Tuesday, May 1, 2007
#8: The Blob (Chuck Russell, 1988)
Remakes have been a part of the movies almost since the movies began, and I honestly don't have a problem with them. I find nothing ethically or creatively suspect about cover songs or multiple interpretations of plays by different theater companies, so why would I have a problem with a movie being remade? However, the cuckoo-bananas over-saturation of purely market- and/or stupidity-driven remakes we have been bombarded with for the past ten years really, really, really gets on my goddamn nerves. The culmination of stupidity this week is a planned remake of Hitchcock's "The Birds" in which the reason for the birds' attacks is their revenge on humans for global warming. I wish I was fucking kidding about that. (There is a special place in movie hell for Harvey Weinstein, in particular. He buys the rights to foreign films and keeps them out of circulation in theaters and on DVD -- sometimes for a few years, sometimes indefinitely -- so an American movie-star remake can be distributed without having to compete with the original artistically or, more importantly for Weinstein, financially. Perhaps worst of all, a lot of the planned remakes never even got off the ground but the originals are still unavailable thanks to Capt. Asshole Weinstein.) Maybe what bothers me the most about all these remakes are their attempts to wipe the slate clean for teenage viewers. These anemically scrubbed-up and dumbed-down customer-copy receipts may end up replacing the originals for current and future generations of moviegoers. However, as recently as 1988, remake plague had yet to infect Hollywood. Remakes were approached as variations on a theme, not arrogant or greedy attempts to replace or usurp the originals in our collective memories.
Chuck Russell's remake of the fifties drive-in classic "The Blob" is so much better than it has any reason to be or should be. I saw it when I was a kid, and I expected to be disappointed this time around. However, I like it now more than I did then. Russell obviously loves the original and assumes that his audience is at least familiar with it, and he, and the entire cast and special effects crew, seem to be having a really good time. Whether the shoot was a happy or torturous one, I have no idea, but the dumb fun onscreen is infectious. It helps that Russell is remaking a goofy B-movie and not something like "The Third Man" or "The 400 Blows," but he seems to care about actors so much more than you would expect for a movie about a giant blob of killer goo. The film is loaded with excellent performances from character actors like Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark, Art LaFleur, Jack Nance, and comedian Del Close (one of John Belushi's biggest inspirations). Even the teenage parts are surprisingly well-played by Donovan's son Donovan Leitch (as a jock), Shawnee Smith, and Kevin Dillon, Matt's brother, as the neighborhood bad boy. Laugh if you will at those last three names, but Matt should be way more ashamed of his work in Paul Haggis' "Crash" than Kevin should for "The Blob."
This film may have helped kick-start one of Hollywood's most negative trends, but it was also one of the last of that unfortunately dying breed of handmade special effects films. Predating CGI by a handful of years, the gore effects look great. Maybe someday I will warm up to CGI, but mostly I think it looks like total fucking dogshit. There is nothing like the real thing, and lovingly handmade special effects look sooooo much better than the hyper-stylized video-game bullshit we're pretty much stuck with now. I'm possibly a Luddite, but the proof is on the screen. (Some of the effects during the climactic scene are pretty bad, but this is an intentional tribute to/parody of the original.) Give me blood and guts generated by humans, not computers. Is that too much to ask?
Some of my fellow Cassavetes and Tarkovsky fans may be baffled by this blog or my recommendation of movies like "The Blob." What can I say? I'm a complicated man. A complicated, mixed-up, drunken, stupid man. Blob!
To see what happened when we paused the DVD to grab a beer, click here!