Movie Review: Slugs

slugsbannerSlugs (1988)
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón

Starring Michael Garfield, Kim Terry, Philip MacHale, Alicia Moro, Santiago Álvarez, Concha Cuetos, John Battaglia, Emilio Linder, Kris Mann, Kari Rose, Manuel de Blas, Frank Braña, Patty Shepard

Ahh…the late ‘80s….when gore was running rampant and thought provoking storylines were nowhere to be seen. As horror fans, If the movie was outrageous enough, we didn’t mind the absurdity of the plot. We didn’t care if the dialog was hilariously bad. As long as we got some well done and outrageous gore we were happy. Which is probably why the 1982 film Pieces, from director Juan Piquer Simón, was such a success, since it is probably one of the most enjoyable ‘bad’ movies ever made. It had a ton of over-the-top gore, outrageous dialog, and a plethora of wacky and fun characters. It is one that is enjoyed even more in a large group of like-minded fans.

So it’s really no surprise when at the end of the decade, Simón would be back, hopping on the animals-gone-amuck theme, that we were in for the same kind of delirium! But his particular killer species wasn’t your ordinary dreaded killing machine that would immediately come to mind, but was one that just at the mention of the name would make you shudder. The title was simply Slugs. That’s right folks, those black slimy little things that are disgusting just to look at, thanks to toxic chemicals, have grown to the size of Baby Ruth candy bars and have started attacking a small town. Oh yeah….they’ve also developed a taste for human flesh.

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The first thing one has to realize when they are watching a movie about killer slugs, is the fact that you are watching a movie about killer slugs! So any thought as to the realism or practically of the whole situation, you’ve already thought about it too much. Don’t think…just sit back (preferably with some friends), and laugh and enjoy.

Based on the novel of the same name by Shaun Hutson, we find a small town in America that is slowly being invaded by flesh eating slugs. I say slowly because they are slugs after all. But for some reason, these little buggers can move quite fast when not being watched. You can see one starting to climb up a wall and then in a matter of minutes, there are hundreds of them all over the room! And one they get a hold of you, you’re done for. Did I mention that you really shouldn’t think too much while you’re watching this?

The city health inspector is the first one to take notice of something squishy going on here, but like all good horror movie stories, he gets no help from the town’s authority, especially the sheriff who would just rather yell at his deputies. But have no fear because or diligent inspector and his school teacher wife capture of the little slippery SOBs and takes it to the local high school to show it to the science teacher. Even though he is only the high school teacher, he seems to be more than qualified to handle this type of situation. We believe everything he tells us because of his British accent, sounding like a cross between Tim Curry and Austin Powers! Later in the film, he develops a chemical mixture that will make the slugs explode, and even more amazing is the fact that he apparently has access to enough of these different chemicals at the high school to fill a 50 gallon drum! They all team up with a buddy from the sanitation department to try and put an end to this creeping terror before it’s too late.

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The fun continues throughout the movie. We have hilarious lines of dialog like when our hero goes to the water reclamation department to have them shut off the water supply. After telling the director he needs to shut it off and he’ll take the responsibility, the director yells back “You don’t have the authority to declare Happy Birthday!” The reason for the cheesy dialog might have something to do with the Spanish writers trying their best to make it sound like us wacky Americans. Geezz…do we really say stuff like that?

The music in the movie is often exciting and thrilling, but only when our hero is driving his car back and forth. For some reason, whenever he gets in the car, the tempo picks up! Even if he’s just driving a few blocks to his house.

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Now let’s talk about the gore. That’s why we’re all here, right? Carlo De Machis was the special effects supervisor, and had previously worked on the uber-bad classic Claudio Fragasso film Monster Dog (1984), starring Alice Cooper. But he also worked on Sergio Martino’s Big Alligator River (1979) and even John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). To show you how different the Goya Awards are (Spain’s version of the Oscars), De Machis won Best Special Effects Goya for his effects in Slugs. He would actually win the same award again two years later for another Simón film, The Rift (1990). Maybe I’m just used to how the Oscars usually snub these kind of movies, so would never expect movies like these to even be nominated, let alone winning. Then again, the Goya Awards also gave Jess Franco a Lifetime Achievement award. So we know they are a little less high-brow then the American system.

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The gore in Slugs will make any gorehound smile and giggle. We have plenty of blood flowing as these little buggers crawl and creep all over their poor victims. We have them crawling in and out of bodies and ocular orifices, we have them exploding through chest cavities, and we even have a brilliant scene with Slug vs. Hamster! And no, I really don’t think they killed any real animals in this movie.

The other great thing about this movie is the cast. I’m not talking about the American actors they brought in for the main leads, but the surrounding cast is like a who’s who in the Spanish horror genre. Patty Shepard plays a small part of one of the business partners that might invest in a new shopping center (where the slug break out just so happens is occurring). Shepard was in Crypt of the Living Dead (1973) with Andrew Prine, but also worked on a couple of Paul Naschy’s werewolf movies, playing the blood countess herself, Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy in The Werewolf vs the Vampire Women (1971) and Assignment Terror (1970). That film also co-starred Manual de Blas as Dracula. Here in Slugs, he plays the mayor of the infested town. He would also be another Naschy film, Hunchback of the Morgue (1973), as well as being in Amando de Ossoiro’s 3rd Blind Dead film, Horror of the Zombies (1974).  Emilio Linder, who plays the doomed victim who accidently ingests one of the slugs, also was in Simón’s Pieces (1982), The Rift (1990) and Cthulhu Mansion (1990), along with Monster Dog (1984).

But one actor who looks familiar, but you just might not be sure who he is. With his gray/silver hair, stern face and beady eyes, actor Frank Braña looked like one of the puppets from the TV show Thunderbirds. He has a very recognizable face, so once you put a name to it, you’ll start to notice him a lot more. With the amount of film work that he did, Braña is a staple in the Spanish cinema. Besides being in a shitload of westerns, he was also in horror titles like de Ossorio’s 2nd Blind Dead film Return of the Evil Dead (1973), Crypt of the Living Dead (1973), Graveyard of Horrors (1971), and The House that Screamed (1969). He also worked for Simón on three of his films Pieces (1982), Cthulhu Mansion (1990), as well as The Rift (1990).

slugs-coverReleased on DVD some time ago, it now comes to blu-ray in a beautiful edition from Arrow Video. I’m not one for double dipping but if you are the slightest fan of this movie, you want to upgrade your DVD edition for this new blu-ray. It just looks amazing. Plus there are quite a few little interviews with some of the people involved with the making of this feature. Actor Emilio Linder talks about his work on the film, as well as with the other titles he made with Simón. It is pretty strange after seeing this actor in some many other films being dubbed, here we get to hear him in his real voice, even though it is in Spanish. We also get to hear from Carlo De Marchis, the award-winning effects artists, who also gives us some great stories about work on this film. He talks about how some of the effects were created, with some great behind the scenes shots. Production Manager Larry Ann Evans shows us some of the location where the movie was filmed, which I found out was the same town used for the film The Lady in White! The disc also has two commentary tracks, trailers, and so much more.

There’s not much more we could say about this movie other than you need to seek it out. Sure, you can’t take it seriously and compare it to the more “smarter” films that have been made. But sometimes you just in the mood to have some cheap and gory fun. And if you’re looking for 90 minutes of just that, plus a memorable cast, some nice and juicy gore effects, then you are really going to find a winner here. In all honesty, it is the best killer slug movie you will ever find!

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