Slugs Blu-ray Review
Release Date: September 26
“Killer slugs? For Christ’s sakes! What’ll it be next? Demented crickets? Rampagin’ mosquitoes maybe?”
Spanish exploitation filmmaker Juan Piquer Simón of Pieces, The Rift and Pod People (as seen on MST3K) fame turned out perhaps his most cult-y picture for New World Cinema’s 1988 B-entry Slugs: The Movie. Now Arrow Films has released a region-free Blu-ray with a glorious 1080p transfer that fans of ’80s horror are sure to devour.
Despite being made during the height of the Freddy/Jason slasher era, Slugs has one foot firmly in the “killer animal” territory of Bert I. Gordon or Kingdom of the Spiders. It’s that old fashioned feel that gives the movie its charm, although there are dollops of gross-out gore that are legitimately stomach-turning. It also has a bit of a Slither/Night of the Creeps squirmy-wormy vibe.
The film follows town health inspector Mike Brady (Michael Garfield of The Warriors) and his teacher wife Kim (Kim Terry of Rushmore) as they deal with a mini-monster infestation in a small town where killer slugs have spawned from a toxic waste dump. If that sounds like a recipe for a good eco-horror then you may be disappointed, as there’s little in the way of sly political commentary. It’s a straightforward, meat & potatoes terror flick with a lot of badly-dubbed Spanish people in the interiors and normal average Americans in the exteriors (most of the interiors were shot in Spain).
The greatest strength of the film comes with J.P. Simón’s clever use of miniatures, including several exploding buildings and hoards of slugs funneling through sewers. There’s also some good gore, with lots of writhing slugs over bloody bodies and wriggling worms in eye sockets. Scenes of swarming, sticky slugs that fill every inch of the frame are eerily effective, and also carry a campiness that makes it fun.
A lot of the most interesting deaths occur off-camera, but not so much in a Jaws way but in a way that cheats the audience, as when a drunkard dies at the beginning. A standout gross moment involves a woman preparing a salad with a head of lettuce that has a slug in it. Another shot of a puppet slug opening its jaws to bite our lead’s finger is super cool, although it would have helped to have a few more nutty moments like that to spice things up.
A scene of a young girl at a party thwarting not one but TWO potential rapes, escaping and then getting summarily eaten by slugs is a B plot that not only makes for uncomfortable viewing but adds zero to the A story. There’s no scene of the girl’s body blocking the way of our two heroes in the sewer, nothing. It’s a subplot that feels tacked on to pad the time but adds a skeezy flavor to things.
The camera work is solid, even satisfactory, with no real interesting ideas behind it. The small town atmosphere of the exteriors is enjoyable, with most of that shot in upstate Lyons, New York. It has a literally explosive climax, which involves some subtle miniature work. With the exception of one obligatory sex scene and a few of the more grotesque deaths this could almost be an old AIP drive-in double bill picture from the ’60s.
The soundtrack was inexplicably performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, although it seems to have been only a few minutes of music to class up the joint, even used during scenes where characters are walking down a hall or other mundane stuff.
Slugs is willful trash that thankfully avoids winking at the audience and delivers exactly what you would want from a movie about killer slugs!
This is a marvelously well-stocked set of features, including four original featurettes from Red Shirt Pictures:
-“Here’s Slugs In Your Eye”: Actor Emilio Linder tells some stories from the set, including how he had to cough up blood into his drink.
-“They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: The Effects of Slugs”: A sit-down interview with special effects artist Carlo De Marchis, who boldly states that Juan Piquer Simón was just as good at working with special effects as Steven Spielberg… whom Carlo De Marchis also worked with.
-“Invasion USA”: A chat with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo, the highlight of which is where he reveals that a live pig was used to simulate a woman’s back pierced by live slugs!
-“The Lyons Den”: An informative interview and locations tour with production manager Larry Ann Evans, where she goes through a very thorough 22-minute account of how the film came to be.
There’s also a trailer, liner notes by horror journalist extraordinaire Michael Gingold, and not one but TWO audio commentaries! The first is by the author of the original novel, Shaun Hutson, and the other is by this very site’s editor Chris Alexander. The latter commentary is vintage Alexander, where he takes a way-too-much-coffee/stream-of-consciousness stroll down memory lane of watching the film during the VHS boom of the ’80s and calls the original book, “an elephantine wallow in nonstop violence and gore and sex.”
Overall Slugs is a fun-if-silly little throwback movie that, despite being shot in the 80’s has its foot firmly in the old drive-in movies of the ’50s.