As slimy and pest-like as slugs may be, they don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of many. Unless, of course, they existed in the height of toxic waste mutation horror during the ‘80s. In the small town at the center of this underrated cult classic, typical garden variety slugs turn carnivorous, and after a string of gruesome deaths, it’s up to health inspector Mike Brady to discover the cause. If anyone will even believe him, that is. The premise sets up the promise of a fun ‘80s creature feature, but in the hands of director Juan Piquer Simon, the director behind the one of the goriest films of the ‘80s in Pieces, Slugs becomes something so much more twisted and gory. Released on June 5th, 1988, the Simon’s magnum opus nature-attacks feature, based on a 1982 novel of the same name, holds up well 30 years later thanks to memorable deaths and ooey gooey practical effects.
More straightforward narratively than Pieces, Slugs fits right at home with the likes of The Blob or Alligator, and other nature-attacks type creature feature of its kind. There’s no real method of madness to the slugs path of destruction, they’re simply animals made deadly by human thoughtlessness. But while it lacks that extremely bizarre nonsensical aspect that Pieces had, it makes up for with Simon’s penchant for glorious gore and weird character acting. In other words, it’s every bit as fun as Simon’s previous work.
That’s because you could count on Simon to get creative with the death sequences. Thanks to the toxic waste that the slugs picked up in the sewers (forget about logic here), their slime now has a paralyzing neurotoxin that makes it easy for them to devour their prey alive. Which is great, because slugs aren’t very fast. But more importantly, it makes for some gnarly flesh-eating sequences. Since slugs themselves aren’t inherently scary, Simon was sure to play on the fears of tainted produce, which lead to one of the best scenes in the film:
While the film sticks to the source novel somewhat close, Simon takes artistic liberties and adds in a few death scenes and flourishes. As a Spanish-American production, there’s a few scenes of obvious dubbing, and the character decision making skills are lacking. The dialogue is pretty terrible, in an unintentional sort of manner, “You don’t have the authority to declare Happy Birthday!” There’s also no named actor or actress here to effectively market the film either. All of this to say, that Slugs never really took off like it should have.
Despite an over the top, explosive finale, literally, the film ends with a wide-open cliffhanger for the return of the carnivorous slugs. It clearly never came to fruition, which is a shame, but it would have followed the sequel novel Breeding Ground, another gooey schlock fest that I would have loved to see in Simon’s hands.
It’s understandable that Slugs has slowly emerged as a more underground cult classic than overt fan favorite. It’s the sort of silly ‘80s schlock with not so great acting and a plot that’s pretty goofy. Yet, in Juan Piquer Simon’s hands Slugs has a lot of zany charm and oh, so much glorious gore. For fans of Pieces, and films that really showcased the golden era of practical effects, Slugs shouldn’t be overlooked. Especially with a crowd.