In last week’s Remake vs. Remake segment I pitted Dawn of the Dead (2004) against the much maligned Fright Night (2011). While I don’t dislike that version of Fright Night as much as I used to, there’s no doubt that Zack Snyder (aided by James Gunn’s script) trounced it thoroughly in this bracket with his take on Romero’s 1978 masterpiece.
Singing my many praises of Dawn, I forgot to mention that one of the reasons I feel the movie works so well is that it largely abandons the structure, tone and characters of the original film. It doesn’t try to compete on that playing field, instead taking the basic premise – zombies in a mall – and doing its own thing with it.
But what happens when you pit the Dawn of the Dead remake against Chuck Russell’s now classic 1988 take on The Blob? You have bracket of riches. Like John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing in 1982, The Blob was a commercial dud. Also like John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, it has subsequently gone on to be celebrated and is now many fans’ favorite installment in the franchise (or “ongoing IP exploration”, if you will).
While I greatly enjoy Dawn of the Dead, I think The Blob is a movie I could probably watch 20 times a year. Russell and his co-writer Frank Darabont were hot off A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and it turns out that that (admittedly very good) film was just a dry run for what they’d be able to pull off with The Blob. Not only does the film have some of the most intensely entertaining and inventive kill sequences of the 80’s, it strikes a pitch perfect tone. Seriously, this is a horror movie that it actually feels good to watch!
The setting is perfect, Arborville might be in my list of the top 10 fictional places I’d like to live. The characters are smart (enough) and the plot chugs along quickly without ever sacrificing detail or atmosphere. The film has a fantastic sense of humor that is perfectly juggled, never bogging down the scarier elements. Even the stinger at the end contains a nice sociopolitical element. The movie also isn’t afraid to kill off perfectly decent, lovable characters with some of the most outstanding gore effects of its time.
At the end of the day, I still love Dawn of the Dead but The Blob might be one of only three remakes in my top 20 horror movies of all time. It’s hard to compete with that. Blob wins… for now.
How about you?