October Horrorshow: Slugs

What a putrid mess of a movie. Slugs is one of those shitty movies New World Pictures banged out that had little to no regard for the intelligence or attention spans of its audience. It looks rushed, feels rushed, and even sounds rushed. But, it’s got a lot of blood, so it has that going for it.

From 1988, Slugs is an American/Spanish collaboration. At the time, shitty Spanish cinema was mimicking shitty Italian cinema, making this production feel like an amalgamation of bad American and Italian horror.

For one, the cast is multinational. Americans play the leads, but much of the supporting cast was Spanish. Viewers can spot which is which from whether or not the overdubbed dialogue syncs with the performers’ lips. The filmmakers were somewhat scattershot when they chose to use overdubbing for the American actors. In scenes where American actors’ voices were not overdubbed, the lines were often delivered flat and uninspired, like the performers were told that they would be rerecording all their lines in post, so they weren’t bothering to give it their all. Whoops.

For another, the gore is spectacular and totally unrealistic. The blood is of a color and vibrancy that is better suited to a splashy abstract painting, rather than a human circulatory system. American productions had mostly moved on from day-glo blood by this point. And the gore has many slow-motion frames, which was a technique loved by shitty Italian filmmakers.

Directed by Juan Piquer Simón, from a screenplay by Ron Gantman, adapting the novel by Shaun Hutson, Slugs tells the tale of a mutant slug invasion in a rural New York town. The town is played by Lyons, which is just north of the Finger Lakes, and does a fine job as the setting. Other exteriors and interiors were shot in Spain. The stylistic change between the American and Spanish locations isn’t as extreme as one might guess, but sharp-eyed viewers should be able to spot when the production moved overseas.

Michael Garfield plays Mike Brady (an interesting choice of character name at the time, when The Brady Bunch reruns were popular in syndication), the head of the town’s health department. He, along with one asshole of a sheriff, Reese (John Battaglia), discover a mutilated corpse in a condemned home. The cause of death, of course, was slugs. Yes, slugs — animals that are not known as hunters swift or strong enough to take down large mammals.

But, as written above, these slugs are different. They are the result of part of the town being built on a former toxic waste dump. Hutson took possible inspiration from the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls.

Construction of a new shopping center broke through the old dump and released the slugs into the sewer system, and they move into the homes of the locals from there.

The slugs are some real nasty critters. Simón and company used a species for filming that are easily four or five inches long, and as thick as a thumb. They’re pretty gross. It’s also explained, from some useful scientific exposition, that the slugs’ slime is toxic and debilitating to animals, which is how these slow-moving beasties are able to kill so efficiently.

Brady is skeptical about the slugs, at first. But, he and the town’s sanitation commissioner, Don Palmer (Philip MacHale), keep putting the clues together until it becomes clear that the slugs are an existential threat to the town. It’s up to the two of them, fair-minded and honest public servants, to save the town.

Along the way, Simón and company treat viewers to lots of that bright red blood and guts, and some gratuitous nudity (New World Pictures is a Roger Corman company, after all). The plot is even coherent, despite its ridiculousness. What fails this film is its general quality. Outside of the splattery death scenes, this flick trundles along in a rather meek fashion. It’s not that watchable of a shitty movie. As such, it falls into the bottom half of the Index at #182, landing between Bad Ass and Trancers II.

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