Hooptober 2022 #9: Slugs (1988)

Part of the fun of Hooptober is because you have to meet certain criteria, you have to watch some films blind. Sometimes you get a film that blows you away and reminds you why you watch horror films. Sometimes you get horror films that also remind you why you watch them but not for conventionally acceptable reasons. The 1988 film Slugs falls into the later category. A less generous person writing about this film movie might derogatorily call it schlock. There is joy in schlock though. Though it may not be a conventionally “good” movie, something like Slugs offers joy in entirely different ways.

If you’re curious what the plot of Slugs is, that’s an easy question to answer. Basically Slugs is like The Birds but with slugs. Not just any kind of slugs but these are flesh eating mutant slugs. They live and breed in the sewer of a small, nameless town. They come into our homes via basements, faucets, and toilets. The only hope for this town is a health inspector, a sanitation worker, and a British high school teacher with a surprisingly well equipped lab for a public school.

Slugs is another entry in the filmography of one Juan Piquer Simón. Simón is best known for the bonkers slasher Pieces and Pod People, the basis for a classic episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The human drama in this does not exist, nor do the stakes. Will the town get eaten by mutant flesh eating slugs? Yes. Do you the audience care if that happens? Not particularly. In the hands of another director, the slugs might become a metaphor for corporate malfeasance or corruption in the town. Simón instead is okay with the mutant flesh eating slugs just being mutant flesh eating slugs. To paraphrase fellow schlock slinger Garth Marenghi subtext is for cowards.

Simón knows what you the audience want to see; gruesome deaths caused by mutant flesh eating slugs. This film provides that aplenty. There’s a scene with a gardener where a slug climbs into his work glove. After ignoring the fact you could feel a slug inside the glove, the actor fake struggles around his greenhouse while attempting to get this glove off. He uses gardening shears to cut his glove off to no effect. He knocks over several chemicals. His final solution is to chop his hand off. His wife comes in, drops her cigarette, and causes the greenhouse to explode. Another scene has a 30 year old “teenage girl” fall nude onto a floor of slugs and basically writhe to death. There’s a joy to be found in a film that ends the mutant flesh eating slug menace by blowing it up and not just dumping salt on them.

These things are why you watch a film like Slugs. Seeing logic get thrown out the window is part of the fun. There’s ways this could be made into a more conventional film. Doing that would only make it a less memorable film. Does a man eating slug infested lettuce, only for the slugs to gestate, and explode out of out of him make sense? Absolutely not but it’s a truly gross and memorable image. Sometimes we watch films for memorable images and set pieces as much as we watch them to communicate about the human condition. Then again maybe what Slugs communicates about the human condition is we want to see the various and myriad ways mutant flesh eating slugs can kill us.

Slugs is schlock in the best possible way. It’s not a good film but it’s a memorable one. It might be the only film where a man’s death by slug causes an eruption of blood. There’s value in watching these kinds of films as there is watching something by Kurosawa or Tarkovsky. And remember, Tarkovsky was a fan of Posession and The Terminator. While Slugs is definitely not on those films level, even the greats find value in films deemed schlock.

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