Color, 1988, 89m.
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón
Starring Michael Garfield, Kim Terry, Philip MacHale, Alicia Moro, Santiago Álvarez
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US RA/RB HD) (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RA/RB HD/NTSC), Image, Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Talk about truth in advertising. Slugs (or as it's credited on film, Slugs: The Movie-- as opposed to Slugs: The Musical) exists solely to provoke the viewer's gag reflex and piles on (unintentional?) laughs from a partially dubbed cast. Spanish director Juan Piquer Simón had already taken Euro horror to absurd new heights with Pieces in 1982, and... well, that bar was never passed, but he certainly gives it a good shot here. It's a shame Simón only had about another decade's worth of films left in him (including the deliciously nusto Endless Descent, a.k.a. The Rift, and the bizarre Cthulu Mansion), but with output like this, he easily did enough to ensure himself a permanent spot in the cult horror pantheon.
Adapted with surprising fidelity from a 1982 supermarket-friendly novel by Shaun Hutson (apart from switching the locale from London to small town America), our slimy tale follows the ever-so-slow attempt by slugs to take over a small town. You see, pollution has gifted the slimy creatures with teeth and a taste for meat rather than the usual garden greens. In the opening sequence they chomp down on a hapless boater; then they slide into garden gloves, get chopped up into poisonous bits for a suburban husband's salad, and even attack a hamster. Enter our not terribly intrepid hero, health inspector Mike Brady (Garfield), who suspects something slimy's going on when he's not busy fumbling around with his negligee-clad wife. Gradually the town escalates into a panic, so it's down into the sewers we go for an explosive finale.
It's baffling to figure out how this earned a theatrical release from New World Pictures (in its post-Corman late '80s incarnation) alongside films like Dead Heat and Hell Comes to Frogtown. Whatever they were partaking of in those executive offices, it must have been fantastic. Anyway, this one instantly racked up a cult following when it hit VHS and laserdisc back in the '80s in an open matte transfer (exposing a lot of hysterically accidental frontal nudity during the "teen" sex scene/slug attack), followed by Anchor Bay's DVD in 2000 with a greatly improved widescreen transfer allowing you to appreciate the aesthetic pleasures of as a guy's head bursting into a mass of baby slugs right in the middle of a chic restaurant. The mono audio sounds fine and milks every bit of tension from that ridiculous music score, which wouldn't sound out of place in a Russ Meyer film. The disc also includes the lurid theatrical trailer, which wouldn't get shown on a single screen today, and a nifty replica of the theatrical poster, a variation on the original book cover sleeve. The same presentation was ported over to another DVD in 2011 from Image's Midnight Madness line, which remains the active SD version in the U.S. for the moment.
Since the world has gone insane and started releasing the most unlikely films in pristine HD for your domestic consumption, it was inevitable that Slugs would crawl its way onto Blu-ray at some point. Fortunately Arrow Video stepped in, delivering a greatly expanded special edition on Blu-ray in the U.S. and a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD set in the U.K. The new HD transfer hews closely to the darker, richer look of the DVD while enhancing detail considerably, adding much visible texture to hair and clothing while enhancing the grisly (and, in one fleeting shot, gynecological) details. The LPCM English stereo audio sounds about as good as the unambitious original mix will allow, with optional English subtitles.
If you needed any more motivation to buy this film on Blu-ray, Arrow clinches it with the one extra every fan would want: a new audio commentary with Shaun Hutson. Yes indeed, the British horror writer is on hand with moderator Michael Felsher to share every thought he could possibly have on the novel and the film: going into the surprising real-life basis behind the idea of carnivorous slugs, dismissing any potential symbolic reading into his work, recalling writing the novelization of The Terminator and not being a James Cameron fan, feeling "fiercely protective" of both the book and the film, and proudly noting, "If somebody reads one of my books and ends up vomiting, fine! I've done my job as far as I'm concerned." It's an absolute blast to hear and likely to rank as one of the most entertaining chat tracks this year, including an especially perceptive breakdown in the final stretch about the reasons for the decline of horror fiction's reputation in the wake of The Silence of the Lambs. A second audio commentary features a looser look at the film from Shock Till You Drop's Chris Alexander, who tackles it from the perspective of an '80s kid and a big New World fan. As usual the disc comes with reversible sleeve art featuring the U.S. poster a new design by Wes Benscoter, plus a new essay by Michael Gingold.
On the video side you get the usual New World trailer and a horde of new bonus material. The 7-minute featuertte "Here's Slugs in Your Eye" with actor Emilio Linder is a cheerful chat with the poor guy from the restaurant scene, and it's disorienting at first to hear him speaking naturally in Spanish after watching him dubbed in the feature itself. He sings the praises of his director mightily and calls his big moment "quite different, quite special," which is definitely an understatement. In "They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill" (10 mins.), special effects artist Carlo De Marchis chats about getting started on Conan the Barbarian in Spain before moving on to local productions and working for Simón, "as good as Spielberg" and "one of the best in the world" despite his greater proficiency with special effects versus actors. And yes, he explains how he did the classic biting slug close up. In "Invasion USA" (12 mins.), art director Gonzalo Gonzalo (what a great name!) also speaks very warmly of Simón and explains how his ability to deliver on meager budgets helped him get jobs over some of his more famous international peers, which really came in handy for the sewer climax. Very happy production manager Larry Ann Evans comes up fourth with "The Lyons Den" (21 mins.) gives a thorough account of how she got involved with the film after reading the book and serving as a linguistic coordinator, noting that the director was incredibly knowledgeable about European history and explaining how she found just the right location on the budget to give it a perfect all-American look for exterior scenes in Lyons, New York, just as Lady in White was shooting at the same time. She even talks about Spanish slug wrangling and takes you on a video tour of the houses in the film, which gets pretty surreal when you know what happened inside them! Fantastic stuff.