SLUGS (1988) BY JUAN PIQUER SIMON

Reviews

Alternative Titles: Slugs, muerte viscosa; Mutations; Salingaria tou tromou; Slugs – Vorice d’orrore
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Writers: Jose A. Escriva, Juan Piquer Simón [Based on a novel by Shaun Hutson]
Year: 1988
Starring: Michael Garfield, Kim Terry. Philip MacHale, Alicia Moro, Santiago Alvarez

Synopsis:
The townsfolk of a rural community are dying in strange and gruesome circumstances. Following the trail of horrifically mutilated cadavers, resident health inspector Mike Brady is on the case to piece together the mystery. He soon comes to a terrifying giant slugs are breeding in the sewers beneath  the town, and they’re making a meal of the locals!

Review:
Based on the novel by Shaun Hutson, the author would go on to say in an interview with thisishorror.co.uk that the “film isn’t great… but it’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen in my life” and this is not surprising as the film makes several distinct changes to the writers novel. To which its sequel Breeding Ground was also due to be adapted but unfortunately never was. 

Onto the film itself and we are greeted by water bubbling in an isolated still lake as a bickering couple argue in a small row boat. The young man, fishing, falls in while his nubile partner begins to panic when he doesn’t immediately resurface. This aquatic creature feature is, you’ve guessed it….Slugs: The Movie!

With the opening credits and the seemingly pointless lake scene over we are transported to the town of Lyons as a bunch of youths speed past the local down and out Ron Bell who pretty soon also succumbs to slimy critters and sets the scene for the films reasonably high body count.

Although be warned it is not only death that litters this film but also inconsistencies and dodgy dialogue, no better exemplified by the first interaction between our lead protagonist, town health inspector Mike Brady and the local asshole Sheriff Reese.  As the reluctant duo travel in a cop car towards the late Ron Bell’s house not only do we need to put up with some bad humour but also on not one but two occasions our characters throw items out of seemingly rolled up windows!

Now once at the property the hilarity continues with a deputy, surely no older than 30 stating that the corpse was worse than anything he had seen in Vietnam….which had ended thirteen years previously. Hmm something doesn’t add up here but why let that get in the way of a good line. In fact in the extras, production manager Larry Ann Evans would even state that she informed Simón of some the script inadequacies but what the hell, this is entertainment.

Back to the film and the problems come thick and fast for Brady as both he and the town sanitation officer Don Palmer receive a call from a no doubt lonely grumpy old woman who is kicking off about the smell coming from a nearby sewer and on this our investigative team is formed and they embark upon a slimy mystery.

Never one to let a bit of time go by without any action by the end of the first act things get kicked up a notch as an elderly couple are blown up and Brady’s finger nearly chomped off by a giant slug, leading them to think that maybe just maybe there is something going on.

So, when you suspect that slugs might be going around town bumping people off but you aren’t quite sure what to do – the logical thing is to go and speak to the local English chemistry or biology (it’s never quite established who he is or what he does) nerd Foley; the brains behind the brawn provided by the health and sanitation officers. Foley knows his shit and sets about investigating exactly what they are up against and how they can defeat this underground evil.

If all this sounds like there might be too much plot creeping in for your liking don’t worry because in SLUGS you are only ever a few minutes away from action or hilarity as more brutal and slimy slayings occur and no one is safe, from the business man just trying to seal a deal to the horny naked teenagers also just trying to seal the deal. All the while Brady is trying to tell everyone that slugs are behind all of this but his explanations just fall on deaf ears as first the Sheriff retorts “Killer slugs for Christ’s sake. What will it be next? Demented Crickets?” and much later Frank Phillips, the head of the water department responds to Brady’s demands to declare a health emergency with a reply of “You ain’t got the authority to declare Happy Birthday!” Classic stuff.

Perhaps the main highlight of the film however occurs in between these two pieces of dialogue gold as a council representative is at lunch and just about to finally secure a major land development sale only for the dinner and deal to be interrupted by something that would not look out of place in fellow 1980s film STREET TRASH.

By now you probably understand that SLUGS does not really do subtlety or even pay much credence to build up as it hurtles towards a final climax where Brady and Palmer are forced to go rogue and take matters into their own hands by deciding to hunt down the slugs breeding ground and end this once and for all, no matter what the cost. Epic stuff indeed. 

SLUGS is a fast paced entertaining piece of trash with humorous dialogue and lashings of over the top action and gore. If you only watch one gastropod movie this year…make it this one and make it the Arrow release.

Version Reviewed:
I watched a copy of the Arrow Video 2016 blu ray release.  Featuring English only audio and subtitled for the hard of hearing the film itself looks and sounds great, unsurprisingly as the only blu ray release it is not difficult to see that this is the best presentation of the film out there.

Arrow haven’t stopped there however and have commissioned a bunch of new extras for this release. Starting with Here’s Slugs in Your Eye, an interview with Emilio Linder in which the actor tells about his enjoyment of working with director Simón and the relaxed atmosphere he cultivates on his sets. Later he tells an endearing story about his famous restaurant scene, but rather than discussing his definitive moment in the film, rather he indulges us with a tale of his love for actress Silvana Mangano, who he had the pleasure of meeting as she took a surprising cameo role for the restaurant sequence.

The disc also gives us They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill in which special Fx artist Carlo De Marchis talks about his work on the set, what worked the best and the obstacles which he faced. Unsurprisingly he also discusses the difficulty in directing and working with slugs – not the easiest as we can all imagine. Once again the interviewee only has positive words about the director even going as far as stating that “Piquer was as good as Spielberg”, strong words.

Further interviews include Invasion USA where the very thrifty but practical art director Gonzalo Gonzalo gives us some fascinating insights into the films production and is a joy to learn more from. Finally we have The Lyons Den in which production manager Larry Ann Evans takes us around the town of Lyons where the American exteriors (and some interiors) where shot. Despite bizarrely referring to Hutson’s original novel as an American book this feature is a fantastic tour of the locations used and the story behind them. Evan’s enthusiasm for the film is infectious and it doesn’t take long to be sucked into, and dare I say learning from, this informative little segment.

Furthermore we are also treated a trailer and a couple of audio commentary options, the first with writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander and the second with the original novel writer Shaun Hutson. Hutson’s commentary is fantastic as he speaks about his writing process, his influences not to mention the many scenes in the film that are not even in his novel let alone changed. Hutson’s self-deprecating but humorous comments really make this a commentary worth listening to on subsequent watches.

CONTAMINATION (1980) BY LUIGI COZZI

Reviews

Alternative Titles: Alien Contamination; Alien on Earth; Toxic Spawn
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Writer: Luigi Cozzi, Erich Tomek
Year: 1980
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase, Sigfried Rauch

Synopsis:
A cargo ship drifts into New York harbour. Its crew: all dead, their bodies horribly mutilated, turned inside –out by an unknown force. Its freight: boxes upon boxes of growing, pulsating green eggs. It soon becomes clear that these eggs are not of this planet, and someone intends to cultivate them here on Earth. But who? And to what end? [Taken from the Arrow blu-ray release]

Review:
Released only a year after Ridley Scott’s seminal ALIEN, Luigi Cozzi has openly stated that he never set out to copy this film but nonetheless due to just a couple of story choices many people have, incorrectly, dismissed CONTAMINATION as just an another Italian rip off. 

Opening with a helicopter over New York city we quickly discover a seemingly abandoned cargo ship that on further investigation turns out to not be as abandoned as first thought. With the crew all brutally killed all that is left are strange green eggs. Strange indeed.

With this initial set up now established writer/director Luigi Cozzi wastes no time getting to the action and within the first ten minutes we have our first (slo-mo) chest bursting sequence and we can tell that this sci-fi adventure is going to pack a punch.

After this incident NYPD Lt. Tony Aris (Marino Masé) is taken in for questioning by Col. Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) and they discover that what they are dealing with is not of this world. This first act of the film is well paced and helps to set up the remainder of the story, aided by the strong chemistry between the two leads which allows Cozzi’s under-appreciated humour to shine through. 

Already, as previously mentioned, the viewer is able to determine that this film – at least plot wise – is not an ALIEN imitator despite liberally borrowing specific elements of that film.

By this point of the story our leads have discovered that although these eggs are from space, that someone must have brought them back. With that revelation former astronaut, Commander Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) is brought into the mix. The introduction of McCulloch is well timed and helps maintain the films momentum while driving the story into the second act and, as ever, McCulloch is on top form as the pitiful, disgraced alcoholic Hubbard. From here on out it the film becomes more of an action-romp as the trio set out to uncover the mystery and save the world culminating in a gripping finale with the unveiling of the gelatinous tentacle waving Cyclops overlord and Hubbard’s transformation back to the hero he once was.

For me, whether he is firing his rifle madly or cracking a joke, McCulloch steals the show adding an extra level of entertainment thanks to his strong performance and interaction with the other two key characters. The casting of McCulloch was particularly inspired thanks to his popularity not just in the TV show SURVIVORS but off the back of his tremendous performance in ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, the success of which is believed to have helped his land this role.

Cozzi shows his ability to carve a decent story and then back it up with a competent level of directorial skill but more importantly considering the budget, he shows his creativity to defy budget limitations as he utilises the darkness and shadows to great effect in the underground scenes while making use of multiple cuts in the finale to overcome obvious defects with the monster. But I would once again like to bring up the script and the humour contained within. Cozzi sometimes states that people did not get the humour but it is in there and works really well providing a tonal balance to the film and giving it that extra layer of enjoyment.

This is a fun and entertaining film that is much more than of its parts and this release in particular should be a definite purchase for all genre and cult film fans. Sure there are some flaws and a couple of the sets look cheap (not to mention an ineffective final monster) but what do you expect from a film now thirty-five years old.

On a side note, oddly enough despite being a Sci-Fi fantasy film, CONTAMINATION still managed to end up on the UK’s Video Nasty list, but was not prosecuted, meaning that star Ian McCulloch featured in three investigated films (ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS and ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST). The film would then be passed not only uncut but with a 15 rating 24 years later.

Version Reviewed:
I watched the 2015 Arrow blu-ray release and once again Arrow hit it out of the park with the additional features. The dual disc (blu ray/dvd) release also features the older documentary ‘Luigi Cozzi on Contamination’ which provides an interesting insight to the films genesis alongside behind the scenes footage detailing how things were actually shot and the challenges the cast and crew faced.

Alongside this is a fantastic Q&A with Ian McCulloch and Luigi Cozzi. Filmed at one of the Abattoir film festivals this Q&A just goes to reinforce both the genuine nature of both of its contributors as they run through 40 minutes of delightful anecdotes and background information from their own perspective of the films history. Sadly, the ‘Sound of the Cyclops’ feature with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini, in which he discuses the score and a lifetime of making music for Italian horror is a little dry and adds (relatively) little compared to the other features despite its diverse angle of approach.

Back on track is the more recent ‘Luigi Cozzi Vs Lewis Coates’ interview in which Cozzi looks back on his entire career which is fascinating viewing and provides a bit more detail to some answers he gives in the earlier Q&A particularly in how disappointed he was with the final Cyclops that he was forced to use in the films finale.

The extra features do not stop there however as we get a critical analysis of the Italian genre movies which sought to cash-in on popular Hollywood blockbusters and the wider breath of this review is refreshing and sure to be of interest of anyone interested in Italian and cult cinema. Also featured is a theatrical trailer, a graphic novel based on the original screen play and an audio commentary with Chris Alexander who is also the primary contributor to the collectors booklet also included.

The film itself has been restored in 2K  and is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks fantastic. Overall this is a phenomenal package giving new life to a little known sci-fi entry from thirty five years ago that still holds up today.