Slugs (1988)

If you’ve ever thought about chopping up a slug to put in a salad and then eating that salad this is the film that will have you reconsidering your culinary curiosity!

It turns out those tasty slime logs are loaded with deadly parasites and you don’t want to find that out the hard way like one of the characters did during a business lunch when he was on the verge of getting the big contract signed. As any great business person would tell you, part of the art of the deal is not having your face explode at the negotiating table!

But this small New York town has bigger problems than whether a contract signed in brain matter and writhing worms is legally enforceable. After centuries of being unfairly reviled by man just because they’re naked snails, the slugs have had enough and with the assistance of an old toxic waste dump are rising up and eating people!

But one thing they didn’t count on when they hatched their gooey scheme is bad ass health inspector Mike Brady (director Juan Piquer Simón is just having fun with us, right?) and his relentless pursuit of the truth as he struggles to come to grips with such horrific tragedies as slugs coating his basement floor, dropping out of his faucet and his wife asking him if he finds their alcoholic friend attractive.

As elite as having the county health inspector on the case is, Mike Brady knows he can’t spread his insane theory that mutant slugs have invaded the city’s water supply without some high profile back up. He immediately enlists his pal who is the head of the sanitation department and is one of those guys who likes to pour over maps announcing how one whole part of town used to be a dumping ground for industrial chemicals before rendering his professional opinion that a bulldozer grating ground for the new shopping mall might have stirred up who knows what kind of gas!

But we know exactly what kind of gas it is, don’t we? The kind that breeds bloodthirsty man-eating slugs! (The government prohibits this gas from being included on the Periodic Table because who wants terrorists using it at the Super Bowl? The slime alone would cause too many fumbles!)

But Mike knows that just his maniacal intensity and friend’s map of the sewer system isn’t going to be enough to wrest control of his town back from these moist monsters! He needs to know what he’s dealing with and how to destroy them! What he needs is a scientific expert! What he gets though is even better – a high school science teacher!

And not just any high school science teacher, but one who apparently never has to teach any classes and has all the time in the world to look at whatever icky sample Mike breathlessly brings him. And in a development that should concern the local school board (or at least their insurance carrier) even more than the slug outbreak, a high school science teacher who has the know how and chemicals to create a large batch of explosives that blows up when it comes into contact with moisture!

Slugs does an excellent job of following the “nature strikes back” template that all films of this sort had to adhere to in the 70s and 80s. Slug attacks are strategically spaced out and accompanied by nice doses of wet gore while Mike tries to alert the authorities to the growing menace only to be pooh-poohed even as town toilets are being overrun by the creatures.

Just like you hope from such a film, there’s a bit of sex thrown in, a Halloween party to give the local teens an excuse to be out in the woods at night and be menaced by the slugs and a foul-mouthed sheriff who isn’t having any of this slug nonsense. “What’ll be next,” he says. “Demented crickets? Rampaging mosquitoes, maybe?” Are you being sarcastic or pitching a pair of awesome movie ideas, sheriff?

Movies like Slugs require a big finish where the menace is seemingly defeated in grandiose fashion. But how do you kill off a bunch of small, slow moving animals using the appropriate shock and awe? You have to blow up the slug nest of course! Mike knows it’s in the sewer somehow and it’s just a matter of having the school teacher dump his explosive in the sewer to blow everything up.

But won’t it blow the sewer system up? Sure will! Ok, lets do it! Watching houses and cars explode and be engulfed in flame, one can’t help but wonder if Mike wasn’t actually a bigger threat to his community than the slugs.

While it all seems like a goof (the title doesn’t even try to hide that the monsters are simply soft garden pests) and you wait for some indication in the film that they are in on the joke, it’s all treated with deadly seriousness. Yes, characters express doubt that slugs could be a problem (as you would expect), but there is no “winking” at the audience that this all a joke.

It’s hard to say that Slugs is a good movie or even a good horror movie (it’s about freaking slugs!) and the fact that this is a Spanish production awkwardly mixing American and Spanish actors at random and forcing all of them to engage in badly dubbed and often times cringeworthy dialogue further distracts from whatever scares might be had, but as he usually does in similarly trashy but entertaining efforts like Endless Descent, Pieces and Where Time Began, Piper knows how to entertain an audience looking for some cheap genre thrills. Sex, violence and slugs – not the flashiest of loglines but impossible not to like.

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