With so many animals out there in the world, many of which have the capability to mess you up big time if they really wanted to, you have to wonder just what possessed the makers of Slugs to choose, well, slugs as the star of their nature-strikes-back movie. Sure, they’re kind of icky, but if you can’t outrun a slug frankly I think you deserve to get … oozed upon or whatever a slug can actually do to you.
Thank goodness for artistic license! Because the slugs in Slugs (or Slugs: The Movie as the opening credits helpfully point out, no doubt to distinguish it from Slugs! The Musical or Slugs on Normandy Beach: The Untold Story of D-Day) don’t just ooch slowly along and nibble holes in your lettuce. No, they can do much, much more.
Our first glimpse into the heretofore unknown capabilities of slugs comes in the opening scene, when a young man out fishing is pulled under the water and then messily devoured by something we don’t see (presumably because even in a film as ridiculous as this one, a slug capable of such a feat would be pushing it). We then segue into the opening credits, where we learn that this movie is based on a book. I for one was relieved to see this, as I’d hate to think I’d spent my Friday night indulging in art that was without literary merit.
Director Juan Piquer Simon wastes no time in giving the audience what it’s looking for: slug attacks, followed by the usual clichés of a nature-run-amok movie. These include but are not limited to: a local authority figure, in this case a health inspector who for some reason does a lot of police ride-alongs, who figures out what’s going but is thwarted by local politicians; outside interests who must remain ignorant of the menace for the town’s economic well-being; a scientist who knows a lot about the marauding beastie; a local guy who dies in what’s supposed to be heroic self-sacrifice but comes off more as a clumsy fuck-up; and a climactic showdown followed by one of those “The end! Or IS it?” endings.
What makes Slugs special as far as nature-goes-bananas movies goes are the little details. Exteriors at least were shot in New York, but the cast has a lot of Spanish names in it and the portrayals of small-town American life are a bit off-kilter, to say the least. This may account for the clunky dialogue and wooden sound, as if everyone had their script run through BabelFish and then all the actors dubbed. This is particularly distracting with the scientist character, who looks like the love child of Pee-Wee Herman and Dario Argento, and speaks with an Austin Powers accent. There’s a surprising amount of sex in the film as well, including a scene with two naked lovers becoming Slug Chow. The soundtrack is weirdly inappropriate, ranging from what sounds like an out-take from a TV cop show to the “Love American Style” music over the final scene. But perhaps one of the oddest things about the film is that with one exception there isn’t a single likable character, nor did there seem to be any attempt to make the characters likable – everyone is mean, selfish, or drunk, in particular the sheriff who’s an asshole to everyone for no reason I can fathom. The one remotely likable character, the sanitation expert, is undermined by the actor’s distracting resemblance to President Clinton, and by the fact that the actress who’s cast as his wife seems to be a good fifteen years older than he, making for some really uncomfortable Oedipal moments.
Slugs also doesn’t stint on the slugs, and the sheer volume of them does give the film an ooky feel. It doesn’t stint on the gore either, as we see numerous examples of people half-devoured by slugs, not to mention the spectacularly messy demise of one unlucky bastard who ate part of a slug in his salad (don’t ask). None of this makes the movie good per se, but it does add up to an entertaining time.
The movie is also very educational. Among the things I learned from watching Slugs:
• The ideal ladies’ apparel for a fishing trip is a pink t-shirt and bikini panties.
• It’s perfectly OK to call your English teacher “The Wicked Bitch of the North” – in fact, she likes to be called that.
• If you are hiding from a guy who’s trying to rape you, the slug-infested sewer may not be your best choice of refuge.
• People can easily outrun electricity.
• Cheap, plentiful, and easily accessible weapons against slugs, such as salt, should be brought up once and never mentioned again.
• If a slug is biting your hand, the sensible thing to do is hack your hand off with a hatchet.
• Spilling common gardening chemicals will cause your greenhouse to blow up.
• Massive numbers of slugs can magically appear, and then disappear once they’re done noshing on you.
• If local bigwigs need to know about the slug menace, for heaven’s sake don’t be reasonable or bring along any proof. Try barging into offices, yelling a lot, and then yelling louder. Then stomp out in a huff when no one believes you.
• If slugs can’t find any humans to eat, they’ll settle for hamsters.
• If your solution to the slug menace ends up exploding half the town, it’s OK, no one will mind.
• If a slug ends up chopped up in your salad, tell everyone it’s an anchovy.
It’s 90 minutes of gross, somewhat sleazy fun and rampant clichés. Really, how can you go wrong? The DVD is bare bones but the movie itself looks fine and that’s all you need.