You have to hand it to Juan Piquer Simon, he certainly didn’t mess around when it came to his subject matter. If he was going to make a slasher, it was going to be one of the goriest and outrageous (Pieces 1982); a superhero film, while perhaps not the most effects driven, then at least the grooviest (Supersonic Man 1979). And if he was going to do animals attack, then by God it was going to be one of the most savage and brazen attempts out there. The latter, Slugs, has since become a cult classic and is now released to the wild kingdom of Blu-ray, via Arrow Films & Video, so all the gelatinous, oozing, offal and slime can really be marvelled at in the glory of high definition.
And Slugs really is a marvel, simply because it is so ridiculously absurd. It is hard not to be impressed by the sheer audacity of it all. The film personifies exactly what I love about J P Simon: in attempting to mimick the American market—particularly in the three previously mentioned cult works—the director was also able to inject an unrestrained Euro vibe into the established formula; magnifying the final effect tens times over when compared to homegrown US fare. Joining the ranks of perfect party vibe B-grade genre offal, Simon’s work represents an entire mardi gras in celebrational atmosphere; a carnival procession of guts, gore, ludicrous dialogue, and awful fashion. Even though the director operated on a certain level of budgetary constrained ineptness (making his work even more of a marvel, when you consider the artistry involved in some of the effects), no one can accuse him of not being entertaining. I mean, what more can you ask for?
Although, let’s be fair, this one isn’t all on Simon this time. Shaun Hutson’s original novel, of the same name, did provide a lot to work with. Avenging health inspector fighting a horde of mutated, bloodcrazed molluscs came straight from the pages of Hutson’s book (incidentally the author provides a commentary track for this release). As did plenty of sex and carnage, which Simon passionately recreated on-screen, often to farcical proportions— the film boasted quite an expansive special effects team too: including Emilio Ruiz del Rio, who went on to work on Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Blackbone (2001) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006); Ron Knyrim, Sinister 2 (2015) and Carlo De Marchis, who not only did uncredited effects work on Barberella (1968), Night of the Devils (1971) and Dario Argento’s Deep Red (1975), but was also credited for working on some of the alien mechanics for Alien (1979).
Just in case you haven’t already seen the film and were wondering exactly how a limbless, salad eating creature can manage to eat up half a town and cause death and destruction on near apocalyptic proportions, then have no fear: Simon leaves little to the imagination when it comes to etching it all out in one huge bloodsoaked pool of guts and goo.
Michael Garfield is Mike Brady: A small town health inspector who becomes suspicious when a series of unexplained, gory, deaths descend on his neighbours. First, the rather unfortunate, Ron Bell (Stan Schwartz) is found, his face presumed to have been gnawed off by wild animals—Sheriff Reese’s (John Battaglia) money is on racoons coming down from the hills— the only clue to dispute this: snail trails all over the dead man’s kitchen. Then, bickering old couple, Harold (Juan Majin) and Jean Morris (Lucia Prado), perish in a freak greenhouse explosion. What Michael and the Sheriff don’t know is just prior to this Harold found an infestation of Slugs on his precious plants. In attempting to spray the crop with pesticide, something inside his gardening glove caused him such considerable pain, he was forced to start hacking his own hand off with an axe. When Jean came running in to find out what all the screaming was about, her lit cigarette ignited the chemicals. Bang! Another mystery for Michael and the useless law department to solve. The final piece in the puzzle comes when Michael’s wife—goody, goody schoolmistress Kim Brady (Kim Terry)—spots bunches of mammoth slugs rampaging all over her garden. On closer inspection Michael discovers they have quite a bite, and takes one of them off to his English scientist friend for examination. His worst fears about to be realised. He can’t get the law to take him seriously, because according to them “he doesn’t even have the authority to declare Happy Birthday”, and with the awful knowledge that slugs are hermaphrodites who can fertilise their own eggs, and more and more half eaten human carcasses turning up by the minute, Mike Brady becomes the town’s only hope for survival. Even if it means blowing up half the town, without warning residents, then so be it. It’s his battle and he’s going to win, at any cost.
With all this said, I feel the above plot breakdown doesn’t really do the film justice, because despite representing a fairly bonkers journey, the real magic is to be found in the little details. It is in the terrible acting: with Michael Garfield pumping out his lines like a teleprompter pro, and the rest of the cast not doing much better. It is in the world’s uncoolest teenagers, who look and dress like middle aged teachers and host outdoor parties where they can shuffle dance to heavy metal or eat pizza. No one at their party gets wasted or laid and somehow this seems like a favour to the audience. It is in the terribly unsexy people who do get to have sex. It is in the vomit inducing special effects: effects that allow a naked woman to be slowly stripped of her flesh when she jumps out of bed, skids over, and is left writhing in a pile of about 2000 man eating slugs. It is in the bloody stump of Harold’s hand, and his wife’s face just before she blows them both up. Or David Watson’s head exploding, as he takes a corporate lunch the day after mistaking a slug in his salad for an anchovy; the consumption of which filled him with slug parasites that ate him up from within. It is also almost definitely in David’s wife’s drink problem which she likes to talk about after sex, the brief appearance of Euro-cult star Patty Shepard, and the epic battle between a lab hamster and mutated slug. And… there is a hell of a lot of magic to be found in the iconic line: “mutated slugs? Crazy asshole”.
Even though Slugs doesn’t quite hit the same highs as Simon’s previous work Pieces— but let’s face it, it’s a hard act to follow— it is an incredible amount of fun. Arrow have packed in an impressive amount of extras too, including:
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with Slugs author Shaun Hutson
- Audio commentary by writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander
- Here’s Slugs In Your Eye – an interview with actor Emilio Linder
- They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: The Effects of Slugs – an interview with special effects artist Carlo De Marchis
- Invasion USA – an interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo
- The Lyons Den – an interview and locations tour with production manager Larry Ann Evans
- 1988 Goya Awards promo reel
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
- Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by writer Michael Gingold
This is a lovingly curated package—They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: The Effects of Slugs, Invasion USA & Here’s Slugs In Your Eye were produced by Diabolique’s own Heather Buckley—and great transfer that is bound to impress existing fans. Also one for those who love eighties puerile nonsense of the finest blend, a riot from start to finish. Just stay away from salad while watching, you have been warned!