Slugs (short) Blu-ray Review (originally published 2016)
The townsfolk of a rural community are dying in strange and gruesome circumstances. Following a 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 conclusion – giant slugs are breeding in the sewers beneath the town and they’re making a meal of the locals! (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Director Juan Piquer Simón is mostly remembered as Spain’s answer to Italian schlock-meisters, like Claudio Fragasso and Bruno Mattei. While he definitely thrives in the realms of goofball exploitation, he has a much better success rate than his spaghetti splatter rivals. His technical direction would probably be best described as ‘competent,’ but he instinctively gives audiences more of what they want, be it the cheesy Saturday matinee antics of his (non-documentary) feature directing debut Where Time Began (Spanish: Viaje al centro de la Tierra; aka: The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1977), the violent extremes of Pieces (Spanish: Mil gritos tiene la noche, 1982), or the charmingly cheap special effects of The Rift (1989) – which is, believe it or not, a better underwater monster movie than George P. Cosmatos’ Leviathan and Shaun S. Cunningham’s DeepStar Six (both also 1989). Pieces is his ‘masterpiece’ (or pièces de résistance, yuk yuk yuk), but the squirmy, gory creature feature, Slugs (Spanish: Slugs, muerte viscosa, 1988) comes a close second for pure cheese and grindhouse audience accommodation. It’s basically everything we should expect from an exploitation monster movie (like most post-1975 nature-run-amuck movies, Slugs is a Jaws rip-off at its core), but so rarely get. Instead of one or two cheer-worthy moments spliced among 90 minutes of tedium, Simón keeps the comedy rolling and doles out an increasingly elaborate gross-out sequence every 10 to 15 minutes. The cast is surprisingly good, too, especially considering the soap opera silliness that Simón and co-writers Ron Gantman & José Antonio Escrivá give them to speak between slug attacks.
Slugs was released on DVD in many countries, but the only options for English speakers were anamorphic discs from Anchor Bay in the US (later re-released by Image) and Boulevard Entertainment in the UK. For the film’s Blu-ray debut, Arrow has scanned the original film elements in 2K and presents it in 1080p and its correct 1.85:1 framing (the DVD was framed at 1.85:1, but had been zoomed, so lots of information was missing from all four sides). There is some minor print damage here and there, as well as a few upticks in grain during darker scenes (though some of this may be old-fashioned dirt), but the majority of the footage is consistent and neatly preserved. Details are tightly knit and the colors are much punchier than those from the faded, over-brightened DVD releases. Perhaps the palette skews too warm at times, but not at the risk of the lush greens and deep blues.
The original mono sound is presented in uncompressed LPCM 1.0. I assume that, like many other foreign language films made for international grindhouse distribution, parts of it were shot without sound, but the bulk of the dialogue-heavy scenes appear naturally recorded on location. The more obvious ADR’d moments are attached to more actiony and outdoor scenes, though there are some actors that were clearly dubbed for every scene. Regardless of how they were mixed, the performances and incidental effects are consistent and not entirely flat. Slugs might be a junkie movie, but composer Tim Souster went all out for its Herrmann-meets-’70s cop show theatrical score. Apparently, the symphonic themes were performed by none other than the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Commentary with author Shaun Hutson – The first commentary is with the writer of the source novel. With a little help from moderator Michael Felsher, a bemused and modest Hutson discusses his writing career, his inspirations, Slugs’ surprise success on paperback, and the process of a Spanish film adaptations. This track is a big surprise and enormously entertaining.
Commentary with filmmaker Chris Alexander – The second track features fan and the writer/director of Blood for Irina (2012) and Queen of Blood (2014). Alexander is a bit more jokey and nostalgia-driven than I personally prefer from an ‘expert’ track, but he did plenty of research before recording and fills the space with loads of behind-the-scenes information between gags.
Here’s Slugs In Your Eye (7:39, HD) – In this interview, actor Emilio Linder talks about his career as an actor (due to laws stating that foreign film productions needed to hire a certain percentage of local talent, he was often cast in American, English, and Italian films), his working relationship with Simón, and the special effects processes behind his on-screen death by slugs.
They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: The Effects of Slugs (10:46, HD) – Special effects artist Carlo De Marchis looks back on years of effects work in big and small budgeted movies and reveals the secrets behind the wide array for tricks employed throughout Slugs.
Invasion USA (11:52, HD) – Art director Gonzalo Gonzalo talks up the underrated skills of Simón, De Marchis’ special effects, and Slugs’ production/set design.
The Lyons Den (21:00, HD) – Production manager Larry Ann Evans discusses the film and gives a tour of the various existing locations.
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