Slugs (1988)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2013-10-30 21:48

Written by: Juan Piquer Simon, Jose Antonio Escriva, Ron Gantman (screenplay), and Shaun Huston (novel)
Directed by: Juan Piquer Simon
Starring: Michael Garfield, Kim Terry, and Philip MacHale

Reviewed by: Brett G.

ďNow maybe, just maybe, we're dealing with a mutant form of slug here, a kind that eats meat!Ē

When I was younger, there was a time where I basically lived at a mom and pop video store. The fine establishment was called World of Video, and it was owned by a guy that my dad played softball with. On Saturdays, theyíd be playing ball and my mom would be off shopping, so the best option for me was to stay at the store. I must have done this fairly often since there are family photos of me sitting on the store counter watching movies there. At any rate, one of the perks was being able to rent movies early; sometimes, a group of my dadís friends would gather with whatever new had come in. Thatís another thing that probably happened a lot, but for some reason Slugs was one of these that has stood out over the years.

Itís the story of a small town with a big slug problem; itís not that the slugs themselves are really huge, but they are a mutant strain thatís taken to eating the flesh of the citizens. A city health worker named Mike Brady (Michael Garfield, sadly not Robert Reed) is pretty sure this is the case, but everyone else in the town laughs it off. With the help of a local scientist, he formulates a plan that will hopefully prevent the entire town from being devoured.

Looking back on it, Iím still not sure what made Slugs stick out in my mind for over 20 years. In fact, Iíd only carried exactly one random, apparently indelible image from the movie: a skull creeping around in the woods. For a while, I wasnít even sure if I was thinking about the right movie. But nope--about an hour into it, a bunch of the town's kids have gathered for a Halloween party, and one of the guys is wearing a cheap skeleton mask. It was really weird seeing something so silly that no doubt creeped me out when I was about five, especially given the context of the Z-grade mozzarella fest that is Slugs.

I know a lot of things now about the movie that I didnít know then. Perhaps most importantly, I realize that it was directed by the same diabolical mind that bestowed Pieces onto the world, Juan Piquier Simon. Because of this, itís a thoroughly Euro-styled production, complete with some laughably bad dub jobs, less than passable acting, and almost no real plot. Interestingly enough, it was actually a split production, with parts being filmed in the United States and Spain, leading to a weird, schizophrenic feel--you can tell which scenes were shot where, and itís really bizarre. The soundtrack is a similar Frankensteinís monster, as it sounds like it was cobbled from a cheap soap opera, a Cannon action extravaganza, and a low budget horror B-movie depending on the scene (and sometimes the music isnít even scene appropriate, which is sort of awesome).

But itís also got gore and loads of it. This must have made a subtle impression on me, as it could have been the first ridiculously gory flick Iíd ever seen (so donít ask me why a dude in a goddamn skull mask stuck out). The effects work is kind of miraculous; despite the perception that theyíre a bunch of slow-poke herbivores, these little bastards do a lot of damage. Bodies are chewed down to the bone, and thereís even a wicked exploding head gag. Slugs completely succeeds as a total gross-out thrill ride that will make weak stomachs spill their guts. Does it make a whole lot of sense that an army of slugs (that apparently materializes out of nowhere) could accomplish such a feat? Of course not, but theyíre slimy, the effects are slimy, and your skin my crawl because of it.

If thereís a real complaint to be made against Slugs (besides the obvious), itís that things get a little (ahem) sluggish towards the end. That aforementioned Halloween party sounds like itíd be an awesome place for a climactic gore spectacle, but it really just amounts to a bunch of extras hanging out in the woods. Instead, the real climax sees us following hero Mike Brady into the town sewer, where he makes a bunch of stupid decisions (that he knows are stupid, which may or may not cancel out the stupidity). Sitting through it is worth it though, if only because his solution to destroying the slugs might cause more destruction than the slugs themselves. And the best part is that he doesnít particularly care at the end as we strolls off into the sunset with his old lady.

So thatís Slugs, I guess: brazenly stupid, wickedly bloody, and wildly entertaining. Iíd ponder if it held up after all those years, but Iím not sure it really had a standard to live up to. Going in, I assumed itíd probably be awesomely bad, and it is, which means I was probably always destined to tangle with cinematic crap (not that Iíd have it any other way). As of right now, the lone DVD release of Slugs is out of print; that Anchor Bay disc was released back in the year 2000 (funny how Y2K seems less menacing than a bunch of slugs now). The disc isnít terribly expensive on the secondary market, and itíll greet you with a decent presentation. With an average anamorphic transfer and a mono soundtrack, it wonít blow you away, but itís fine. Thereís a theatrical trailer as the lone extra. However, you might want to wait because Image Entertainment recently acquired the rights and is bringing it back to DVD via their Midnight Madness series. No word on any extras, but the cover art is going to be the filmís original poster, which also served as the art for some VHS releases (the Anchor Bay cover featured the other VHS box). Either way, pick up this Euro-trash cheese classic; maybe you should suggest it as a birthday present--even if ďyou donít have the authority to declare happy birthday!Ē Buy it!

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