Slugs: The Movie oozes cheese and camp
The horror genre often looks for monsters in unusual places, and Slugs: The Movie draws on fears of creepy-crawlies and slimy substances to create tension. For those with vermiphobia, director Juan Piquer Simón (AKA J.P. Simon) has crafted just the thing to make their skin crawl: as one might imagine, Slugs is about vicious, flesh-eating creepers that propagate in the sewers of a small town, creating mass havoc as they spread throughout people’s houses, basements, and toilets.
There’s lots of room for gross-out gags, and Simón and writers José Antonio Escrivá and Ron Gantman aren’t afraid to revel in the B-movie madness of the film’s premise. Michael Garfield stars as Mike Brady (yeah, not that Mike Brady), the county health inspector who is, evidently, not doing such a great job. Huge black slugs have been moving into town, and they’re eating the faces off of their victims, laying eggs in their bodies, and transferring their parasites so that the victims’ heads explode.
As you can see, it’s all highly scientific, and by that I mean there’s really no rhyme or reason to why or how the slugs operate. Mike attempts to figure them out, enlisting the help of a high school science teacher who is clearly being underpaid since he’s constantly doing experiments in his lab; he also pairs up with Don Palmer (Philip MacHale), local sewage expert, to head into the dank dirty depths to rid the town of their cloggage problem.
Along the way, a multitude of deaths pop up, and Simón chooses to focus on the ineptitude of local government and the police force. There is also a major lack of centrality within the plot; Slugs jumps around all over the place between Mike, kids at school, and other victims who only show up to be slimed and chomped on by the carnivorous creatures.
The most egregious jumps occur, strangely, during the climactic finale where Mike and Don venture down into the sewers to blow up all the slugs with a new chemical created solely for the purpose of frying them into crispy bits. Why Simón chooses to switch to random scenes of kids partying in the woods on Halloween is anyone’s guess; it’s mostly a way to fit in a bigger body count, because Slugs is interested in gore, and as much of it as possible.
While the dubbing and the dialogue is at an all-time cheesy high (some choice lines include, “You don’t have the authority to declare Happy Birthday!”, a popular favorite), the special effects are given a practical, loving treatment. Slugs loves to show its characters in all kinds of pain, whether it’s David (Emilio Linder) writhing after consuming a chopped-up slug in his salad or one of the unimportant secondary cast members falling into a veritable pit of slugs. Simón delivers, and the bloodbath that ensues is not only fun, it elevates the film from regular B-movie levels to total Z-grade entertainment.
It’s important to mention how terrible a scheme Mike and Don come up with to rid the town of their slug problem. Their solution is to throw chemicals into the sewer line that explodes when it comes into contact with liquid; they do bring up the fact that maybe this isn’t such a great idea because they could blow up the entire town’s sewer system, but end up deciding to do it anyway. The result involves manhole covers blowing out all over town, as well as all septic systems bursting from the ground and even a few houses exploding. All in the name of heroic work, right? Not exactly – as the film shows us numerous times, these slugs have infested the town, from gardens to basements, and there’s no reason to assume that they won’t just do it again after the sewer fire has subsided.
So Slugs fits pretty snugly into so-bad-it’s-good territory; if watched with the right mindset, it’s pretty clear that most of the film is really marketed towards capitalizing on the success of Roger Corman creature features and animal-attack films like Piranha, Alligator, etc. Not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, and even though movie critic sticklers like to call Slugs out on its weak premise – those naysayers think slugs aren’t scary critters – Simón makes good use of the creepiest species of that family, the European black slug.
Fun fact: I have seen black slugs in real life before, and they are pretty grotesque. I was mowing at a client’s house and flipped over a wheelbarrow that had been resting in a wet, swampy patch. Behold a bunch of black slugs waiting inside the wheelbarrow. I flipped that sucker back over and decided I’d rather carry the grass.
Connection to Halloween: The night Mike and Don decide to blow up the slugs just happens to be Halloween night. Unfortunately, no decorations can be seen, and only one mask is donned – in order to rape one of our victims. Eesh! Still, there’s a good fall atmosphere.