Slugs: The Movie (1988) Blu-ray Review: A Marvelously Muddled Mess

One of horror filmdom's most enjoyable atrocities rises up from the sewers once more in a stellar new HD transfer from Arrow Video.
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As a feller who spent entirely too much of his teenaged years in the horror sections of local video stores, there were two things I learned to keep a watchful eye out for when it came to satisfying my never-ending urge to keep myself amused. One item the look out for was any horror movie which proudly sported the subtitle "The Movie" ‒ something anyone who had the misfortune of seeing Mexican trash cinema maestro René Cardona Jr's Beaks: The Movie undoubtedly also made a mental note of. The other thing wasn't one I mastered immediately, however, for there was usually a great deal of trickery involved on the part of video distributors to alter, disguise, or completely conceal certain the names of foreign cast and crew.

While the aliases varied from one film to another, there was always one name in particular ‒ along with a heap of pseudonyms associated with it. And although this could easily be an introduction to the works of Jess Franco, I speak of another Spanish auteur here: Juan Piquer Simón ‒ also known as Alfredo Casado, J. Piquer, John Piquer, Juan Piquer, J. Piquer Simon, J.P. Simon, J. Piquer Simon, and Piquer Simón. I didn't have a clue as to pronounce his name (or what his real name may have actually been, for that matter!), but there were many instances in my youth I found the palm of my hand slapping against my forehead when I spotted one or more variations of Simón's moniker flash before me on-screen, for it always meant I was in for nothing but trouble.

Best known as the man who brought us the sleazy slasher cult classic Pieces in the early '80s, the late Señor Simón committed further crimes against humanity, most notably a godawful disco-loving Superman knock-off in the late '70s entitled Supersonic Man (a personal favorite of mine), and some hideous thing which wound up achieving everlasting immortality thanks to an epic spoofing on Mystery Science Theater 3000: the directionless, bargain-bin E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial rip-off, Pod People. So what in the name of all that is holy happened when this notorious Spanish filmmaker ‒ hiding behind his clever J.P. Simon alias ‒ decided to make a nature gone awry horror film boasting the words "The Movie" in its subtitle?

The answer? Slugs: The Movie. Made the same year as its winged Mexican cousin Beaks: The Movie, Juan Piquer Simón's Slugs: The Movie is an excellent example of why I often experience great difficulty communicating with other members of the human race, to say nothing of mollusks. A throwback to the "nature gone awry" subgenre of horror films that peaked in the '70s, Slugs: The Movie is the type of movie you have to be either quite inebriated and/or very high in order for it to seem even remotely plausible. With its interiors filmed in Spain and its exterior footage shot on location in the tiny village of Lyons, New York, Simón brings us a dazzling array of aging Spanish performers and a fine gathering of local American non-actors.

Kicking off with as bad of an homage to Jaws as you could ever hope to shake your head all the way through ‒ a scene that, mind you, has nothing to do with the rest of the feature, and which was probably filmed as an afterthought ‒ Slugs: The Movie (look, it reads that way in the actual on-screen credits, so I'm doing it, all right?) then moves on to the absurd story of a large number of very hungry mutant mollusks, who are crawling up from the sewers of Lyons after having been brought forth into this world in their present man-eating incarnation via a previously buried toxic waste dump. Thankfully, one of the most inept county employees ever (veneration which is not issued lightly), health department man Mike Brady (Michael Garfield), is on the case.

Realizing the terrible plot at hand, Mike Brady (a name whose resemblance to Jaws hero Martin Brody is completely coincidental, I'm sure) tries to convince local authorities near and far (as some of the city officials are in Spain) to do something about it. Alas, nobody believes the poor clod, despite the ever-increasing number of bizarre and gory deaths claiming the lives of Lyons' best and brightest. Sporting some of the worst dubbing ever for its Spanish-speaking cast, a plethora of blood and goo (highlights include an exploding head in a restaurant, and an attack on a nude actress who reveals every part of her privates possible in the act of dying, God bless 'er), and enough explosions to appease Michael Bay, Slugs: The Movie is excellent bad movie material.

Based on a 1982 novel by UK scribe Shaun Hutson (hence the reason the movie employs its ridiculous subtitle), this very ripe slice of Western European cheese co-stars a number of mostly unknown Americans and people who were perhaps very popular in Spain at one point. Representing Team America are Kim Terry, Philip MacHale, and Kari Rose (who is, without a doubt, my favorite actress in the entire picture, thanks to her gratuitous nude/death scene). Phoning their performances in from the other side of The Pond are Alicia Moro, Santiago Álvarez (as a creepy high school science teacher), Concha Cuetos, Emilio Linder, and Spanish exploitation/horror legends Manuel de Blas and Frank Braña (the latter of whom appeared in almost every Juan Piquer Simón picture ever made).

Much like the last thing your average viewer of this film may have consumed, it's hard to keep a good bad horror movie like Slugs: The Movie down. And the proof is here in this new Blu-ray/DVD Combo set from Arrow Video, who have provided us with what is undoubtedly the most pristine transfer ever for this amusingly dumb flick. For a low-budget Spanish/American horror film, the presentation is next to perfect here, with only a few instances of grain or compression in the darker scenes providing any (barely noticeable) exceptions. The original (?) English audio track receives an LPCM 1.0 mono redux here, which is so well done, it makes the badly dubbed voices for the Spanish-speaking actors and magnificently inappropriate soundtrack stand out all the more.

Arrow Video's already wonderful offering ups the ante for fans (seriously, this movie has fans) with several newly-produced featurettes from Michael Felsher and Red Shirt Pictures. First off is an interview with actor Emilio Linder, who tells us how hard it was to have his head explode on-screen like that. Next up are separate interviews with special effects supervisor Carlo de Marchis and art director Gonzalo Gonzalo (the latter of whom says the most peculiar things). All three featurettes are in Spanish with forced English subtitles. A lengthier discussion with Larry Ann Evans, who spent many years working with the late Señor Simón, focuses on the filming in Lyons, NY. The charming lass even shows us the local museum exhibit devoted to the movie, which she is very proud of.

But that's not all, kids! Arrow Video's BD/DVD release of Slugs: The Movie (it's a pity I don't get paid by the word, as I would have made a small fortune just typing this movie's full on-screen title alone!) is the original New World Pictures trailer for the (very limited) theatrical release of the film (the main feature, incidentally, includes the New World logo, although it looks to have hailed from a different print) and two audio commentaries. That's right: there were that many people who were willing (or maybe just paid) to sit and talk about Slugs: The Movie, starting with Red Shirt's Michael Felsher, who sits and holds author Shaun Hutson's hand as he watches his literary "brainchild" play out much to his (more than likely) bemused self.

The second and final audio commentary is from Shock Till You Drop's diehard fan Chris Alexander (who also provided us his thoughts on Arrow's release of Contamination), who doesn't bother to introduce himself, but who rather jumps right into dissecting the film as only a true admirer of the movie can do. Lastly, Arrow Video's Slugs: The Blu-ray (thank you, Mel Brooks) includes a reversible sleeve featuring a newly-commissioned cover by Wes Benscoter, with the now-iconic artwork from the New World Video days on the backside. Michael Gingold provides the liner notes for this release, which includes tawdry reminisces from other members of the film's production. It's a great way to wrap up a lovely look at one of the best bad movies ever made.

I know I rented Slugs: The Movie at one point or another growing up. And I'm certain I just sat there with my mouth agape at the whole muddled mess throughout. Watching it for the first time after a good twenty years or so has made it seem like an entirely new experience for me, and I once again sat there with my mouth agape wondering just what sort of alternate universe of artistic filmmaking I unknowingly slipped into. Yes, it's a hideous movie on every account ‒ but, much like a diamond, its unique flaws (which are, in this instance, numerous) are what makes it so endearing. My thanks go out to Arrow Video for this spectacular new release of a classic dumb horror film, and or course to the late Juan Piquer Simón for making this highly entertaining disaster possible.

Recommended.

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