Screenplay : Ron Gantman (based on the novel by Shaun Hutson)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1987
Stars : Michael Garfield (Mike Brady), Santiago Álvarez (John Foley), Philip MacHale (Don Palmer), Alicia Moro (Maureen Watson), Kim Terry (Kim Brady), Emilio Linder (David Watson), Concha Cuetos (Maria Palmer), John Battaglia (Sheriff Reese), Manuel de Blas (Mayor Eaton)
"They slime. They ooze. They kill." No matter how bad the movie is, is it possible to completely detest a movie with a tag line like that?
As bad as Slugs is--and it is bad--it is one of those movies that you can't completely disregard. It's not bad in an Ed Wood kind of way because the surface of the movie is absurdly polished, with the look and feel of a fairly high-budget production. Spanish director J.P. Simon (Pieces) has some style and a good sense of what the genre requires, and it would be wrong to simply dismiss the movie as a complete hack job.
But, just when you think Simon and the rest of the production know what they're doing, the actors come on screen, and everything goes down the tubes. Wooden is a polite word to describe the acting that goes on in Slugs. It doesn't help that the majority of the actors are Spanish (the film was a Spanish-American co-production) whose dialogue was dubbed over by even more wooden line readers. And, stacked on top of that, the dialogue in the movie is positively ludicrous. Simon allows the material to be played straight, but one cannot help but sense him behind the camera snickering as the intrepid hero declares in a flat monotone to the skeptical sheriff, "I know it sounds crazier than hell, but I got this theory. Maybe, just maybe, we're dealing with a mutant form of slug here. The kind that eats meat!"
But, then again, the human actors aren't the real stars. Rather, it is the multitude of slimy, oozing black slugs that often fill the entire screen. A result of both special effects and live slugs, the titular killers are quite unpleasant to look at, which is, of course, the whole point. Seeing as how there are few creatures in the animal kingdom less harmful than a slug, the filmmakers have to gross you out, rather than frighten you. A great white shark is scary. A rampaging grizzly bear is scary. A slug is just icky.
In a nutshell, Slugs is about a small American town that finds itself overrun with abnormally large, mutated slugs that have developed a taste for meat--namely, human meat. The slugs have been growing and multiplying in the sewer system, and they begin to come out through drains, toilets, and water fixtures. At one point, it is explained by a helpful scientist that slugs are hermaphrodites, meaning they engage in asexual reproduction. However they reproduce, it must be fast and often because apparently there are millions of them, squirming and sliming around the sewer passageways, just waiting to get out.
The hero is the county health inspector, Mike Brady (Michael Garfield), who learns the truth about the slugs and finds that his warnings fall on deaf ears. The local sheriff (John Battaglia) doesn't like him to begin with, so he's not particularly inclined to take seriously wild tales about killer slugs that eat human flesh. The mayor (Manuel de Blas) is even less willing to listen because he is busy trying to close a big deal with a developer to build a new shopping center, which is to be built on the buried toxic waste dump that spawned the mutated slugs in the first place. Thus, Slugs fills two important criteria of bad horror films made during the Reaganite '80s: it is critical of both rampant capitalism and ecological tampering.
Slugs plows through its 90-minute running time with little character development or even much of a narrative. The vast majority of the plot makes absolutely no sense. For instance, the big finale involves an attempt to kill all the slugs by dropping fiery chemicals into the sewer system and burning them up. Great, except for the fact that the opening scene established the fact that the slugs have already moved far beyond the sewer and into the local lake. And, the characters' big idea to attract all the slugs into one area is lugging around a garbage bag full of meat. After feasting on half a dozen humans, do they really think the slugs are going to think a little raw beef is going to be much of a treat?
Yet, none of this really matters, anyway, because Slugs is the kind of movie that simply laughs in the face of logic and consistency. Simon gets by with a minimum of exposition, relying instead on plenty of gory special effects that involve humans being eaten alive by thousands of slugs (there is one notably spectacular gross-out when a character's face exploded with parasitic worms). As might be guessed, Slugs is hardly a film for everyone. In fact, I would wager to say it is really for a very select few. Yet, even if it doesn't suit your tastes, it is hard to deny that there is something vaguely admirable about its energy and its willingness to exploit B-movie conventions with a smirk and a wink.
|Audio||Dolby Digital 1.0 Monaural|
|Supplements||Original theatrical trailer|
|Distributor||Anchor Bay Entertainment|
|The new anamorphic widescreen transfer of Slugs in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is quite good. With the exception of some noticeable grain in the darker sequences, it is an overall solid transfer, with good colors and a high level of detail. Since those likely to purchase Slugs are looking for a good gross-out, the increased resolution of the anamorphic transfer really shows off Carlo de Marchis' gory special effects.|
|The soundtrack, which is in Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural, is more than adequate. Slugs features a fairly good musical score, although it tends to get repetitive by the end. There are all kinds of gooey sound effects whenever the slugs are present that are well rendered. The soundtrack is clean throughout, with no hiss or distortion. The dialogue is clear and audible, although it rarely matches the actors' mouths very well, which is, of course, the fault of the original dubbing, not the soundtrack remastering.|
|The only supplement included is the original theatrical trailer, which is presented in anamorphic widescreen.|
©2000 James Kendrick