1980s Horror Double Feature
Let me take you to the 80s for two cool horror flicks!
The year was 1988. The Cabbage Patch Kids craze was finally winding down, Michael Jackson released his album â€œBadâ€, and Garfield was beginning a full-blown animation career in his new series â€œGarfield and Friendsâ€. The WWF (yes, the WWF, not the WWE) was experiencing a surge in popularity, Bruce Willis started â€œMoonlightingâ€ for Fox to prove he had to â€œDie Hardâ€ and Disney and Amblin treated us to a live-action/animation spectacle called â€œWho Framed Roger Rabbitâ€. This year saw a special anniversary of two iconic horror films. So, lace up your hi-tops, grab your Pop Rocks and put on your copy of â€œMonster Mashâ€ while I take you back to the 1980s to sweeten your Halloween craving by offering a dual review.
I won't beat around the bushâ€¦it's not everyday I choose to sit down and watch a horror movie. If I had seen movies like these all the way back in 1988, I would not have been able to sleep for weeksâ€”I was that kind of kid, and I took things very seriously. So why do I choose to do it? Well, I had a roommate who loves horror movies, along with that I think I have an inner masochist inside me that says, â€œGo on Trey! Watch it! What's the matter chicken? You know Ariel's not going to take her top off!â€ Then there's also the fact that slasher movies can't failâ€”I mean, there will always be teens and college students hoping to see girls take their shirts offâ€”and the fact I am such a 1980s junkieâ€¦ these two movies motivated me to look at their genre differently; lately I was starting to take in more horror films than I probably ever have, watching gems and trash alike.
An analogy I made was the fact that two of my favorite cartoon series include "G. I. Joe" (1983) and "Transformers" (1984). These two series are very different in many regards. "G. I. Joe" had a down to earth premise but had very out-of-whack stories while "Transformers" had a more fantastic premise but felt much more close to home. One gave you every reason to care about both sides while the other made you come and stay for the heroes. So why do these two series continue to work? They were both made with the intention of selling toys, they gave people asperation to want to succeed and they work great if you watch them side-by-side.
The same can be said for "Return of the Living Dead Part II" and "The Blob". They are both horror films that have child hero characteristics, and one features something terrifying but still holds a sense of humor while the other has a silly idea but is truly horrifying. What's nice is if you are in the mood to watch something horror-related, these two movies work great side-by-side. There's another reason I will also get into, so read on and...
â€œBe afraidâ€¦ be very afraidâ€¦â€
First we have:
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
Cast: James Karen, Thom Mathews, Michael Kenworthy, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook, Thor van Lingen, Suzanne Snyder, Philip Bruns
Distributed by Lorimar Pictures, now owned by Warner Brothers
Runtime: 89 minutes
MPAA rating: R (violence, language, gore, dark humor)
â€œReturn of the Living Dead Part IIâ€ had a very risky set upâ€”it was to be a horror/comedy. Anyone who works in this business will tell you this type of film is insanely difficult to execute properly; horror fans tend to hate it if you want to be funny while comedy fans hate it if you want to be scary. That is just one risk among others this movie was doing. So what is it about this movie that seems to work? How did this movie avoid being bombed into oblivion? More to the point, I actually liked it and I don't even have any history with horror cinema?
That's what this article is for, so away we goâ€¦
WHAT'S GOING ON?
The US military is busy transporting a hazardous material called 2-4-5 Trioxin. This material is a toxic green gas that is able to reanimate the deceased. This potential biohazard must be contained and hopefully destroyed because is just too dangerous even for experimental purposes.
We are then introduced to a pre-teenage boy named Jesse Wilson (Michael Kenworthy) who is with a troublemaking bully named Billy Crowley (Thor van Lingen) and his subordinate Johnny (Jason Hogan). While seeing their â€œclubhouseâ€ inside the graveyard, Jesse learns the truth and then starts trying to evade them. It is here the boys discover the Trioxin drum inside a storm drain. Despite Jesse's advising not to open it, he's rewarded by Billy and Johnny locking him inside the mausoleum. While trying to get out he gets scared away by two graverobbers named Ed (James Karen) and Joey (Thom Mathews).
Returning home, Jesse meets with his sister Lucy (Marsha Dietlein) who tells him to do his homework or she'll tell Mom. The whole time she is waiting for the cable guy to come and install their new cable box. While studying Jesse uses some expertise in comic books to do some math about what happens if you are exposed to radiation. He dodges her and Tom Essex the cable guy (Dana Ashbrook) to learn about what Billy has doneâ€”he and Johnny had tampered with the drum and now has been exposed to the Trioxin. This is no flu bug Billyâ€¦
He's not the only one thoughâ€¦ the Trioxin has leaked out into the graveyard and the dead bodies are now rising from the graves as zombies.
The two sidesâ€”Jesse, Lucy and Tom, together with Ed, Joey and his girlfriend Brenda (Suzanne Snyder)â€”now must band together with Dr. Mandel (Philip Bruns) as he's the only one with a car, and hopefully they can dodge the zombies long enough. Making things worse? They have no one to turn to for help as the town has been evacuated in light of the zombie outbreak, not to mention Billy has succumbed to the Trioxin and now is out hunting them.
So the big question is, can Jesse and his group of allies survive long enough, inform the army, evade Billy and put the zombies in their place?
NOWâ€¦ TO BUSINESS.
First, I will give you a little history lesson.
The original movie, â€œNight of the Living Deadâ€ was directed and written by George Romero and his co-writer John Russo and released in 1968. This remains a historically relevant film because although zombies existed in earlier films, they were shown as creatures of voodoo spells that did nothing but obey their master. This film started a different paradigm of â€œzombie apocalypseâ€ filmmaking; that radiation caused them to start rising from their graves meant zombies act on their own terms and have no masters. This solidified zombies as a staple of Hollywood movie monsters; they are a menace to humanity and humans just cannot co-exist with them.
With the film having been a success, George Romero and John Russo obviously wanted to continue with their film series. Because they could not mutually agree on what to do next, they agreed to start their own continuities, both of which being canon. George Romero's â€œDeadâ€ series tried to stay close to the original film while John Russo's â€œLiving Deadâ€ series did things with a more comedic undertone.
It was also John Russo who more or less introduced the concept that zombie bites would not be contagious and that zombies would eat brains.
And here we are with â€œReturn of the Living Dead Part IIâ€, the first sequel to the 1985 original film, marking the 20th anniversary of the iconic 1968 movie.
I started to gain something of a deeper appreciation for zombie movies as of late. I know that it seems like an odd choice: I happen to very much appreciate children's film/literature and I consider myself to be an animation connoisseur, so why would someone like me be interested in films that are supposed to be scary? When I think about it, there can be some odd similarities between the two. For one, the child hero aspect is one thingâ€”everyone knows what it is like being a child, and in the face of immediate danger the entertainment factor comes from â€œwhat do I do in this desperate time?â€. Hell, some of my favorite movies include â€œLittle Shop of Horrorsâ€ (1986), â€œGhostbustersâ€ (1984) and â€œGremlinsâ€ (1984) so why not?
The trailer that seemed to suggest that the movie was going to be rather serious, and it that begins with that idea. As it goes though, the tone is more light and silly than the first film, as there is more wacky humor and you could say â€œthis is just trying to be like â€œScreamâ€ and all those other self-aware horror movies that try to blend scares with laughs. However, at the time of its release, there was nothing like it. It manages to be scary while at the same time somewhat brilliantly comical and over-the-top. Your opinion on the humor value might vary, but this film needed to do something that would differate it from the originalâ€”you know, reason to want to see the movie. This film spawned numerous imitators who try to duplicate its style and flavor, but they probably can't hope to gain the lasting value and cult that it got.
After all, no one likes watching something that would make them feel like crap.
Something that I thought I would mention is about the technological resources. When you look at the sequence where Jesse goes to call the army about the Trioxin drum, he has to use the phone in his parents' room, which is a phone with a cord. Nowadays you'd probably be wondering why he doesn't use something more modern, but back when this movie was made that kind of technology just did not exist. I actually liked this, because this is just the kind of technology that just has more personality and is more entertaining and funny than something contemporary or futuristic. What would be funny about Jesse pulling out a cell phone? Sure he could be annoyed that his service just quit on him but it's not anywhere near as funny.
There's even a shout-out to Michael Jackson's music video â€œThrillerâ€! You can most certainly tell this movie was made in the glorious 1980s!
So, time for me to lay down the characters.
Jesse Wilson, played by child actor Michael Kenworthy, is the central character of the film. He's like a kid that has an identifiable plight at the beginning, dealing with wanting to be accepted by peers and also with taller kids that like looking for trouble. He is not a perfect character (such as a sequence where he believes a call from the hospital without knowing who's on the other end of the line), and soon we might find ourselves wondering what we would do in such a young body in a horrific time. Some people may criticize the film for the fact that a young child is the lead and not some clichÃ© teenage bimbo, like what the horror film genre bills the â€œFinal Girlâ€, but I don't have a problem with itâ€”like what I say about the 1980s aesthetic of gaining and excepting your role in a position of power, and using that to drive out your competition, Jesse is a child characterâ€”he's essentially humanity's future. Like how John Connor keeps humanity safe from cybernetic exoskeletons, Jesse keeps humanity safe from zombies.
Because his last name is â€œWilsonâ€, many fans of the film series often speculate if he and Lucy are either the children or niece and nephew of Burt Wilson, the hero from the original film.
His elder sister Lucy (Marsha Dietlein) is a fitness nut, which was a typical trend that was used several times in the 1980s. She acts like a girl that you'd probably expect as having a creepy little brother and wants to lay down rules while Mom and Dad aren't home (well, Mom and Dad would kinda spoil the party right?) but still she does care about her brother and wants to keep him safe. While she does have a nice figure as you'd think for someone that likes to aerobicize...
...you think zombies eating brains is disgusting? Lucy does have her flaws, as Tom discovers after trying her cake.
Tom Essex the cable guy (Dana Ashbrook) is a tech head who ends up getting sucked into the whole deal. He is implied to have had a crush on Lucy in school but she just never took any notice of him. This seems to say he's never had much luck in his love life and that he's pining for romance but still trying to get his bills paid. He is friendly and also a pet lover and does want to succeed at what he's doing but can be a tough guy when he needs to get something done. He tries to keep Lucy and Jesse safe. Prior to this film his only film credit was in 1978's "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!"
At the same time you can say Lucy and Tom can be seen as humanity's hope for a good present if Jesse is humanity's hope for a good future.
The group's intelligence expert is Dr. Mandel (Philip Bruns). An established and trusted doctor who is the only one with a working car, he is obviously the most booksmart character. He also has his flaws, for one thing he doesn't want his car being used but must if he wants to save humanity as well as himself. He's also a bit of a drunk--well, I would imagine being a doctor is a very stressful job and he uses alcohol as means to dull the demanding pressure of his job. He also has his entertaining moments.
Then there are these two guys, Ed (James Karen) and Joey (Thom Mathews). You may remember them the first movie as Frank the medical supply foreman and his apprentice Freddy who both died there, but here they come back and are recast in different roles; this time they are a pair of graverobbers.
I'll start with Ed. Played by James Karen, he is the movie's most profilic actor. Being that he is a much older man he's likely been at this for a while and now is showing his apprentice Joey the art of the trade.
While in the middle of the robbery, he and Joey both get exposed to the Trioxin...
And here's Ed's appeal--he goes through the movie acting as though he has a death wish. He plays the character in such a pitiful fashion, blaming himself for the fact the dead are attacking and claiming himself to deserve whatever happens. Now, in order for this to work, he'd need a unique delivery and a strong sense of comic timing; if it was not handled right it would only be a matter of time before you would not be able to tolerate him anymore and want to pull out a gun. You just can't help but laugh at him.
It's pretty much a road to becoming a zombie... remember though he's been stealing from corpses...
His partner in crime Joey is in the middle of learning to being a graverobber, but at the same time has other things on his mind like his girlfriend Brenda. He probably will need all the help he's going to get, if he doesn't mind giving her jewelry that was stolen from a dead body. If James Karen is the movie's biggest name actor, then Thom Mathews is probably the second biggest name.
Like what happens with Ed, he also goes through a long, slow path to becoming a zombie...
Then there is also Brenda (Suzanne Snyder), Joey's girlfriend and the final member of the group. Very much the most feminine member in the group, she does not like graveyards and would rather do something on a typical date like go dancing rather than wait for her boyfriend to steal from corpses. I don't imagine she's the sharpest knife in the drawer. You may remember her as Deb on "Weird Science" and Debbie on "Killer Klowns from Outer Space".
Something that I will share, and I had help from a reliable sourceâ€¦
Early in the movie, there is this one sequence were Brenda punches a zombie in the face and it explodes into a bucket of pus. For this, did you ever wonder why you see Brenda's arm, but not her face? Well, a little factoid about this sequence is Brenda's arm I was told belonged to Michelle Kenworthy, Michael Kenworthy's older sister. The reason for the change was because Suzanne Snyder, the girl who played Brenda, would just not film this sequence herself.
One may also wonder if the Joey/Brenda love angle was used as basis for the third movie...
Confession time. I actually saw "Return of the Living Dead Part III" during the early 2000s late at night once. It didn't really impress me partly because this movie had an even bigger risk it was taking: a horror film mixed with a romance movie. How do you take a scary movie and merge it with a love story? Your guess is as good as mine but the comedy is dropped for romance and it became the lowest grossing film in the series.
Finally there is Billy Crowley (Thor van Lingen) the troublemaker/bully who is responsible for the Trioxin's release and becomes a zombie himself. On, well, his death bed he does not want Jesse to tell anyone about the incident under penalty of death.
One thing I'll say is do you know how I told you about Jesse being humanity's hope to thrive? Well, due to Billy's transformation into a zombie, you can say he's the oppositeâ€”he now stands to doom humanity. He now craves brains (and his mom is his first victim!) and now that he's accepting his role as a zombie, what does he have to do to doom the human race? Simple, he's got to kill Jesse!
Now, some little random details about Thor: the first thing is he pronounces his name as "Toar" and the "v" in "van" is not captialized. He had originally auditioned for the role of Jesse (reading off the part where Jesse says "I know that look. It's the one my Mom gives when she wants me to do dishes"), but it was decided that the audience may believe him more as the troublemaker. He's much taller, more imposing and he has braces so you'd probably see him as a threat (would you really want someone with so much metal on his teeth eating your brain?). As such, he became Billy.
Another little fact is he didn't continue acting... there's not much info on him on the Internet Movie Database and he has no page on Wikipedia--as this was his one and only film role. That didn't mean Thor was finished with movies... he had grown up to become a professional film critic and you probably won't believe this at first butâ€¦ he actually reviewed the very film that he starred in!
Wow, what ARE the odds?
I would complain about Thor not doing much in cinema, but who actually did less is Johnny (Jason Hogan). He's Billy's pal at the beginning of the movie and winds up getting exposed to the Trioxin with him. After the drum releases the gas... well, he leaves with Billy but then just disappears and we don't really hear from him again.
Now, you can say he also winds up becoming a zombie along with Billy, and this I understand is him in the background, but it seemed a bit weird why he doesn't play more of role. I remember hearing that the movie was to have a bunch of sequences that were to be filmed at night, and there were some very rigid time frames in which the studio was permitted to use the child actors in addition to rehearsing and having make-up done, along with being able to get enough sleep and go to school the next day. If nothing else I guess we don't need two zombies directly menacing Jesseâ€¦
It's also worth noting that for a brief sequence the Tarman (Allan Trautman) comes back from the original movie.
Then there are the zombies themselves. Hungry for brains and persistent, they are the threat the heroes have to eliminate. Now, zombies might not be so bad. Because you know, they don't give up, they value brains over anything else, they hate fast food, and they are always looking for new members. Of course, humans obviously read this in a different way, and we see them as a menace to humanity. The zombies have their scary moments as well as funny moments, not to mention a few parts that well, I'll say like this one sequence where Brenda rips off a zombie's lower jaw are still a bit much.
Someone was clearly having too much fun with writing the script. That's a good thing.
The army does manage to evacuate the city and that's also a good thing.
"Ha! You hear that? All the humans were evacuated! No brains anywhere! What do you say to that stupid zombies? Hahahaha! Go on, do your worst! I dare ya!"
...oh... oh god...
â€¦Ha ha ha ha ha. That's funny guys. Horribly wrong, but it's funny.
HOW DID THE MOVIE DO?
Well, while the movie was getting varied reviews, it made only $9 millionâ€”against a budget of $6 million, so the movie made enough to be considered a commercial success. What may have hurt some potential box-office appeal is the fact that it has teenagers in mind, but the R rating meant you had to be 17 or older to pay for a ticket.
In all fairness though, if it was any less violent and profane and few seconds were cut from the hospital sequence the movie could have been rated PG-13. One thing that just needs to be understood though is because of the sensitive origin storyâ€”the original 1968 film used a accident involving a gas called â€œTrioxinâ€ leaking into a hospital morgue in Pittsburghâ€”which caused the bodies to act as though they are still alive (the government then ordered the filmmakers to alter the story's premise as act as though it was based on pure fiction). Another thing is the fact that all the really great horror movies are rated Râ€”a PG-13 rating, while technically the safest MPAA rating, would basically tell moviegoers that the movie needed to hold back, not being as effective as it could be in order for kids to see it. The movie's true success though lies in the fact that it developed its own cultâ€”it has a strong fanbase and still holds its appeal. In terms of awards, the movie got some nominationsâ€”it was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Music, a Young Artist Award for Teenage Choice for Best Horror Motion Picture, plus Michael Kenworthy was even nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Horror or Mystery Motion Picture!
The movie did get a VHS release in the late 1980s, and despite the cult following there was no true DVD release for this film. For a while there was a petition to get this movie on DVD, and it finally happened in 2004.
How is it? Well, you get the movie itself, the options to have the dialogue in English or French, subtitles for those two languages plus Spanish, a theatrical trailer and there's an audio commentary by director Ken Wiederhorn and star Thor Van Lingen! I know it doesn't seem like a gigantic, super deluxe DVD with interviews, TV spots and the like, but at least we got a behind-the-scenes commentary and hey, it is on DVD. I am not holding out for an upgrade, but this is fine for what it is.
Now of course the franchise did not stop with this filmâ€¦there have been multiple follow-ups and they continue to make cash. Can't keep a good zombie down, right? I mean it's not like vampires can lay the same claim because every aspect of their genre has been observed and satired to the point of their deal being done.
Which is probably why now they are being cast as dark, brooding anti-heroes...
I can say that I am happy to have seen â€œReturn of the Living Dead Part IIâ€. It doesn't take itself too seriously and remains more genuine than some others that try to follow it. As usual for when I write about a movie or TV show, I find myself gaining a much deeper appreciation for it and it rings true with this movie. In addition to being on DVD, it is also for sale on iTunes, and as of this writing, it's the only film in the series with that has gotten that nod. Maybe the other films can follow, but this film was the first to be a â€œReturnâ€ film that you can put on a digital player.
"Get that damn screwdriver out a muh head!"
Heh, I don't care who you are, that's funny right there.
And then, in August of the same year, another horror film was made. This film was a remake of a late 1950s horror film (making it the 30th anniversary) among other remakes. This movie is known asâ€¦
Director: Chuck Russell
Cast: Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch, Jeffery DeMunn, Candy Clark, Joe Seneca, Michael Kenworthy, Douglas Emerson, Art LaFleur, Paul McCrane, Beau Billingsley, Del Close
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Runtime: 95 minutes
MPAA rating: R (strong, graphic horror violence and gore, some sexuality and language)
Now, Hollywood had already achieved success with remakes of old movies like â€œThe Thingâ€ and â€œThe Flyâ€â€¦and the fact they were made in the 1980s, a decade that gave us lots of the best everythingâ€¦why not â€œThe Blobâ€? My Dad grew up with the original 1950s movie and I happen to share a birthday with Steve McQueen, the "King of Cool" (â€œThe Blobâ€ was the movie that made him a star). The movie was directed by a man who goes by â€œCharlesâ€ if he directs a movie, but if it is specifically a horror movie, he goes by â€œChuckâ€. Finally what were my thoughts on the 1988 remake of â€œThe Blobâ€?
I was impressed.
WHAT'S GOING ON?
The setting is in a small ski resort town called Arborville. In this town everyone pretty much knows everyone and everybody in town holds on to their religious beliefs. The town isn't necessarily busyâ€”on account of there not being any snow, business has dried up, everyday is basically like the last and everyone tends to just finish school and then go about their business elsewhere. We get introduced to a cheerleader named Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) and her football hero boyfriend Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch) as well as another character who is drifting around townâ€”the motorcycle hoodlum Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon).
We also get introduced to Meg's father, the town's pharmacist (Art LaFleur), her mother (Sharon Spelman), her little brother Kevin (Michael Kenworthy) and his buddy Eddie Beckner (Douglas Emerson). Playing football with Paul is Scott Jeske (Ricky Paul Goldin) who's hoping to score with his cheerleader girlfriend Vicki DeSoto (Erika Eleniak). There's also the friendly diner manager Fran Hewitt (Candy Clark), who's got a date with the reasonable Sheriff Herb Geller (Jeffery DeMunn), personality wise he's a sharp contrast to the crude Deputy Bill Briggs (Paul McCrane). On Brian's side he has the town's mechanic Moss Woodley (Beau Billingsley) and in the middle of everything is the town's Reverend Meeker (Del Close).
Seems like nothing exciting ever happens here right? I mean this seemsâ€¦pretty serene, nothing everâ€¦
Waitâ€¦ hold the phoneâ€¦
One fateful night, a meteor crashed to Earth. A homeless man (Billy Beck) investigates it, finding a small, pink Jell-O like substance on the inside.
Okay harmless enoughâ€¦
â€¦umâ€¦wait that's not goodâ€¦
The homeless man runs into Brian and then he meets with Paul and Meg in an accident. He's rushed to the hospitalâ€¦
Andâ€¦ I understand this was a hand injuryâ€¦?
Soon, over at the police station the phone is ringing off the hook with calls about bizarre murders. Back at the meteor landing site, Arborville soon finds itself under quarantine by a group of scientists led by the seemingly benign, grandfather-like Dr. Meddows (Joe Seneca).
At the same time, Meg learns that Kevin has gone missingâ€”he and Eddie are out seeing a slasher film, â€œGarden Tool Massacreâ€, thanks to Eddie's big brother Anthony (Jamison Newlander).
The whole time, the Blob continues to find and feed on human flesh. With everyone it eats it gets bigger. Outside what it does, the Blob has no intelligence or conscience, it can't feel anything beyond hunger and it seems to be indestructible.
Tonightâ€¦it wants to eat Arborville, bones and all.
Long story short, the Blob is back, andâ€¦
â€œI thinkâ€¦ you pissed it off.â€
NOWâ€¦ TO BUSINESS.
Now, I know that the movie's premise can sound pretty silly. The original idea featured a slime monster that was sentient, and that it would eat anyone that got too close. Three years earlier prior to the 80s â€œBlobâ€, a horror film was released and tried to duplicate its success by merging the horror with comedyâ€¦
â€¦But it didn't work and resulted in a total turkey (trust me on that).
But a new movie was done with the intention of being scary. Let me start with the introâ€¦
This is the first couple of shots of our introduction to Arborville. Do you notice something missing? Like there's no sign of life anywhere? Dead leaves are just randomly blowing around and the water fountain seems to be broken? What happened, was the town evacuated or is this a ghost town? Well, you see a cat wandering the streets alone but where is everybody?? I mean yeah, they're all later revealed to be at the local high school football game. I remember back when â€œDallasâ€ was a brand new show many companies would shut down and leave signs in the doors that say â€œGone home to watch â€œDallasâ€. But what this opening sequence does is serve as an eerie stage of what the titular monster can do.
To be honest I saw this movie before I saw the original film. Once I did see the original 50s movie, I was willing to believe that it was pretty scary for the time; the problem is now the Blob looks like nothing but a slab of jelly rolling down a hill. Scary for the time, but not scary anymore. Face it, this movie needed to be remade. What is nice is the fact that it's meant to be a serious deal, and while not without its moments of humor, the scares come first and foremost.
Another thing that I think helped give the movie some of its flavor is the fact it's not a predictable film at all. Like in the old movie, the kids are still the heroes, but they're clearly not angelsâ€¦every character seems to have good and bad traits, seemingly giving them a three-dimensional feel. Remaining true to the 1980s aesthetic that I loved of a having an inner heart, this film does not depend on cheap scares or character stupidity to work.
One sequence that I think is worth mentioning is the diner sequence. Originally used as the part of the climax, the Blob makes its presence known when a diner employee tries to plunge a sink not knowing the Blob is inside. Said employee gets grabbed and eaten through the drain! I remember reading that the filmmakers from the original movie wanted to do this but the problem was it just was not technologically feasible at the time. Keep in mind this is nothing beyond cinematography and make-up. The fact that there's no CGI makes this sequence still astonishing to this day.
Not every visual effect is perfect though. Can you see the blue screen here?
If you're wondering what I mean by the non-predictability, I'll go and list several characters and some other things I notice.
As I stated, there are three teenagers that we get introduced to: football hero Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch), cheerleader Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith), staying true to the original film, unlike the original, there is also the town rebel Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon).
Brian is usually seen as a thug that everyone in town wants to see get what he has coming. I mean, he doesn't really have a family, he has a mullet and leather jacket, he performs safety-defying stunts on his motorcycle and several sequences you see him smoking, using bad language and you can say probably doesn't have too many close friends, but despite some general immorality (like in one sequence he tells Meg that he has a key referring to a brick) he does have a more friendly side that he'll let out if you know him better. He will do what is right under dire circumstances. In contrast, Meg was almost born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She has a caring family, she's very popular, has lots of friends and likes to obey the law.
At the same time she can establish a wild side under horrific times. I remember reading in a Happenings magazine where she was being interviewed she loves having people remember her for her role in this movie!
Paul is the character archetype that you probably remember originally being played by Steve McQueen. He's still a hero on the team and early in the movie he sets himself apart from the former character (in a humorous sequence) where his teammate Scott claims he is buying condoms for him and Meg's dad then sees he is his daughter's date (it is funnier if you see the movie for yourself). Per usual you'd think he would be the movie's hero and Brian will only be causing problems that will only lead to him being eaten later on. And then youâ€¦
â€¦waitâ€¦ wait a minute, that didn't happen last time!
In the original film, the police were useless. Here we have the police showing some legitimate concern for the public's well-being, namely on part of Sheriff Herb Geller. He is reasonable and sympathetic and still has plans for tonight with golden hearted diner manager Franâ€¦
â€¦whichâ€¦ never happenâ€¦
One character that is new and does not have a counterpart in the 80s film is Reverend Meeker (Del Close). A very profiled actor that many SNL alumni credit him for, he is the town's clergyman and he seems to keep the faith in check. One thing that I'll say about him is he seems like a very well-meaning, good natured personâ€¦
â€¦but it seems like he starts to get more and more deranged as the story continues. He then starts thinking the Blob is what God had prophesized to be the Apocalypseâ€¦
â€¦and what seems to push him to the point of being freaky is when an accident with a flamethrower results in a third of his face getting burned. It's interesting to note that he was originally a character that the Blob ate in the 1972 sequel â€œBeware! The Blobâ€ but in this movie he plays a character that survives.
Another character expanded upon is the cheerleader's little brother. Originally a small boy who liked thinking like a cowboy and did not understand the grave nature of the Blob's presence (as influenced by lack of fear and firing at the Blob with a toy gun), here Kevin (Michael Kenworthy) is a part of a caring family but he is capable of making a choice for himselfâ€”as a small nod to the fact he is not completely wholesome, he and his buddy Eddie (Douglas Emerson) use a sleepover as a means to sneak out of the house and see a slasher flick.
Maybe Kevin is doing something that he should not be doing (the fact he is seeing a slasher film against Mom's wishes), but we see that he's not a bad kid as established by...
...well, the fact he is the one who tries to silence this jackass who is ad-libbing the movie.
The movie that they see is a funny little mock-up of the typical brainless slasher filmâ€”get laid and get killed, ridiculous dialogue (â€œNo wayâ€¦ hockey season ended months ago!!â€) along with two physically desirable women telling stories of urban legendsâ€¦ it's generally what this movie doesn't try to do.
The movie doesn't end the way they hope it wouldâ€¦
One thing I will say about the theatre sequenceâ€”obviously interested more in the theatre concessions than on the movie itself, the animation on the Blob together with the rapidly flashing projector light is nightmare-inducing all on its own. This sequence was scary enough as it was, butâ€¦ if they tried to make the animation in this sequence look incredibly crude, I can only imagine what it would have been like. Imagine if Will Vinton animated it!
To let you know Eddie is not merely a troublemaker, he's understandably scared and swears that he'll be good. Meg promises things will be okay and they'll escape.
It's alright, it's alright! Things will be fine, things will beâ€¦
â€¦I'm sure Eddie is going to be okay. The Blob probably has its limits, it'll probablyâ€¦
â€¦ohâ€¦ oh geez even â€œPoltergeistâ€ wouldn't touch thatâ€¦
Now, I knowâ€¦ what makes that all the more scary is the fact we saw his mom hoping he was going to come home safe. It probably was for the best that we didn't see an explicit aftermathâ€”I mean, we don't need to see Meg and Kevin having to tell Eddie's mom that he was eaten and her response, because then the movie would stop being a horror film and suddenly turn into a family drama.
It's fine though. He'd come back for the first two seasons of â€œBeverly Hills, 90210â€.
Another character that I didn't mention is Deputy Briggs. As I mentioned, he is Arborville's police deputy and in a hard contrast, he is notably blunter and less likable than Sheriff Geller. As the movie goes on one can start thinking, â€œMan, why is it that the Sheriff and that nice diner manager got eaten by the Blob and he didn't?!â€
Later on in the film though, he establishes hisâ€¦ more noble side as the Blob begins to make its presence known. He is the guy that leads everyone into City Hall and is doing everything in his power to make sure the Blob doesn't eat anyone else. It's like, he's more primal and less reasonable but he has a good heartâ€¦
â€¦Okay, that's pretty honorableâ€¦ how can I help, Deputyâ€¦
â€¦guysâ€¦ guys I know what I said but I didn't mean it!!
â€¦wellâ€¦ if it's any consolation he's made a career out of playing characters that suffer and die horribly (like what happened to his character in â€œRobocopâ€).
Another character that is seen in this film but not in the 50s movie is Dr. Meddows (Joe Seneca). He is a seemingly benign, sympathetic grandfather-like character when we meet him, but the truth is he figures the Blob can be useful against the Soviet militia--he's actually a two-faced government agent who is willing to let some innocent civilians die as long as he can contain the Blob. If we weren't hoping to see how we stop the Blob, this guy probably would be the one. All I'm going to say is whatever happens to him he deservesâ€¦
And now, the character you probably have been waiting forâ€”the movie's main villainâ€”the Blob.
The Blob is per usual, the source of horror and well, the movie would not be without it. It is nasty, unforgiving, and truthfully scary. Did I mention there were no CGI used for it? It eats people with such utter indifference towards your feelings of any of the cast that you are in no question that it is meant to be taken seriously. One thing I'll say is, do you know how I said Dr. Meddows is hoping to use the Blob as a means of fighting the Russians? Well, that's something that separates this film from the old movieâ€”your opinion on it may vary, butâ€¦ in the old movie, the Blob was a mysterious alien creature from another planet, but in this movie the Blob is an experiment in biological warfare having gone horribly wrong. That I am fine with; to me it seems like a horror film with less elements of science-fiction and more of a political thriller. The old movie seemed like a way to scare people with themes of global warming, while this movie seemed like a way to scare people in thinking that no matter what, there was no end to the Soviet Union; despite our attempts to gain an upper hand against the Red Army, there just is not going to be a way to ward off the threat from the Cold War.
Another thing that I seem to have found amusing is the fact it's like a reflection on the music industry. With the 50s Blob you can say it was influenced by Elvis Presley. It looks like jelly, it's a â€œHunka Hunka Burnin' Loveâ€, made a 50s actor a major name star, and no matter how big of a crowd you were in, it was always there specifically for you.
â€¦the 80s Blob, you can say was influenced by Michael Jackson. It's a â€œSmooth Criminalâ€ that subscribes to â€œDon't Stop â€˜Til You Get Enoughâ€, it's â€œBadâ€ and you should â€œBeat Itâ€, because this is a â€œThrillerâ€ and no one's going to save you from this beast about to strike.
There's even a small part where the Blob eats a rat!
HOW DID THE MOVIE DO?
The movie was getting some pretty good reviews, but even though the movie ends on a sequel hook, financially the movie it made only $8 million against a $19 million budgetâ€”it was a dud. Now, if you know anything about the Blob, you would probably know about its weakness. Unfortunately a low box-office gross could do it in. Why did it fail? My estimate is probably the fact it wasn't a conventional horror filmâ€¦I mean, this is a horror film that doesn't feature a group of teenagers hoping to get laid, a sexuality-questioning slasher is knifing everyone in sight and the day can only be saved by a virgin girl with oversized boobs and a wet t-shirt and her boyfriend. The only time the movie threatens to do that is a sequence where Scott nearly rapes Vicki, but no more than that. However, that didn't stop the movie from developing a cult all its ownâ€”I mean, it's still scary and worth watching now, it doesn't feel stale and manages to be an effective film.
The movie was released on VHS in the late 80s, and when DVD was becoming the new preferred medium, it was given DVD treatment in the year 2001.
The problem with the DVD isâ€¦ well, a movie like this is screaming for a bulked-up DVD release, but the lone release that it has isâ€¦ pretty poor. The movie's picture quality isn't that great, and supplemental material is almost nonexistent. You have the option to watch the movie in French, along with option to turn on subtitles in English, as well as European languages like French, Spanish and Portuguese, plus some Asian languages like Chinese, Korean and Thai, but beyond that the only other supplemental material you get are an interactive DVD menu and some trailers, including one for the movie itself. It would have been nice if there was the option for something like a commentary track, but it seems like Columbia just didn't see this film as a priority, which is a shame. As it is, this DVD is worth it for the movie itself, but it's screaming for something more. It's possible that it can see a stronger release in the future, but all we can really do now is wait.
On a side note, the movie is supposed to have yet another remakeâ€”I was hearing it was supposed to be directed by Rob Zombie and supposedly it won't necessarily be the same as before. I mean, the Blob supposedly won't even be a pink goo-like substance like before according to him. Who knows what it will be like? He claims that no one would find a goo-like monster scary nowadays, butâ€¦ truth be told I think he probably just can't make the Blob any scarier than this.
In the end, â€œThe Blobâ€ is a worthy horror film for any horror film fan. I can't recommend it for young audiences (because well, a movie like this would give kids nightmares) but older audiences looking for a thrill will find this right up their alley. It's a film that needed an update and this is probably a film that outdoes the original.
â€œThat next articleâ€¦how far off?â€œ
â€œSoon madamâ€¦ soon.â€
â€œâ€¦Nostalgiaâ€¦ will give me a signâ€¦â€
*cue Thriller laugh*
This article is devoted to Michael Kenworthyâ€”the original child actor who played both Jesse Wilson (â€œReturn of the Living Dead Part IIâ€) and Kevin Penny (â€œThe Blobâ€)â€”whose presence inspired me to look at horror films under a different light. At a young age he had faced two seperate threats to human life as we know it--zombies and the Blob--and he survived both. Face it, he's got to be indestructible. He's also the same guy who charmed the same girl who would later appear in the â€œSawâ€ film series, plusâ€¦
For those who love to collect toys, Michael Kenworthy was also helping promote a line of toys from the 1980s called â€œMad Scientistâ€.
What was the appeal of the toy? Well, using a cartoon animated mad scientist as a mascot (the cartoon series lists his name as "Dr. Sy N. Tist"), kids could use supplies to create horrible monsters and then brutally mutilate them. The best known are the â€œMonster Labâ€ (pictured) and the other is â€œDissect an Alienâ€.
Many may remember the slogan for the toy: its appeal was that it was simply...
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