Slugs

The lettuce is menacing
★★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1988
Director: 
Juan Piquer Simon
Starring: 
Michael Garfield, Kim Terry, Philip McHale, Alicia Moro, Santiago Alvarez
The Setup: 
Nasty mutant killer slugs invade a town.
Discussion: 

Someone wrote and recommended this to me, and as I have been watching too much quality stuff and not enough trash lately, I decided a good mutated animal attack movie was precisely what the doctor ordered. And it was! Funny, gory and horrifying, this movie is everything you want in a mutated animal attack movie!

We open with a young teen couple on a boat in the middle of a lake. Wayne has come out to fish, while his girlfriend, who is BORED with this shit, has chosen to go fishing in her panties and a tiny cut-off T shirt. Wayne feels something slimy on his foot, and a second later is pulled under! The girl says a variation on one of my favorite horror lines: "If you're trying to scare me, you're doing a good job!" and he stays under just long enough for you to think that he might just be fooling with her, as these jocular teens are always doing in horror movies. But no, a second later, a huge whirling gush of blood come up out of the water! I forget whether or not the girl falls in but whatever, soon we go to the credits, where we learn that this is based on a NOVEL, which made me feel better, as I try to watch all the notable adaptations of venerable works of literature.

We come back to find this bum run off the road by marauding teens, one of whom is this blond we are sure to see again. The bum then makes friends with a dog [I'm not kidding] and goes in the nearby creepy run-down house. Turns out he lives there, but is about to be evicted, but, well, I don't think they're going to have to worry about that. We also find out how far canine friendships go when there are hazardous killer slugs around.

We then join these two couples at some cheap nightclub, including Maureen, who looks like a scary Meg Ryan and could NOT be said to have a very positive attitude. The other couple leaves, rather than hang around Maureen's fountain of negativity. They are Mike Brady, who turns out to be a cop, and Kim Brady, a schoolteacher. The next day, Mike is on the case with his hotshot partner—there is of course some tension between the two cop partners, and we have some Starsky & Hutch-type music during their scenes. They go in and find the decomposed body of the bum. At this point I thought it would be kind of awesome if they found a bare skeleton in the middle of the floor, and thought it was like a medical prop or something, not realizing it's their body. But no, there's a partially-eaten body, leading the sheriff to look at it and speculate: "Wild dogs, maybe?" Oh yeah, that's your answer for everything.

So this guy goes down in the sewer and reaches in this pipe and starts pulling out really gross organs and remains and such—it's like suddenly we're in a Cronenberg movie. Then we have some high school fun with teacher Kim, who is known among her students as the "Wicked Bitch." The blond dude we saw earlier is with this brunette tart, and soon they go to lunch with their permed-yet-mulleted goon friend. The girl says something spooky is going on, and then comes one of those delightfully moronic moments that makes movies such as this worth watching: The blond says "You're on drugs, girl, I swear," to which the mullet dude says in his goon voice: "Yeah… or you need PROFESSIONAL HELP." Half the people in the cast have Spanish names, leading me to believe that this is some sort of foreign exploitation TRYING to be American, which accounts for its delightfully exploitative and off-kilter vibe. Anyway, these kids are gearing up for the big Halloween party.

SPOILERS > > >
Meanwhile, some grumpy old gardener is in his greenhouse mixing some hazardous chemicals and preparing to work. We see a slug as big as a tongue creep into his glove, then he comes back and puts it on and—ow! So after a little screaming, he does what any of us might do… grabs the hatchet and hacks his hand off! His wife comes in just in time to see the carnage and experience the hazardous chemical explosion. You know, not enough of us realize how easily common gardening incidents result in not just splinters and dirty knees, but house-leveling explosions, and I'm glad this film is here to remind us of this all-too-common danger.

Meanwhile, Maureen just meant to get SO much done before her hubby David got home, but, well, she ended up just getting drunk mid-afternoon and sleeping on the couch. She did first rinse the lettuce and leave it in the sink, leaving us to enjoy an ominous shot as we zoom in on the menacing leafy vegetable. Once Maureen wakes with her husband in the driveway, she runs to the kitchen and starts slicing the lettuce as though she hadn't wasted the afternoon in a drunken stupor. She doesn't notice that she's also slicing a slug into several little bits—maybe she thinks it's a truffle? At this point I'm like, "Wait a minute—This shit is HILARIOUS." They then sit down to enjoy their slug salad. Mmmm!

Meanwhile Kim and Mike have started to notice some gargantuan slugs in their garden—and one of them opens up a big mouth with four little white teeth and tries to bite Mike's hand! This is one of those movies in which we never really get a good sense of how big the monster really is. We see some real slugs, that look about as big as your pinkie, then some fake slugs that look about as big as a finger [like the one that soon eats a hamster]. There was that ONE big one in the glove [we never see another that big], and you recall that apparently one of these slugs was big enough to pull Wayne underwater in the opening scene. You know, frankly, I don't think anybody really knows. Least of all the people who made this film. Anyway, they put one in a jar, and then Kim decides that she's better change out of this concealing shirt and into a clingy tank top if they're going to take it to the lab. Somewhere in here, by the way, Mike mentions salt, Kim laughs it off—Oh, Mike!—and that is THE LAST MENTION OF SALT IN THE MOVIE. I suppose it would kind of kill the terror if we knew that any of these people could avoid their horrible deaths with a common household item all of them have on their kitchen counters.

So the blond dude and the vampy girl are about to do it on the kitchen counter now that her parent's have gone off to the Elks Club, but then he notices her parent's unattended liquor stash and abandons her completely. Then they go upstairs, we cut away—there has been quite a bit of softcore vibe in here, by the way, and I suspect a lot more sex exists somewhere but was cut—and when we return the blond, ass in full view, is giving the vampy vixen some hardcore pounding! I was kind of shocked. When they're done she gets up—and slips on the floor, entirely covered with slugs! You are then treated to the sight of a naked woman covered with slugs—I don't know, maybe that does something for you. The blond is freaking out, and the girl screams for him to help, the eye eaten right out of her skull! It is genuinely horrifying. Bobby obviously feels a momentary pang of guilt about leaving her there to be consumed, then tries to high-tail it out the window. I'm afraid he doesn't make it. One of the other things this movie leaves unexplained is why these slugs suddenly mass in one place, then just as suddenly take off. Where do they come from? Where do they go? What is their game plan? These are the mysteries this film forces us to ponder.

Okay, so that scene was AWESOME, and it's shortly followed by David and Maureen enjoying a nice night out in the area's finest restaurants, the night after they ate the slug salad, when suddenly their genial evening is ruined by David's head splitting open and exploding bloody worms! GOT to love that. Soon some dude from the Sanitation Department, who looks like a blond Bill Clinton, has figured out that 20 years ago, there was a big toxic waste dump out at the site of the new mall, and the water supply goes right through there or something. And, you see, not only are these slugs mutated monsters with mouths and teeth themselves, but they CONTAIN mutated blood worms of some kind that eat humans [not slugs] from the inside out. So it's really kind of a double threat. This also helps explain why, when we see someone eaten from the inside out, their body features these tiny rubber worms that don't look anything like slugs at all.

So by now Mike is turning into that crazy guy who thinks we should shut down the water supply and cancel the annual water festival that brings so much money into the town [I made that last part up], and everyone thinks he's a wingnut, including the asshole sherriff who has apparently decided he's going to be a dick to everyone, no matter what. Mike then attempts to circumvent him by going to the head of the water supply [or something], who says one of my favorite lines: "Hold on! Mutated slugs? Contaminated water system? What the hell are you talking about!" Then Mike takes it to the Mayor, bursting in on him during some event and screaming "We have a mutant brand of killer slug in the water system!" No one believes him, and you start to think: "Well then why don't they just go LOOK down in the water system and see?" Then Mike and Dan realize that they can just electrify the slugs, and this leads to them going down into the sewers, where the walls are lined with slugs—although by now it's REALLY obvious that we rarely see slugs and humans in the same shot. You'll see a wall covered with slugs, but where the humans are, no slugs on the walls. Meanwhile upstairs the kids are at the Halloween party, which consists of a few cars parked in a field with some stoners, and the mullet goon gets eaten in a skull mask. So anyway, Mike and Dan electrify the slugs, and then I am FAIRLY SURE there is a scene of them OUTRUNNING THE ELECTRICITY. Sure enough, every single mutant slug [but one] is killed, and the town is saved! It's all good, except for the fact that they blew up the entire town in the process, but I think in the long run people will totally overlook that.
< < < SPOILERS END

Like I said… everything you might ever want in a mutant slug movie. It's fun, it's gory in parts, it's truly horrifying in parts, and it's really hilariously funny. It's got fun 80s characters—who are idiots—doing stupid things and periodically getting eaten. I would save this one for a time when you really need a good mutant killer animal movie and then just sit back and let fly.

Should you watch it: 

Yes! It is everything you want in a killer mutant animal movie, and so much more.