Death is the ultimate leveler. It comes for everyone in the end, no matter your station in life. Never is that more unsettlingly apparent than in 1988’s The Blob, directed by Chuck Russell from a script he co-wrote with Frank Darabont. The creature feature lets loose a gelatinous pink blob of goo upon the small town of Arborville, California, where it wreaks havoc with its insatiable appetite. It doesn’t care about archetypical hero or villain roles; its sole aim is to devour.
The eponymous Blob acts as a giant slithering stomach, dissolving its food for digestion with extreme acidity. That means that not only is the body count high for this ever-growing creature, but the deaths are deliciously mean-spirited and unforgettable thanks to gruesome special makeup effects from Tony Gardner (Zombieland, Cult of Chucky) and an incredible team of artists. Russell and Darabont reinforce the SFX showcase with unpredictability and meticulous characterization to ensure that not only do the character deaths look painful, but they also hurt emotionally.
It feels only fitting to celebrate The Blob turning 35 by paying tribute to the gnarliest deaths featured in the film. Here are the most memorable kills in The Blob, ranked by both narrative purpose and gore factor.
9) Vicki and Scott – Grabby Hands Comeuppance
Shortly after the first act’s most shocking demise, the creature slithers away from the hospital and crosses paths with teens Scott (Ricky Paull Goldin) and Vicki (Erika Eleniak) mid-date in Scott’s car at the make out point. This double death bides its time as Scott sets about plying Vicki with spiked drinks, eager to take advantage of her knocked-out state. As he makes final preparations from his trunk, the Blob silently pounces. Karma comes when Scott gets handsy with Vicki, and the Blob erupts from her face, using tentacle-like limbs to draw Scott into its fleshy body. This double kill reinforces the central modus operandi of its creature; the Blob doesn’t care about morality, it kills indiscriminately.
8) George Ruiz – Drain Clog
George Ruiz thought he was closing the kitchen on another average shift at the diner. Then the sink’s drain abruptly backs up. Fran’s attempts to unclog prompt George to take over. Russell coils the tension tight as George touches the pink slime bubbling up with the water. That’s when the Blob strikes, grabbing the bulky man and pulling him down a tiny pipe with gruesome force.
7) Hobbe – Air Duct Suck
The death of theater projectionist Hobbe (Frank Collison) preludes the slaughter to come, raising the stakes for Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) and her younger brother. The horror movie showing goes off without a hitch until Hobbe gets sucked through the air vents, only to be discovered soon after; partially digested and writhing in pain from the ceiling. The usher that unwittingly finds Hobbes melting form also meets a similar fate.
6) Deputy Bill Briggs – Snapped in Half
The town Deputy (Paul McCrane) spends most of the film as a thorn in protagonist Brian Flagg’s (Kevin Dillon) side. That changes when the antagonistic military arrives to quarantine the creature and cover their tracks. Still, the tentative alliance between the Deputy and the town outcast only lasts for a short while. The Blob covers the barricaded town hall, slips a tentacle through the barrier, and pulls Briggs through a small opening. It contorts Briggs’ body into a grotesque backbend, snapping it wholly as he’s dragged through a shelf.
5) Dr. Christopher Meddows – Manhole Down
Meddows (Joe Seneca) appears as a friendly savior at first, but that cheery demeanor belies ruthless cruelty. Meddows’ relentless commitment to completing his mission threatens the lives of our protagonists and the entire town, making him the ultimate villain here. Keeping with form, Darabont and Russell don’t save this antagonist for last. They dole out punishment by having their man-made monster pull Meddows down through a manhole after invading his hazmat suit. Meddows fails his mission before the climax even begins.
4) Eddie Beckner – Sewer Melt
Meg saves her little brother, Kevin (Michael Kenworthy), and his pal Eddie (Douglas Emerson) from a gruesome massacre at the movies. When cornered by the amorphous entity, the trio evades into the sewers. All seems well until Eddie’s dragged underwater. But he’s okay because horror movies usually spare kids, right? Wrong. A half-melted Eddie resurfaces, reaching out to Meg for help as the Blob continues consuming its next meal. No one is safe in this movie. Not even kids. And Russell isn’t shy about showing it.
3) Can Man – Don’t Touch!
The Can Man (Billy Beck) and his pup keep to themselves on the outskirts of town, collecting cans and living an isolated life at a ramshackle campsite. The harmless man even claps for Randall when he attempts to jump his bike. The Can Man observes the meteorite crash land, and his curiosity overrides all logic as he pokes at it with a stick. The tiny gelatinous ball of goop latches on, finding a tasty meal in the man’s hand. Randall, Meg, and her date Paul (Donovan Leitch) come across the man and bring him to the hospital, where he’s left alone in a room as the Blob makes gruesome work of digesting his body, both outside and in. By the time anyone notices, only half of him remains.
2) Sheriff Herb Geller and Fran Hewitt – Missed Love Connection
The flirtations between kind Sheriff Geller (Jeffrey DeMunn) and nurturing waitress Fran (Candy Clark) are wholesomely sweet. An early scene sees the Sheriff slyly slide over his number, asking Fran for a date when her shift ends. The erstwhile lovebirds never get a chance, though. Fran’s shift ends with George’s demise via bad plumbing, sending her out into the street to call the Sheriff for help from a phone booth. The Blob follows her, and when it can’t get inside the booth, it swallows it whole, squeezing until the pressure crushes Fran. The knife twist comes just before Fran’s death; she sees the partially digested face of the Sheriff staring at her from within the Blob’s body.
1) Paul Taylor- Nice Guys Die First
The Blob introduces Paul as the football hero with a heart of gold, the precise type of character that seems designed to represent Steve McQueen’s character from the original. He timidly asks Meg on a date after a hard knock during a game, a meet-cute scenario that sets these two up as endgame material. Paul plays by the rules and always tries to do the right thing, including forgoing an anticipated date with the cheerleader to ensure the local homeless man receives proper medical attention. And that’s what ultimately dooms him. Paul becomes the Blob’s next victim when they discover the Can Man’s remains. His screams alert Meg, who finds Paul almost entirely encased in the entity, now rosier than ever from consuming so much flesh. Poor Meg tries to pull Paul free from his exposed arm as he screams in pain, but the acid severs it.
This shocking death doesn’t just subvert expectations by removing the conventional hero from the equation; it serves as a stunning SFX showcase and relays important information about the creature. Through Paul, we get a firmer picture of how the amorphous thing operates, namely in how it paints a revolting, horrific picture of what it’d be like for gastric juices to break down a living being.
Of course, this is only the start of the massive body count this movie monster doles out. Theater massacres and a buffet of military personal (including Bill Moseley!) round out the SFX feast.
Which kill in The Blob ’88 is your favorite? Sound off below.