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Scott Sigler – Hey, Hollywood! What’s the Deal With Protoplasm, Anyway?

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It’s boneless, it’s shapeless, it looks a lot like jelly — and you know what else? It will kill your ass dead. I’m talking about the goo that haunts horror movies.

Of course, the king of all things silver-screen slimy is The Blob, both the 1958 version and the 1988 remake. The original stars Steve McQueen, while the remake features Shawnee Smith, of Saw fame. And don’t forget the 1972 sequel, Beware! The Blob, directed by none other than Larry Hagman (J.R., from TV’s Dallas), which proves, irrefutably, that just because a blob has been frozen twenty years doesn’t mean it’s safe to thaw it out.

Okay, you’ve already heard of The Blob. How about the piece of awesome that is The Green Slime? This masterpiece of schlock, from 1969, reeks of bio-contaminant ooze. All you need to do is watch the trailer and you’ll be sold. When I grow up, I want that dude’s voice. And what about Slithis, a.k.a. Spawn of the Slithis? Mix yourself up a batch of organic mud, protoplasm, and radioactive waste and watch it turn into murderous muck.

Slime is the star of The Blob, but it’s only fair to give supporting-role ooze its due. The Best Supporting Goop award has to go to Slimer, from the horror-comedy Ghost Busters. The little green globule got his start as a body double for the drummer in This Is Spinal Tap, moved on to Ghost Busters, and then became a mainstay of the cartoon The Real Ghost Busters. He also came back for a cameo in Ghostbusters II.

Ooze can also morph into other evil forms, as it did in the ungodly-bad Evolution, starring David Duchovny and Julianne Moore. In this “Why pay attention to science?” science-fiction movie, a handy-dandy comet hits Earth with some grade-A primordial gel, which proceeds to undergo a rapid-fire evolution that creates all kinds of evil critters.

Squishy stuff isn’t just for Hollywood’s big boys: indie filmmaker Gregory Lamberson has made a couple of grind-house flicks with gooey centers: Slime City and Slime City Massacre. Also firmly in the indie camp: Bio Slime, written and directed by John Lechago. (Check out the trailer.)

If you think Americans are the only ones with a hostile-ooze problem, think again. The 1958 Italian flick Caltiki: The Immortal Monster features Mayan ruins and nasty amoeba action, courtesy of old-school black-and-white effects. See for yourself.

What about blob monsters in real life? The late ’80s saw the birth of self-replicating nanobots known as “grey ooze.” In the book Engines of Creation, Dr. Eric Drexler theorized that these microscopic beasts might be able to eat anything, dissolve anything, and use that dissolved material to make copies of itself. The result could be the destruction of all life on Earth. Odds are that it would be impervious to the fire extinguisher Steve McQueen used to save the planet, back in 1958.

Drexler is apparently annoyed by his theory’s overuse in sci-fi tales. “I…underestimated the popularity of depictions of swarms of tiny nano-bugs in science fiction and popular culture,” Drexler griped to the BBC. “[But] I thought it was important to outline a worst-case scenario, so that those learning about nanotechnology could not consider the benefits without understanding potential risks.”

But amorphous lumps aren’t just the stuff of sci-fi. “Blobs are actually the rule in nature, not the exception,” said Jeremy Ellis, Ph.D. and member of the Science and Entertainment Exchange. “Bacteria live in communities called biofilms, which are slimy, nasty blobs of cells embedded in what is essentially a matrix of snot. On our bodies alone, the organism in the biofilm on your teeth, your mouth, and all over your body outnumber our own cells, two to one.”

Holy crap, I’m under attack — and this stuff can even survive freezing. “When you think of slime creatures in real life, you may first think of the amoeba,” says Tom Merritt, a Ph.D. in virology, gene therapy, and human molecular genetics. “These living slime packets are great, as you can throw them into liquid nitrogen — freezing them instantly and suspending life itself — then just thaw them out later like nothing happened. I don’t think the same can be said for Ted Williams.”

Now, I’m sure some producer out there is considering a horror movie featuring Williams’s frozen dome. For now, we’ll live with the flicks listed above. If I’ve missed any oozing sore of a movie, don’t hesitate to use the field below to send me a nice goo-a-gram.

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contagious-cover-500.preview.jpgNew York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler writes tales of hard-science horror, then gives them away as free audiobooks, at www.scottsigler.com. His novel INFECTED was named Borders’s #1 mystery, thriller, and horror novel for 2008. His next major hardcover horror-thriller, ANCESTOR, will be out on June 22, 2010.

Did Scott overuse the term “goo” in this column? Best keep it to yourself. He has the sense of humor of a third-grader. We apologize for that.

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