I can’t believe this is about to happen. You are about to read, from me, a positive review for a movie about a bunch of murderous, mutant mollusks.
Slugs is a delight. It's well made, funny, gross, and an immensely entertaining movie. I mean it's still a really bad movie, but in the most satisfying of ways. Made in 1988, Slugs follows in the footsteps of all those mutant animal/nature vs. animal flicks that gained popularity in the '70s (which tells you something about the development of this film being made nearly a decade after the genre basically died out).
After a most ridiculous opening scene in which a grumpy, dirty old man is eaten by the killer slugs, we meet our hero. Mike Brady (Michael Garfield) is head of the health department in the sleepy upstate New York hamlet of Lyons (the exteriors were actually filmed there with interiors mostly being shot in Spain). After discovering the body of the aforementioned, grumpy, dirty old man, he begins to suspect something may be afoul. When a few more mutilated corpses show up, he starts running around town trying to hustle up some help, but much like what Sheriff Brody in Jaws encounters, none of the town’s municipals will listen. And so it's up to Mike to save the town from those blood-sucking slime-beasts. It's not every day that you see a lowly health department official become the hero of your mutant-animal horror film. God bless them for it.
I want to talk about the screenwriting for a minute as I find it fascinating. Just after the initial death scene, we cut to a restaurant where Mike and his wife Kim (Kim Terry) are having drinks with David Winston (Emilio Linder) and his wife Maureen (Alicia Moro). Maureen is drinking too much, becomes abusive to the waitstaff, and is chastised by David. Mike and wife excuse themselves and on their way out, bump into Don Palmer (Phillip MacHale) and his wife Maria (Concha Cuetos). They chat long enough to set up Mike’s next scene (where he and the Sheriff discover the body). This restaurant scene is completely pointless narrative wise - there is no information given that is important to the story - but it introduces us to what will become the main characters and slightly develops them (as well as any character in this film is actually developed). It tells us that Maureen is an alcoholic which is developed more in later scene, but serves no real purpose except that (maybe) she was too inebriated to notice when she serves up her husband a slug salad (and he only seems to exist so that those eaten slugs can later cause his very bloody death).
What I love about that restaurant scene is that it's basic screenwriting 101. Nearly every detail given shows up in a later moment. But they are almost all completly unnecessary. Maria notes that Kim is her son's teacher. We later see Kim teaching class, but her character serves little purpose in the story and the fact that she’s an educator plays no real part of the plot whatsoever. Random details to flesh out two-dimensional characters who serve the story in no meaningful way. That’s the basic synopsis of much of the screenplay.
But I’m rambling.
Slugs is the sort of film that knows it's terrible and is all the better for it. The actors all play the scenes completely straight no matter how laughably absurd the scene is nor how atrociously written the dialogue. Director Juan Piquer Simon gives his film a light touch, filming the scenes with a wink and a smile while never allowing it to turn into a farce. Played straight, the absurdities of the films become something to joyously mock without the film ever slipping into mawkishness.
There is plenty of grotesque gore and enough nudity to satisfy even the horniest horror hound (and one naked death scene in particular would have caused me to wear out the VHS tape were I to have discovered this film as a teenager).
Arrow has outdone themselves this time. The video looks absolutely spectacular. Colors are vibrant, flesh tones look real, the blacks are perfect, and the contrast is solid. I noticed no scratches or compression issues. For a film of this caliber, you can’t get any better. Audio also is excellent. The really, really (really!) ridiculously awesome score blasts through the speakers but never distorts or obfuscates the dialogue. The effects, especially the chittering of the slugs, comes in loud and clear.
Extras include two (!) audio commentaries (one from the book’s - yes, Slugs the movie is based on a novel - author, another from devoted bad movie buff Chris Alexander) which are both interesting and entertaining, though best dolled out in long intervals as sitting through this film three times is a bit much even for the most die-hard genre fans. There are interviews with actor Emilio Linder, special effects supervisor Carlo de Marchis and art director Gonzalo Gonzalo, plus promo reels, trailers and the usual illustrated booklet with a nice essay.
Slugs is undoubtedly a terrible film, but one that is so entertainingly bad I can do nothing but recommend it. Arrow’s release is just about as good as any bad movie fan could dream about.