The onscreen title is SLUGS THE MOVIE.
We open on a sunny day, an attractive young couple enjoying the afternoon on board a canoe. The guy leaps over the side of the boat, playing a prank on his pretty blonde girlfriend. She responds by berating him for fooling around - which, considering he's beneath the water, is surely falling upon deaf ears. Anyhow, it all ends badly when blood begins bubbling from where the lad had dove in.
The place is Ashton, a small town in rural America. The type of place where nothing much happens. Until now.
Later that day, local drunk Ron (Stan Schwartz) decides to have one last session in his house the evening before he's due to be evicted for missing mortgage payments. But something attacks him on his settee.
The following morning, sheriff Reese (John Battaglia), his dim-witted assistant Dobbs (Andy Alsup) and county health inspector Mike (Michael Garfield) make their way to Ron's home to serve the eviction notice upon him. Instead, they find the old lush eaten alive.
Initially the authorities are baffled as to what could be responsible for this attack. Mike suspects rats.
However, more victims follow in quick succession: pensioners and keen gardeners Harold (Juan Majan) and Jean (Lucia Prado) deliver the film's first real taste of gore; surly Dave Mustaine-lookalike Bobby (Kris Mann) and large-chested lover Donna (Kari Rose) have their energetic bonking session interrupted by the discovery of hundreds of black slugs covering her bedroom floor; Mike's pal David (Emilio Linder) puts diners in an Italian restaurant off their food when a slug he'd inadvertently eaten earlier in the week causes his head to explode into a mass of spurting blood and writhing worms.
It's only when Mike's wife Kim (Kim Terry) alerts him to several large slugs in their garden, and one bites him, that he rushes to get it analysed by Kim's scientist pal at the school where she teaches, John (Santiago Alvarez). Through his spiffing English accent, John employs a healthy amount of technical jargon as he explains how slugs function and tells us that some have even been known to eat small animals and insects. Of course, the penny has dropped for Mike - but his attempts at convincing Reese of such are met with open mockery.
Fortunately, Sanitation worker Don (Philip MacHale) is much more open to Mike's suggestion. And he has a revelation of his own: the town was built upon what used to be a toxic waste dump. Crikey.
Can Mike, Don and John stop the mutated, flesh-eating slugs from taking over their town? Or will the local teenagers' upcoming Halloween party be well and truly ruined?
From Juan Piquer Simon, director of the notorious PIECES, and based upon Shaun Hutson's best-selling novel of the same name, SLUGS is a bizarrely enjoyable experience.
Bad haircuts, perfectly manicured actors (and that's just the men), terrible late 80s fashions ... SLUGS announces its 1988 origins without delay. Just in case you're less observant, lots of curiously ill-fitting Mike Post-type music and chirpy pop songs ram the point home even harder. Elsewhere, the acting is uniformly bad as the cast of soap opera reject lookalikes struggle to find conviction in lines as daffy as "after I've dealt with these slugs, what do you say we get naked and crazy?". Furthermore, characters often have a tendency to say what's happening on screen. I don't suppose it helps that many of the actors are Europeans and have been dubbed rather obviously into English.
Complete with a colourful cartoonish take on American suburbia (no doubt the results of a naive Spanish production team setting the action in the US) which accidentally creates a small-town vibe akin to early David Lynch or Tim Burton features, this all makes for a viewing experience as stupid as a film about killer slugs sounds.
Somehow, though, Simon manages to make it all endlessly watchable. The pace never flags; the characters are so outlandish that they become oddly compelling; the gore is preposterous in its graphic grisliness at times (who'd have thought these little slimy fuckers could cause so much damage?); regular bouts of gratuitous nudity ensure all corners of the exploitation market are catered for.
Is SLUGS a good film? No. Do I love it? Yes!
Arrow Video bring SLUGS to the UK on blu-ray.
The film is presented as a healthily sized MPEG4-AVC file in full 1080p HD resolution, uncut - 89 minutes and 15 minutes including the original New World Cinema logo - and in its original 1.85:1 ratio. Colours are vivid and true, noise reduction is happily absent, the print is clean and images are naturally sharp throughout.
English stereo audio gets the uncompressed HD treatment, coming across as clean, clear and evenly channelled for the duration of playback. Optional English subtitles are easy to read at all times. Though, unusually for a present-day Arrow release, there were a few typos to be found here.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene selection menu offers access to the film via 12 chapters.
Extras? There are plenty.
They begin with an enormously entertaining commentary from Shaun Hutson, moderated with skill by Michael Felscher. Hutson is a raconteur: candid, witty and blessed with a sarcastic Southern England accent which is extremely easy to listen to. He talks about how his agent encouraged him to write a book about slugs, and how the resultant effort turned him into a huge success at the tender age of 23. Watching the film for the first time since 1988, he finds a great deal of amusement in its dafter moments but seems unconcerned with his novel being translated into such trashy cinema. He speaks about the benefits of reading a book quickly; covers his novelisation of THE TERMINATOR; reveals his agent's plans for second and third slug-related books; discusses peers such as James Herbert ... A lot of ground is covered by the quick-talking, endlessly enthusiastic Hutson. This all makes for a great listen.
A second audio commentary track comes courtesy of critic Chris Alexander. He admits to having a "soft, squishy spot" for SLUGS before going on to have fun pointing out the film's many absurdities and stopping occasionally to highlight elements he really likes (the opening score, for example). Titbits of trivia concerning the cast and locations follow, along with references to many other horror films of the era (ALLIGATOR etc). "This movie moves like a bullet out of a gun", Alexander remarks, while taking time to establish which scenes were and weren't taken from the source novel. In what's a real rarity, this gives SLUGS not one but two fun, worthwhile commentary tracks to consider. I mean, I expected at least one of them to be an endurance test. But, happily, that's not the case.
"Here's Slugs in your Eye" is a new 7-minute interview with Linder. He looks good for his age while he speaks with a permanent smile on his face about his early days of acting in the likes of WINGS OF FAME, MONSTER DOG and RUSTLER'S RAPSODY. He has fond memories of SLUGS too, and his friendship with Simon. The interview is conducted in Italian with English subtitles.
"They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill" spends 11 minutes with FX artist Carlo De Marchis, another Italian who found work in Spain. His first major film contribution was working on CONAN THE BARBARIAN. He goes on to call Simon "the best special effects director in Spain", and speak highly of his time creating the OTT gore for SLUGS. In Italian with English subtitles.
"Invasion USA" sees art director Gonzalo Gonzalo (great name) chin-wagging over the course of 12 minutes about his recollections. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Production supervisor Larry Ann Evans is also on hand for an entertaining 21-minute interview-cum-tour of US filming locations, shot in the Lyons district of New York. Entitled "The Lyons Den", this is an engaging and fact-filled foray, Evans smiling even more broadly than Linder throughout.
Finally, the film's original 97-second theatrical trailer is appropriately manic and sensational.
SLUGS is a ridiculous slice of late 80s trash. It shouldn't be so entertaining but it is. It's one to enjoy with beers, one to get out when friends pop round, one to revisit whenever you're feeling a little blue. It looks superb on Arrow's blu-ray and the extras are exceptionally good.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Arrow Video|
|see main review|