Starring Michael Garfield, Kim Terry, Philip MacHale
Directed by Juan Piquer Simon (as J.P. Simon)
Distributed by Arrow Video
Most creature features can be accepted at face value because, more often than not, filmmakers use animal antagonists that are physically imposing to some degree. The real test of a filmmaker’s ability to wring horror out of an animal attack is when the focus is on some little beast that doesn’t even begin to inspire terror. Enter director Juan Piquer Simon (directing here as J.P. Simon) and his ‘80s splatter effort, Slugs (1988), a mostly-forgotten low-budget romp through the radioactive swamp, featuring a horde of slimy slugs with a taste for flesh. After watching the film – for the first time – I was almost amazed there isn’t a greater cult following for the title since it has a ton of awesomely ‘80s gore gags and the FX work is often fairly impressive. So why has horror history overlooked this little gem? If I had to guess, it’s because the best acting comes from the titular creatures and there isn’t a single human in the bunch that doesn’t look like Simon just picked him off the street, handed him a script and, with no prep, said “Here… act!”
After a dreadfully shot opening, in which a guy in a boat falls out for absolutely no reason and then quickly dies, the film cuts over to the town drunk, stumbling down the street. Narrowly avoiding being hit by a car and killed, our old drunk reconsiders his life choices and decides to do something charitable for the townsfolk. Nah, jk. He gets home, pulls out a bottle of rotgut, berates his dog and then lays down to pass out… at which point slugs rain down from his ceiling and, apparently, consume him in record time. Later, a man puts on his work gloves and is bitten by a slug within. His reaction? Grab an axe and chop off the hand. Good lord, man. This is in addition to flailing around within his greenhouse, destroying everything in his path, before finally causing an explosion that also kills his wife. Logic in this universe has been thrown out the window, out of our atmosphere and flung into an orbit somewhere past Pluto.
The only man with any sort of insight here is Mike (Michael Garfield), a health inspector who is the only person that has noticed the town’s slug population seems to have doubled in more ways than one. So now they’re absolutely HUGE… I guess if you compare them to another slug or a snail. I doubt anyone would notice, even if you stuck in right in their face. Which the film does – literally. A dude eats a “slug salad” – inadvertently – and later on, while he’s out enjoying a fancy feast with some friends, the squirmy suckers come pouring out of his face in the film’s most fabulously grotesque sequence. Anyway, Mike figures out the slugs have been mutated due to some radioactive waste dumping nearby, so he and a buddy-that-is-sure-to-die go off to investigate, come up with some inane plan that “just might work!” and destroy all but one of the slugs that will inevitably be shown just before the credits roll. You knew it was coming.
Credit for the film’s awesomely gruesome special FX work goes to Basilio Cortijo and his crew. Cortijo, as very few of you may know, also did the FX work on Pieces (1982), the notoriously bloody grindhouse classic. Some of the work here was clearly done on the quick and it shows, but the majority of the gags are well-executed and just plain nasty. The effectiveness of the kill scenes nearly overshadows the fact that every person who dies in this film is an idiot because, you know, they’re essentially just sitting there as a slug slowly devours them. That’s how I envision it, at least, because most of these deaths are shown post-consumption. If anything, the deaths inject a strong sense of unintended comedy because lord knows the script is devoid of real humor.
I cannot overstate enough just how bad the acting is here. There isn’t a single line read with any sense of conviction in the entire script. The production originated in Spain, and partially shot there, but it also shot in Lyons, NY. Know what else famously shot there? Frank LaLoggia’s Lady in White (1988). It’s a beautiful location, adding plenty of production value. The cast is comprised of actors both American and Spanish, though the only distinction they share is a clear inability to act. There’s bad acting and then there’s real bad acting; as in the kind of bad acting that transcends humor and settles somewhere below a well-scraped barrel. Can you guess which one is used here?
Even with the lack of a single thespian in the bunch – which, frankly, no one should expect anyway – I still had a ton of fun with Slugs because the plot is so absurd and the FX work is so patently ‘80s it brought up some cool nostalgic feelings. There isn’t a credit on IMDb for composer and I suspect this is because the film made use of some library music and random synth cues. The score is all over the place in terms of tone – brooding and ominous one moment, something straight out of a TV drama the next. Similar pictures like Frogs (1972) or Empire of the Ants (1977) may have better acting but this one wins hands down for FX work and delivering on the promise of some really horrific animal attack action… even if it is nearly impossible to believe.
God bless Arrow because they are truly invested in giving each of their releases the royal treatment, whether they “deserve it” or not. Slugs features a stunning 1.85:1 1080p transfer that is so well done the movie could easily pass for a modern day low-budget horror entry. Fine detail and definition are highly impressive, especially if – like me – you go in with reasonably low expectations. Colors are defined and vibrant, print damage is almost nonexistent, the FX work holds up under the microscope of HD… all in all this is a killer effort.
Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 1.0 mono track, which suitably does the job without any frills. The aforementioned score sounds as good as possible in such a narrow range. Dialogue is easy to understand and balanced, though the poor quality of some of the ADR is obvious at times. Subtitles are included in English SDH.
There are two audio commentary tracks included – the first with author Shaun Hutson (did I neglect to mention this film is based on a novel?); the second with Chris Alexander.
“Here’s Slugs in your Eye” is an interview with Emilio Linder, one of the film’s actors. In Spanish with English subs.
“They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill” features Carlo de Marchis, one of the special effects supervisors. In Spanish with English subs.
“Invasion U.S.A.” is an interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo, also in Spanish with English subs.
“The Lyons Den” is a piece with production manager Larry Ann Evans, who takes viewers on a tour of the museum in Lyons which has a little section devoted to this film.
There is also a trailer included.
- Brand new restoration from original film elements
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original Uncompressed PCM Stereo audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary by writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander
- Here’s Slugs In Your Eye an interview with actor Emilio Linder
- They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: The Effects of Slugs an interview with special effects artist Carlo De Marchis
- Invasion USA an interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo
- The Lyons Den an interview and locations tour with production manager Larry Ann Evans
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
- Fully-illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by writer Michael Gingold