an original film or its remake is better. In the case of The Blob, I find that the 1988 remake is an enjoyable watch that has a better pace and the perk of more modern special effects to better realize the promise of the 1958 original.

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