Don’t be surprised there’s a movie about killer slugs. After all, 1970s eco-horror gave us killer frogs, killer worms and, yes, giant killer rabbits. Though it was nearly a decade behind the eco-horror craze, Slugs faithfully follows the well-established playbook for the subgenre. Audiences all but ignored Slugs when it was released, but horror fans have slowly re-discovered the B-movie courtesy of Arrow Films. And Slugs has a couple of things going for it in the “so bad, it’s good department”. Even dismissive critics praised the movie’s gore effects. Moreover, Spanish director Juan Piquer Simón – the man behind the wonderfully bad Pieces – directed.
In a small, quiet rural town, several residents have died under strange circumstances. Someone – or something – has left their bodies partially eaten. Local health inspector Mike Brady suspects that toxic waste in the water supply has mutated slugs into carnivorous predators. But town officials dismiss Brady’s claims as a madman’s rants. Now Brady has to take matters into his own hands before the killer slugs completely take over the town.
Slugs Makes No Effort to Deviate From Familiarity … And It’s All the Better for It
Maybe you’ve never seen Grizzly, Tentacles, Frogs, or Piranha. But odds are, you have seen Jaws. Whether Spielberg’s mega-blockbuster is technically eco-horror or not, its story set the template for most “natural horror” that followed. And Slugs makes absolutely zero effort to mix things up. First, you have the dedicated public official – Mike Brady, the health inspector – who investigates and fights the threat. While it’s a reduced role in Slugs, we still get the “slug expert” who lends a hand. Next, we have various city officials who refuse to believe there’s any danger. Not even a man’s head splitting open and spilling out baby slugs in a public restaurant can convince them. Such is the greed of capitalists.
Whether its intentional or not, Slugs benefits from its derivative B-movie narrative much in the same way as the superior Night of the Creeps.
Of course, there’s several unremarkable characters along for the ride to give us a bodycount. And because it’s the late 1980s, Slugs includes a bit of gratuitous nudity and sex to fill those slower gaps. Yet in spite of its rigid adherence to formulaic storytelling, Slugs manages to feel fun for most of its runtime. Whether its intentional or not, Slugs benefits from its derivative B-movie narrative much in the same way as the superior Night of the Creeps. Never quite as silly as Pieces, Juan Piquer Simón nonetheless ensures his movie never takes itself too seriously. By 1988, years removed from eco-horror’s zenith, this one almost feels charmingly retro. Today, it further benefits from the added 80s retro vibe.
Slugs Surprises with Impressively Gross Gore Effects
There’s little point in commenting on the movie’s performances. Not surprisingly, the acting ranges from cardboard stiff to mildly passable. Where Slugs manages to surprise is with its much better-than-expected effects and ability to find ways to make slugs … sort of threatening. No, it’s never scary. But the movie wouldn’t work if it tried. Simply put, the blood and gore is pretty convincing for a low-budget 1980s movie. And it’s every bit as over-the-top as the movie requires. If the restaurant scene is good B-movie stuff, it’s surpassed by a teen sex scene that ends in a feeding frenzy. Is it believable that hundreds of slugs could somehow appear in a bedroom that quickly? No. Does it matter? Not really.
…the blood and gore is pretty convincing for a low-budget 1980s movie.
As the third act rolls around, Slugs nearly derails itself from its fun B-movie stylings. Things slow down to a near “snail’s pace” which, for this kind of movie, is deadly. Simón’s set-up for the climax is a little implausible, even for this movie. Fortunately, Simón executes it with just enough of what might pass for suspense to make it sort of work. On some level, it’s at least enjoyable as fun farce. A cheesy 80s musical send-off before the credits roll help Slugs nail its “so bad, it’s good landing”.
Slugs a Fun Midnight Movie for B-Movie Horror Fans
Following Jaws’ massive success, filmmakers quickly tried to use the same formula to sucker in audiences. Most of these imitators were dreadfully bad (we’re looking at you Tentacles). Occasionally, a movie like Piranha came along that was self-aware enough to exploit the cheesiness of its own concept to work. While Slugs was late to the game, it manages to fall somewhere in between the bad (Grizzly) and the good (Piranha) B-movie eco-horror rip-offs. Its above-average effects and commitment to the silliness of its own premise make it much better than, say, the 1993 killer bug movie, Ticks.