Venice Beach, California, looks like it was a rough place in the late 1970s. Urban decay and homelessness abound, and everything looks brown and grey. Such is the setting for Spawn of the Slithis, the 1978 monster flick from writer/director/producer Stephen Traxler. Part Creature from the Black Lagoon and part Jaws, Slithis follows high school teacher/wannabe journalist Wayne Connors (Alan Blanchard), as he investigates a series of brutal mutilations in the Venice Beach area. The first victims were dogs, but it’s not long before there are human victims.
The creature turns out to be the result of a radiation leak at a nearby nuclear power plant. It’s not the most original of ideas, but everything in this film is derivative. It’s also very cheap. Traxler was working with a budget of around $100,000, and it shows.
The cast, despite this being filmed in a city overflowing with out-of-work, talented actors, is bargain basement. Blanchard mopes through his lines like a Debbie Downer (seriously, this guy can’t be happy about anything); while Judy Motulsky, who plays his wife, couldn’t be bothered to emote; and all other prominent cast members had their Hollywood hopes and dreams shattered by their lack of competence. The standout in futility is the police lieutenant whom Wayne tries to warn about the creature. There’s no lieutenant part listed in the film’s credits, but there is a Police Chief listed, played by Alejandro Voss, so that’s who I’m going to blame.
His performance was so hammy, so over the top, and so vainglorious, that his major scene is the peak shitty moment of the film. It’s as if Traxler went full fuckit, and let the craziest community theater actor he could find off the leash. Pacino couldn’t have done more with this role. It’s not enough to carry the film, but the scene amounts to a glorious interlude in the midst of abject tedium.
This being a monster flick with lots of grisly murders, viewers should expect some gore. It’s there, but it’s also some of the worst effects one will see in shitty horror. There’s not much in the way of makeup work. The gore effects, in general, consist of bright red paint slathered on actors. My favorite instance of shitty effects is what happens to the first human victims. The monster eats flesh down to the bone, so Traxler and company got ahold of a science class skeleton, dressed it up like an old maid, and poured their fluorescent fake blood over it. Fantastic.
After having had enough of the monster terrorizing Venice Beach, Martin charters Chris Alexander (Mello Alexandria) and his boat, to go hunt the beast down. It’s in this final act that viewers get an extended look at the monster, and it’s a guy (Win Condict) in a rubber suit. As cheap as it is, it’s the best effort in the film.
Slithis is the type of cheap horror that was meant to survive on its spectacle, but it doesn’t really have any. There just wasn’t enough money to make up in splatter what was lacking elsewhere. It’s also not joyfully shitty, which means there isn’t much of a reason to watch it. Spawn of the Slithis falls way down the Watchability Index, displacing Theodore Rex at #275. Stay away.