Moving Pictures
Oct 18, 2022, 06:27AM

Blob Love

Experiencing cinema at an early age via The Blob (1988).

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I can’t recall precisely when I started to watch horror movies or what was the first horror movie I’ve seen. Maybe I was seven years old, maybe a little older. I remember walking through the snowy streets of my hometown, Sarajevo, hearing the sound of snow underneath my feet. The streets were enveloped in fog, and I wasn’t able to find my bearings. It wasn’t evening yet, but winter nights invited darkness early on.

I was determined to get myself to the video store. Well, calling it a “video store” might be a stretch. It was a guy in the basement of an apartment building with shelves full of tapes—homemade copies of American movies. I’d guess that what he was doing was illegal, which is probably why his “video store” was open under the cover of darkness.

Despite the fact that Yugoslavia was a socialist country, we were still able to obtain American movies, as well as other Western television shows, in some fashion or other. This brought endless happiness to me. I was a regular moviegoer, and one of my first memories of being in a theater is seeing Roger Moore as James Bond in A View to a Kill (1985).

There were many people milling about at the video store. Movie titles adorned the basement walls. If the movie was available and wasn’t borrowed by anyone else, the index card was present. There was one film I’d patiently waited for. The index card simply said in all capital letters “BLOB.” It was a strange word, certainly not something that is part of the Bosnian lexicon, yet I was intrigued. Finally, I was able to borrow it.

It’s strange how you forget what kind of feelings and thoughts a movie evoked when you were a child. Sometimes, those feelings get mixed up with another film, and it all becomes a blur. The unreliability of memory gets in the way of comprehending either the importance or irrelevance of an event. It has been decades since I saw this American film, The Blob (1988), and I was amused when I saw that the Criterion Channel is running the very same film as part of their horror collection—a time to honor Halloween. It brought back memories I’ve set aside, and I had to watch it.

The Blob is a remake of the 1958 film of the same name. In the original version, we see a young Steve McQueen (already developing his unique essence as an actor), battling this strange substance/creature that’s attacking the town. There, it was the youth population of the town that took charge in saving their town from the evil presence of the blob.

The same motif was undertaken in the 1988 version with an added twist: in this case, it was the U.S. Government that was responsible for the creation of the Blob, and the entire event became an excuse to test biological warfare on the oblivious population of a small town. Shawnee Smith and Kevin Dillon play Meg Penny and Brian Flagg, respectively, and form an uneasy alliance (at first) in order to annihilate the Blob.

People are “eaten” by this strange substance, and the more it eats, the larger it gets. What’s fascinating and unexpected is the speed at which characters die off. We’re introduced to many characters at the beginning of the film, who are exhibiting signs that they’ll be part of the fighting team against the Blob. But this turns out to be untrue. (Another added and unexpected touch is Jack Nance as the town’s doctor.) People are dying left and right, which includes the town sheriff. Who’ll save this town?

Kevin Dillon’s Brian Flagg is “the bad boy” of the town, the rebel without or perhaps with the cause. Predictably, it’s Brian’s rebelliousness and independence that ends up (almost) destroying the Blob. Shawnee Smith’s Meg is a girl who’s looking for a meaningful relationship yet she’s not a prude either. Both she and Brian are remarkably even characters: young people who rise to the occasion and prove the adults wrong.

In fact, it’s the adults who are portrayed as either hapless idiots or evil government officials. Whatever category the adults may fall into, they’re the antithesis of youth and freedom. This is why The Blob falls into many genres, not merely horror. The usual trope of a horrific monster is simply a vehicle through which we see the perpetual battle between young people and authority figures (parents, police, or government itself).

When you’re a kid, you watch movies for fun. Now, decades later, The Blob is still good fun. Whenever I watch American films from the 1980s today, the past and present connect in unlikely ways. The experience is rarely only aesthetic and evaluative, although that approach is inescapable. But something else is at play here: connection to my childhood, which will always be tinged with the war.


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