Countdown to Halloween #7: Slugs (1988)

One from the re-watch pile…
Slugs (1988)

Arrow Films’ Slugs: awesome art by Wes Benscoter


Film: I am an unabashed total fan of director Juan Piquer (J. P.) Simon, even though, to my knowledge I have only seen three of his films: Satan’s Blood, Pieces and this film, Slugs.

Slugs was something I first discovered as a book by Shaun Hutson when I was going through my ‘read everything by Shaun Hutson’ phase as a teenager. Still today I have no problem, on a sleepless night, sitting in a comfortable chair, a warm milk, a tray of biscuits and a well molested copy of Slugs in my hands.

Somewhere along the line I stopped reading Hutson’s books, but the appearance of Simon’s Slugs film excited me more that a grown man would care to admit, and finding it was directed by the guy who gave me my beloved slasher/ giallo Pieces? Well, hook me up to an IV of THAT!

Slugs: Michael Garfield and Kim Terry as Mike and Kim Brady


Slugs has us follow the events in a small town that is being invaded by a plague of flesh-eating slugs, and the only people who can save it are health inspector Mike Brady… yep, ‘Mike Brady’ (Mike Garfield), his friend, sanitation engineer, Don Palmer (Philip MacHale), and a local high school science teacher/ scientist, John Foley (Santiago Álvarez), who was introduced by Mike’s wife, Kim (Kim Terry). 

Can they save the town before the inhabitants are completely consumed? Well, let’s hope now before at least a bunch are chewed up in all sorts of gory ways!

There are two horror fans that live inside me, one who likes slow burn horror films like The Wicker Man and early Hammer films, and another who loves balls-to-the-wall, blood-drenched splatters films, and it’s that latter fan who digs this particular film.

The fact that is is an American/ Spanish production means that there are some of the cast speaking English, and other dubbed, sometimes quite hilariously. The film has some continuity inconsistencies and some totally weird cast choices… Don’s wife looks old enough to be his mother (!) and there’s just some flat out bad acting, but the joy from this film comes from both the gore, and the fact that slugs are just so damned disgusting!!

It’s amazing to think in a world of CGI in even low-budget films that all the flesh and blood in this film is practical effects. Even though I am not a detractor from CGI effects, I do miss films that do everything with good ol’ buckets of red paint and pig skin.

Slugs: Juan Maján needs a hand as Harold Morris


I have to give a word to the soundtrack as well. The title score is classic moody horror stuff, but then as scene changes happen, it’s like music that an 80s cop TV show might have when it comes back from an ad break.

It’s one of my favourite films of all time, even though it’s hokey and perhaps a little bit stupid, but it’s for those reasons that I love Pieces too, so why the Hell not?

Score: *****

Arrow Films’ Slugs bluray menu screen


Format: This UK Arrow Films, region B bluray release runs for approximately 89 minutes and is presented in a really nice, which is expectedly slightly grainy due to its age, 1.85:1 presentation, with a very rare artefact, with an excellent mono audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Extras? Extras? Boy, have we got extras! First up, and in Arrow tradition, we have a reversible cover, one side with brand new artwork by Wes Benscoter and the original art on the flip side.

Inside the case there is a booklet featuring an informative article by Michael Gingold, American journalist probably best known to horror fans as 26 year veteran (he finished there this year) of Fangoria magazine, about the film.

On the disc we have:

Here’s Slugs in your Eye: an interview with Emilio Linder, who played David Watson, where he talks about his career and his experiences on the film. He has some great anecdotes, and a pretty cool vinyl collection in the background.

They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: an interview with special effects artist, Carlo De Marchis, who briefly talks about his career before concentrating on the effects of Slugs, breaking them down by how the effect was done with some amazing behind the scenes photos of giant slugs built to bite fingers and miniature houses to blow up. He also reflects on the 1989 Goya award for special effects that the film won.

Invasion USA : an interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo, who talks about Simon and his work in cinema, and his admiration for his work. He also talks about his own contributions to the film.

The Lyons Den: this is a pretty cool locations tour of Lyons, New York and interview with production manager Larry Ann Evans, who actually grew up in the town. She has some pretty funny recollections of the making of the film, and some more delightful memories of Simon. Actually, one thing all these interviews have in common is the respect for J. P. Simon which makes me dig his work even more! 

We also have a trailer for the film, and then two commentaries:

The first commentary is one I was very excited for, as it is with author Shaun Hutson, with Michael Felsher from Red Shirt Pictures (who produced all the featurettes on this disc). It’s an awesome commentary and hearing Hutson talk about his career and his, quite low, opinions of the film. As a horror fan there’s nothing more disheartening hearing a favourite author coming down on a favourite film, but I’ll get over it, as the commentary is totally engaging!

The second commentary is by Chris Alexander, filmmaker, musician and former editor in chief of Fangoria, and is much more a fan, love letter to both the film and the book. Listening to this commentary after the Hutson/ Felsher one is great as the opinions of the creator compared to the fan are amusing.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve watched this film, and read the book on which it’s based, more times than I care to admit. I’ve probably already watched it twice this year already before I watched it the three times to review it (the film and then two commentaries) and it still hasn’t gotten old. I’ll probably watch it again before the end of the year… so the answer is yes, I’ll watch it again.

Slugs: Emilio Linder’s David Watson’s seen better days…

Contamination (1980) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Contamination (1980)

Arrow Video’s Contamination Bluray


Film: Italian horror is totally my jam. Even though Re-animator is my favourite horror film, I can’t resist a good… or a bad Italian horror, fantasy or scifi film. They are sometimes nonsensical, sometimes brilliant, but always totally entertaining.

This film was written and directed by Luigi Cozzi, also known for Starcrash and one of my favourite films The Killer Must Kill Again, but here under the alias ‘Lewis Coates’. It has a super score by my favourite band Goblin, and really feels of it’s time, especially if you are an Italian horror film regular.

Contamination: Louise Marleau as Col. Stella Holmes


A freighter arrives in New York with a dead crew and a cargo of boxes of coffee from South America which actually contain some kind of egg which explodes if under any kind of heat, infecting those who are exposed to its bacteria, which then causes them to explode.

An investigation is started, headed by Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) along with the survivor of the first egg encounter, police lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Masé). They experiment on a few of the eggs and come to the conclusion that they are not of this earth, and perhaps the only person who could help them is the only surviving member of a Mars mission, returned astronaut named Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch). 

Contamination: Ian McCulloch as Cmdr. Ian Hubbard


Very soon the three are on the trail of the eggs on Earth which leads them to South America, and the secret as to how these eggs made their way here…
Cozzi’s love of science fiction is well on display here, and the heavy inclusion of 70s/ 80s Italian gore makes it a keeper. This film isn’t too disassociated from American 50s scifi as at its core, it’s actually kind of wholesome, with its military trying to end a world-threatening event plot. It’s just the exploding chests and copious amounts of blood, landed it in the list of video nasties in the 80s in the UK, which is where it’s notoriety comes from.

Contamination: eggs… so many eggs!


That finite excuse for that notoriety though may have come from Cozzi’s use of Peckingpah-esque slo-mo for every single chest explosion!!

For years people have said it’s an Alien rip off, and even though Cozzi claims to have been inspired by it, I think it’s unfair to make the comparison. Yes there are eggs, and yes, there are exploding chests, but just because these two elements feature in it to me don’t make it slightly comparable.
Contamination is heaps of sci-fi fun with a dash of 80s gore, and it’s a fit that sits well!
Score: ****

Arrow Video’s Bluray menu screen


Format: The edition of Contamination reviewed in the U.K., region A and B Bluray released by Arrow Video. The film runs for approximately 95 minutes and is presented in a nicely cleaned up 1.85:1 images with a choice of and Italian or English mono soundtrack. It’s not the sharpest image you’ll ever see, and there is the very occasional speck onscreen, but they are minor quibbles for a film of it’s vintage.

Score: ****

Extras: As ever, Arrow have the goods with this release!

Luigi Cozzi on Contamination is an older… sorry, I mean ‘archive’ interview with the director of the film, where he discusses the origins of the film and the process to make it. Cozzi narrates the whole thing, and gives us a look as some behind the scenes footage as well.

Contamination Q&A is an session of questions proposed to Cozzi and McCulloch, hosted by Arrow’s Ewan Cant. It’s an entertaining and amusing discussion for sure.

Sound of the Cyclops is a talk with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini which for me, as a Goblin fan, was really interesting.

Luigi Cozzi vs. Lewis Coates is a career retrospective interview with Cozzi.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery delves into the ‘Italian Copy’ films that aimed to emulate the success of films like Jaws, The Warriors and Dawn of the Dead, amongst others.

We also have a trailer and black and white graphic novel based on the film, which has some pretty cool indie styled artwork. I don’t get why you’d make a comic an extra on an actual disc, as I’d much prefer an ACTUAL comic included in the packaging like Arrow’s release of Demons.

Also, there is a commentary by Fangoria’s Chris Alexander which is a fan commentary, but Alexander knows his stuff!

Hidden within the disc, one will also find really cool alternate covers for the cover, one with original art and the other with cool new art by Ghoulish Gary Pullin (whose amazing artwork can be found HERE!)  and there is also a fully illustrated booklet with a piece by the aforementioned Mr. Alexander, and details of the restoration.

Score: *****

Contamination: Marino Masé as Lt. Tony Aris


WISIA: Heaps of gore and heaps of corn, you better believe I’m coming back for more!

A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)


Film: When a moronic, tryhard janitor accidentally starts the zombie apocalypse, only those skilled at survival even stand the slightest chance of getting by.

Thankfully, scouting offers one all the right tools and skills to make it!

Our tale follows the exploits of the only three members of scout troop 264: the keen and excitable Augie (Joey Morgan), motormouth Carter (Logan Miller) and nice guy Ben (Tye Sheridan) who after cutting short an overnight scout trip to go to a secret high school senior’s party find themselves in a town that empty except for zombies and a hot cocktail waitress named Denise (Sarah Dumont) who is as tough as nails, has the longest legs in the history of mankind and is a shotgun diva… Literally. 


The kids at the secret party, including Carter’s sister (and Ben’s secret crush) Kendall (Halston Sage) don’t know what has happened to the rest of the town, and our heroes find themselves with a time limit to save the partygoers when they discover the entire town is going to be bombed by the military to contain the ‘zombie problem’. 

So what do scout’s do when they face the zombie apocalypse? Why improvise, of course… Let’s just hope that zombiefied Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner) doesn’t catch up with them…

In general I am not a fan of the term ‘horror comedy’ as I don’t believe the two elements sit together at all because I want my horror to be, well, horrible: I want to be scared by it… And realistically, whenever we talk about ‘horror comedies’ we are referring more to either a comedy with monsters, or a gore-comedy. Films like Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator and Shaun of the Dead nail both those descriptions perfectly, and I reckon I’d put this film in with those three comfortably, though it would certainly be the lesser of them, as whilst it appealed to my love of gory movies, it also tickled my less mature delight towards dumb, dick, tit and fart joke comedies.

Basically, if the Goonies grew up to be the kids from Superbad and had to fight Shaun of the Dead zombies in the town Monster Squad took place in, that contained a strip club that someone like Porky would own, this would be their story. 

Phew!


It’s not very often that a film can be both laugh out loud at the comedy one second, and cringe with empathy at an act of violence the next. The writers, Lona Williams, Carrie Evans and Emi Mochizuki and director Christopher Landon (who also has a script credit) really nailed the balance well, and once it gets underway, the movie never stops for a breather. The four main actors nail their stereotypes perfectly, and parody them well too, but they are also well rounded characters, with back stories and histories that are touched on but never to the detriment or the movement of the story.

In the extras the crew regularly comment that they are trying to get that eighties teen sex comedy feel and that is done well, but the tributes to other horror are there also. The film takes Romero’s tropes of residual zombie memory and turns it on its head, and also nods to Dr Tongue from Day of the Dead (in a scene that echoes Reanimator’s head-giving-head scene, but with more tongue), and did I see a road sign showing how far away Haddonfield was?


I can’t finish this review without mentioning that the wonderful Cloris Leachman makes an appearance as a very cranky old cat lady and really steals the few scenes in which she appears.

Essentially, the sophomoric humour lover and gore hound in me really loved this film, and if you like films that don’t take themselves too seriously, you will probably get a kick out of this.

Score: ****

Format: The review copy of this film was the Australian bluray release, which runs for approximately 92 minutes, and is presented in an immaculate 2.39:1 image with a matching DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: A nice bunch of extras on this disc, and with titles reminiscent of my Cub Scout days…


Scout’s Guide to Filmmaking is you normal ‘making of’ mini-doc but the personalities of the filmmakers and the cast make it quite entertaining. Sure there’s the usual mutual-masturbation ‘oh he/she’s SO good’ stuff, but it doesn’t come across as fake, they actually seem genuine.

The Zombie Make-up FX Handbook is all about the practical and CGI zombie effects. I love these sorts of extras as I’ve always had an interest in make up effects.

Undead Movement Guidelines: Zombie Choreography takes a look at the work done by choreographer Mark Steger who taught the cast and extras how to ‘move’ like a ‘real’ zombie. His concepts of these zombies being quick because they are fresh, rather than the slow, disinterred old dead was interesting.

Uniforms and You: Costume Design shows us the skill of the costume designer Marylou Lim and the subtleties of some of the costuming, and how they individualised the zombies.

There’s only two Deleted Scenes: extended Scouting video and Pharmacy. They certainly aren’t missed in the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a gory and funny movie with a lot of personality so I can definitely see me watching it again.