Review: Slugs (1988)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #718

Also known as Slugs: The Movie
Number of Views: Two

Release Date: February 5, 1988
Sub-Genre: Creature Feature
Country of Origin: Spain, United States
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Producers: José Antonio Escrivá, Francesca DeLaurentiis, Juan Piquer Simon
Screenplay: Juan Piquer Simón
Based on a novel by Shaun Hutson
Special Effects: Carlo De Marchis
Cinematography: Julio Bragado
Editing: Antonio Gimeno, Richard Rabjohn
Studio: Dister Group
Distributor: New World Pictures
Stars: Michael Garfield, Kim Terry, Philip MacHale, Alicia Moro, Santiago Álvarez, Concha Cuetos, Frank Braña, Patty Shepard, John Battaglia, Emilio Linder, Kris Mann, Kari Rose, Manuel de Blas, Andy Alsup, Stan Schwartz, Juan Maján, Lucía Prado, Miguel de Grandy, Tammy Reger, Glen Greenberg, Jay R. Ingerson, Harriet L. Stark

Suggested Audio Candy ♫

Bloodhound Gang “The Bad Touch”

It’s a common misconception that slugs are wholly unremarkable creatures. Cards on the table – how many times have you shuddered as one squelched beneath your boot heel, before rolling your eyes at its stupidity for placing itself directly in the line of fire. These gelatinous gastropods aren’t known for their stockpiled common sense; thus they get little respect amongst their peers. However, dig a little deeper beneath the topsoil and you’ll find few more extraordinary species in Mother Nature’s garden. Ready to have your dome blown? I’ve got my dissecting kit ready you see and what’s one dead slug in the name of scientific enlightenment right? I mean, the average garden accommodates over 20,000 slugs and snails, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find myself a willing martyr for the cause. Lettuce leaves at the ready my green-fingered friends and get ready for some chomping.

Okay so let’s start with some fun facts shall we? How does 27,000 teeth grab you? That’s right, the common slug had every right to feel passed over when a great white shark earned himself the distinguished title of Jaws. Speaking of which, were you aware that they derive from the deep blue sea? Why else would they perform rain dances every time the clouds burst? When you consider that the word gastropod literally translates to stomach foot, it’s only natural they’ll wish to clock up some path yards in a thunder-storm. Besides, they need a break after playing such a significant part in ecology by consuming any decomposing vegetation in those crop fields. Then there’s their duty to pro-creation and it is expected that an elder slug will have amassed around 90,000 grandchildren by the time it cashes its first pension cheque. You reckon slugs don’t get laid too?

Just for the record, slugs have both male and female reproductive organs which I’d imagine makes copulation rather a hectic affair. However, sex matters not when you can self-fertilize. And to think folk belittle their smarts. What fascinates me most are the dimensions or, more accurately, a slug’s ability to stretch out to twenty times its normal length, thanks to possessing the elastic properties of flu snot. In addition, they can contract into hemispherical shapes to bamboozle preying predators and respawn any sensory tentacles surrendered during resulting close shaves. Suddenly they’re not looking quite as sorry for themselves are they? I mean, what if they had a secret society and new slug laws were passed whereby humanity is held culpable for our dismissive stance on their species?

Anyhoots, time to make some trails. You see, I’ve read a grand total of three novels from cover to cover in my forty-two years on Earth and one of those was a book named Renegades from a certain prolific Hertfordshire-born horror author by the name of Shaun Hutson. Another piece of Hutson literature floating around at the time was his 1982 page-turner Slugs and I pledged to make it my next foray into his deliciously dark mind. Alas, this never actually came about, and that likely has something to do with the fact, that six years later, it became the first and only of his works to be translated to the silver screen.

This distinct honor fell to none other than Juan Piquer Simón, the late Spanish filmmaker responsible for churning out numerous low rent sci-fi and exploitation flicks throughout the eighties, most notably Pieces, and the results were every bit as batshit deranged as audiences had come to expect from such an offbeat talent as he. Logic never played a particularly key role in Simón’s movies and the epically titled Slugs: The Movie proved to be absolutely no exception to that rule.

Indeed, punters began to suspect he’d taken entire leave of his senses and, despite a relatively strong showing on VHS rental, his film was promptly dismissed as Eurotrash of the lowest common denominator. I’m not about to argue the toss over that one but do find it cause for celebration as opposed to vilification. You see, almost thirty years on and thanks to a recent Blu-Ray restoration from those kind folk over at Arrow Video, we can now enjoy one of the eighties’ guiltiest pleasures in all its eye-popping maggot-infested glory. And what a treat it bloody well is.

So here’s the thing. With a midnight movie of the Slugs caliber, it’s all about placement prior to exertion. Should you expect anything other than a complete bastardization of Hutson’s source fiction, then you’re setting yourself up for an almighty fall. That said, provided you accept its ludicrous terms and pet the monster so to speak, then there are few motion pictures quite as effortlessly charming and frequently rewarding as this one. Should you still require convincing, then one look at the townspeople being torn asunder by the mutated molluscs of the title and all should become 1080p clear.

We’re talking inebriated puppy-kicking bums, bolshy bureaucrats, corrupt politicians, sinister law enforcement officers, underage rapists, gormless teenagers, nagging fishwives and their intellectually challenged husbands – and the one common thread from one to the next is a complete lack of planetary awareness. It’s almost as though the small rural community affected originates from another star cluster entirely, such is their complete inability to make a solitary sound judgement. Needless to say, their density equates to our shameless enjoyment and belly laughs aren’t far behind every dubious decision made.

For example, when an opportunist slug manages to sneak undetected into an early victim’s gardening glove and sink its 27,000 teeth into his cuticles, his rapid response is to lop off said hand with a rusted hatchet, unwittingly triggering a chain reaction that ultimately culminates in impromptu pyrotechnics.

Worse still, when a pair of frisky chowder-headed love birds fail to notice a similar stealth attack while engaging in the customary pre-marital sex, the pair simply accept their fates as though the room was filled with venomous snakes as opposed to one of the slowest moving species ever to get nowhere fast. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe vinegar is regarded as a slug’s kryptonite and they’re not over enamored with boiling water either. Does this consideration once enter their minds? Of course not as Simón’s characters are bereft of such burdensome baggage and only exit to die horribly and at regular interludes.

To be fair, concerned health worker Mike Brady (Michael Garfield) has more than an inkling what’s going down in his hometown and makes an admirable fist of quelling this fresh threat to humankind. But aside from his loyal buddy and fellow department lackey Don (Philip MacHale), everyone else regards the alarming rise in civilian casualties as little more than an unfortunate string of events. Bearing in mind that Slugs plays things entirely straight-faced, you’d be forgiven for labelling such lack of independent thought as a deal-breaker but, in actual fact, it’s the precise opposite. The reason for this simple – Simón ensures that every last frame is chock-full of incident and boredom never once figures into the equation. Thus, while numerous similar B-grade creature features now appear decidedly long in the tooth, this rancid delight inexplicably matures with age. Go figure.

Please allow me to make this abundantly clear before we wrap things up. Slugs finds new and inventive ways to be inept and is one long 92 minute train wreck of a movie. Does it suck badger bollocks? To the marrow and deeper, its cheeks are positively stuffed with shame and even I can only fight its corner so far. That said, if I were looking to indulge in a B-movie marathon any time soon, then I’d be laying out the lettuce leaves for Simón’s bite-sized breeders before you could polish up the cherry tomatoes as it has more than earned its spot in the sun.

I’ve written well over 700 appraisals since beginning my tenure as a “critic” and, with the exception of Harry Bromley Davenport’s Xtro, no other “bad movie” from the era delivers quite the same degree of guilt-tinged pleasure. Fuck snails and their excess baggage, slugs are where it’s at for your garden-themed licks and kicks. Thus I urge any lovers of vintage trash to read between the lines of the measly overall score awarded and follow that slimy trail post-haste. And one last thing – don’t forget to pack that vinegar.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 5/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Anyone who questioned Simón’s ability to shock and appal for reaction after Pieces will be pissing in a wind tunnel where Slugs is concerned. Make absolutely no mistake, this is one gore-drenched disasterpiece and Carlo De Marchis’ practical effects are not only startlingly effective but positively spring-loaded with all manner of mucus and larvae. An empty stomach is advisable for those of a weaker disposition. For the rest of us, grab that cutlery as this particular buffet is of the all-you-can-eat persuasion.

Read The Nest Appraisal
Read Night of The Creeps Appraisal
Read Squirm Appraisal
Read Pieces Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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