What is it about old-school horror authors co-opting nature’s various creations into flesh consuming engines of destruction – Peter Benchley had his sharks, James Herbert had his Rats, Stephen King had a rabid Saint Bernard and even pulp author extraordinaire Guy N. Smith penned a series of books about giant bloody crabs scuttling ashore and snipping midnight lovers in half with their claws. It was an animal explosion that proved to be a nice and elequent way to say to their readers, “Damn nature, you scary!” and it proved to naturally lucrative with everyone except Smith getting film adaptations of their various examples of wildlife amok. This neatly brings us to the writings of leather jacketed British gore-meister Shaun Hutson and the debut book that not only launched his career but possibly the most random recipient for a film version ever made. To misquot Indiana Jones: Slugs. Why did it have to be slugs?
When heavily chewed bodies start turning up around a small, rural town the last thing health inspector Mike Brady expects to be the cause is a new and virulent strain of black slug that have little bitey mouths and huge appetites. The little buggers are soon multiplying like mad thanks to the trait of being able to fertilise their own eggs (meaning they can literally go fuck themelves) and end up getting absolutely everywhere but no one manages to recognise that the culprits to all these gruesome demises are right under their very noses.
Mike’s budding friendship with the head of town waterworks finally seems to offer up some concrete evidence that these slimy little creepers were created because the town is built on top of a waste dump but no matter what they try it falls on the deaf ears of a mayor who following the “Mayor In A Killer Animal Movie” playbook step by step.
As the body count grows ever more bizarre – one guy’s head straight up collapses thanks to parasites from a chopped up slug in his salad – Mike realises he has to take matters into his own hands before more townsfolk get ambushed by by murderous molluscs leaking from their taps.
Soon there’s nothing left but for them to go down into the sewers and try and destroy the creatures at their source with a compound that reacts violently with moisture in protective suits that look like they wouldn’t keep a fart in let alone keep a razor toothed gastropod out. Can they possibly hope to save the town from it’s slimy fate and stem the endless flow of icky, sticky death? “Lettuce” hope that they can (nope, I’m not gonna apologise for that and you can’t make me).
If you ever managed to barrel through Hutson’s Garth Marenghi style concepts (Zombie gangsters! Blood drinking fetuses!) and the many, vivid depictions of outlandish and perverse violence his books featured, you’d find that whatever he lacked in restraint he made up for in unrestrained energy and an unfettered enthusiasm to make his audience recoil in legitimate disgust. So it’s a little disappointing (if not entirely suprising) that the Spanish/American production of Slugs, the only adaptation if his work to date that I’m aware of, is so spectacularly dull.
Now, while I openly realise that no filmmaker who’s ever existed could ever make a genuinely scary movie about flesh eating slugs, it’s still such a personal disappointment to me because such a stupid concept should have been a so-bad-it’s-good open goal and if anyone could have given us this it should have been Juan Piquer Simón, the director behind the Holy Grail of insane, camp slashers: Pieces.
To give the man his due, he does everything he can to big up a creature who’s main Achilles heel is salt and he takes full advantage of the shudder inducing influence such a squishy creature can have on a more squeamish viewer by pumping the squelching sound effects up as far as they can go. The gore sequences are pretty full on too and this is where Slugs finally (and predictably) hits it’s stride with some astoundingly repugnant deaths mercifully dealing out the all exploitation a film this stupid desperately needs.
Watch in awe as slugs crawl across the pert, naked buttocks of a naked teen as her proposed night of sweaty passion ends with her getting eaten out in a far nastier way than she or her boyfriend originally intended. Wince as a man with a slug trapped in his glove resorts to chopping his whole hand off with an axe. Recoil as mans head spectacularly loses it’s integrity in a restaurant as it’s eaten from within by flukeworms as screaming patrons look on – that’s certainly not gonna get them a good review on TripAdvisor…
However, kind of thwarting the nastiness of the kills somewhat is the film choosing to make every single white male character (including it’s lead) a massive fucking arsehole who all seem to have rage issues, behave completely unprofessionally and, in one extreme case, even manages to get away with attempted sexual assault Scott free when the slugs eat the cowering victim as she hides from her assailant in the woods. It leaves an unsurprisingly bad taste in the mouth that unfortunately doesn’t dissipate even when once of these highly toxic deuche bags become mulch after passing through the digestive tract of hundreds of the tiny garden creatures.
Thankfully, puncturing some of the angry white dude syndrome, is some truly awful dialogue delivered with intense seriousness that nails some major unintentional guffaws.
After the aforementioned restaurant meltdown, Mike manages to obtain samples of the parasites responsible for a scientist to examine but when he’s asked where the fluke worms came from his response is a stunningly callous “Dave Watson’s head.”
While certainly a source of fun for undemanding fans of outlandish 80’s gore, Slugs is simply too drab to capitalize on it’s astonishingly camp concept when it comes to plot, characters or any genuine scares beyond you going “ew” at the thought of being coated in the viscous little shits and ultimately ends up being way too – I’m gonna say it – sluggish.