Simple Stories: What The Blob (1988) Can Teach Us About Conflict

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Linked from IMDB

I was watching The Blob (1988) last night and realized how beautifully simple the concept was, yet the story is still engaging and entertaining.  It got me thinking about how complicated we make stories in contemporary films, and how maybe we need to take a look back and take a few cues from the past.

The most basic conflict in any kind of story starts with the wants/needs of one character oppose those of another.  I feel that in a lot of newer films (especially horror) this basic conflict has become more convoluted with the mystery of why the villain/monster is on the path that they are on.  This convoluted why of the villain, I believe, can make the story stall out a little.  We get caught up in figuring out why things are happening, and we miss out on just letting them happen.

This is why I love The Blob.  There are bits in the film telling where The Blob comes from, which is fine, it does not complicate things too much and in fact the origin part of the film helps explain the simple why of the monster without muddling things up with a great big mystery.  There’s no complicated, “Hey I’m The Blob, I came from another planet to consume the earth and ready it for my alien overlords who sent me here to prepare things for them by cleansing the planet of you pesky humans, blah blah blah.”

Instead of that long why we’re given the basic need of the monster:  The Blob needs to feed, so it is hunting down people to eat.  The conflict is pretty obvious and simple:  People don’t like being eaten.  It’s a pretty simple conflict for a simple monster idea, and I think that we can learn a little from this kind of simple premise.  If we keep things simple, the audience can just sit back and enjoy the show, they don’t have to consider this or that, they can just let themselves be drawn into the story.

I am not saying that we should not write complex characters, and mysterious movies, sometimes it is fun to try and solve the mystery before the characters do.  However, I think we need to remember that we can create engaging and fun stories with just a simple premise, and we don’t have to complicate things with excessive backstory and why.

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