When milquetoast journalism teacher Wayne Connors (Blanchard) hears about a grisly attack on an elderly couple near the beach, he uncovers some suspicious mud that, according to his scientist friend, is tied in to a nasty chemical spill that alters the nature of organic matter to create a new life form called, yep, Slithis. Now there seems to be some sort of mutated lizard-like threat stomping around the area, attacking people on boats and making life really uncomfortable for the local populus.
Kicking off like a '70s TV commercial gone haywire with two carefree kids playing Frisbee before discovering some nasty dog remains, Slithis grooves along to its own spacey rhythms and serves as a pleasant reminder of how modest a movie could be to win over a crowd before the necessities of CGI-created beasties. The titular beastie has a fairly limited amount of screen time, popping up mainly for a protracted attack scene halfway through the film and then a full-on rampage at the climax. Though intended as a kid-friendly throwback to '50-era nuclear monster movies, it ramps up the gore quotient a bit (along with an unexpected flash of nudity more appropriate for Humanoids from the Deep) to such an extent that the film was originally slapped with an R rating. Of course, the crafty filmmakers just cut it down to get a PG, then slipped the offending material back into release prints anyway. On the downside, the film moves about as slowly as one of those dead dogs, and Blanchard is one of the blandest leading men from a decade not exactly known for its charismatic male leads in horror films. Still, for nostaliga value, this one still holds up just fine if you're in a very undemanding mood, and some of the supporting cast members are truly astonishing-- especially the unsung Hy Pike, who steals the entire film in his brief screen time as a very memorable cop.
Code Red's DVD features a new anamorphic transfer that obviously improves on the old VHS versions simply by virtue of the fact that you can tell what the hell's going on during the night scenes. That said, this is still a rough, cheap-looking movie, so don't expect anything close to demo quality. Some speckles pop up here and there, but the element used is fine overall and gets the job done. The only extra is the full frame original theatrical trailer, a still-effective masterpiece of ballyhoo; while it would be nice to hear from Traxler, his extensive interview in Nightmare USA should still be enough to suffice for now. The irreverent menu screen, which features Slithie puffing on a cigarette, is truly perplexing.