In my opinion, slugs is not necessarily one of the top 5 scariest types of monsters to use in a horror movie. I know, I know, but hear me out. I have a right to my own opinion, no matter how unpopular or vile. Please be respectful of this open forum.
So here is the reason why: they’re fucking slugs! They can barely move. They are smooshable. You can kill them just by putting salt on them. They don’t even have a shell to hide in, like a snail. They ordinarily pose no threat to anyone or anything except for your garden. Even then they are not really that hard to deal with. I guess maybe if this movie was told from the point of view of a vegetable it would be one thing, but it’s not, it’s humans. Hard for a human to be scared of slugs.
Maybe the filmatists (the writer/director is J.P. Simon, who did PIECES) were thinking about DAWN OF THE DEAD and predicting the whole slow zombies vs. fast zombies debate that would happen a decade and a half later. They wanted to show that although one slug is not that huge of a threat there are always a whole bunch more slugs behind it, shambling along. It’s not the individual threat of one zombie or slug as much as the existential threat of there being an endless supply of zombies or slugs that will eventually, inevitably, overwhelm you. Plus the idea that it looks like your friend but really his or her soul is gone, it’s only a shell, a zombie or a slug. No, that last one doesn’t apply to slugs, never mind that part. But if I start to turn into one of those things, one of those slugs, you know what to do, right? I want you to promise me.
It’s true, these slugs only work in great numbers, but they are also given some extra-sluggic abilities. They’re supposed to be mutant slugs (“this whole place used to be a radioactive dump” is the origin story). Regular slug-slime is numbing like novocaine, mutant slug slime is paralyzing and poisonous. Also these ones have mouths with teeth, which you only really see in one scene where a guy sticks his finger out and it bites him (see above). Also they have a powerful strain of parasites inside them that can enter the human bloodstream and cause thousands of worms to explode out of your eye sockets. At least that’s what happens to one guy. While having dinner. At a fancy restaurant. With politicians. Right after making a toast “to the beginning of all the great things yet to come.” It’s an awkward social situation that you want to avoid.
I’m not sure if one slug could take out a human, but there is a scene where one slug takes out a mouse. It gets on the mouse’s back and the mouse tries to put up a fight but nope, he gets wrestled by a slug. To be fair, this is probly a regular mouse, he is not a mutant. I don’t think that would be allowed in most legitimate interspecies animal wrestling competitions.
Despite all these powers it still helps the slugs out if the humans debilitate themselves using the ol’ bottle. The first guy they eat is a drunk who almost gets run over, then talks to a dog, and his house is a mess so he doesn’t notice the mutant slugs have infested his basement. You know how it is. We’ve all been there.
Then there’s the lady who comes home, pours herself a drink and gets too buzzed to notice the slug that she’s chopping up in a head of lettuce when she’s making the salad. For extra realism it’s established that she and her man noticed the salad was extra-salty but there were anchovies in it so they assumed that was the source of that flavor. And she must’ve remembered that she didn’t even wash the lettuce so maybe she assumed that was why it tasted like slug chunks.
And that’s not it. There’s also the cool sunglasses-wearing dude (probly about 35 years old) who pickes up a high school girl (probly at least 25), takes her home for sex and notices her father’s full bar. He’s enjoying a bottle of Jim Beam while fucking on the bed so they don’t notice the tens of thousands of slugs that managed to swarm the entire room so that when he puts a foot down on the floor he gets devoured.
I’m not sure why the girl didn’t notice, since she chose to abstain from drinking. Maybe it’s that post-HALLOWEEN slasher thing where if you have sex you’re most likely going to get killed. In fact, maybe the slugs have some kind of sexual hangup and that’s why they’re killing her. They got abused as baby slugs and they’re taking it out on humans. I don’t know, it’s based on a novel by Shaun Hutson. Maybe the book gets more into the psychology of the slugs.
They do talk about the slugs being hermaphrodites (if you said “hermaphro-whats!?” that’s the same thing one of the characters said) and being able to reproduce by themselves. Maybe as a result of that they’re disgusted by human sexual activity and are very judgmental about it. I mean I assumed they just said the hermaphrodite thing so that at the end when there was one slug left (SPOILER) it would be scary enough, they wouldn’t have to show two slugs and then somehow establish the gender of the two slugs so that you knew for sure they could mate. But there could be more to it. Their mutation might be larger size, faster muscles, stronger slime, sharp teeth and a sense of moral superiority.
Come to think of it maybe they’re just misogynistic slugs, because there’s a girl who gets left in the woods because she refuses to let a jock into her panties, then another guy wearing a Halloween mask tries to rape her, then instead of the slugs killing the rapist, as is standard horror movie procedure and a tried-and-true crowd pleaser, it’s the girl who falls in the water. If you fall in the water you’re in trouble, because slugs float around in there.
There are many great and memorable characters in SLUGS, such as whatsisdick, and the lady who has a jacket that says “Cheerleader,” but then it turns out she’s playing an adult, not a teen cheerleader, although she’s not much older than the adults playing teens. The sort of main guy, not sure what his name would be, he is the town health inspector so when he figures out what’s going on he tries to shut down the water supply, or at least declare a public health emergency, but his superior yells, “You ain’t got the authority to declare happy birthday. Not in this town!”
To be fair I don’t think he deserves the authority to declare happy birthday, because he’s not very helpful. When his house has slugs crawling out of the tap all he does is slam some of them with a frying pan, then leave his terrified, crying wife alone armed only with the pan and this advice: “Just hang in there, you’ll do fine.”
The sheriff has some pretty funny lines too. He’s supposed to be a tough talking sheriff, but I don’t think he’s willing to curse. He threatens to “shove my boot so far up your butt you’ll need a tow truck to get it out.” I don’t know man, I really think you gotta go with “ass” on a threat like that. “Butt” doesn’t got the right edge you’re looking for. At least you didn’t say “bottom” I guess.
So basically it ends up being this health inspector guy, his friend, and a scientist who take on the millions of slugs. Nobody else of note and of sound mind and body ever sees the slugs, even though they’re going around eating everybody and are literally on tap in some neighborhoods. They do move really fast for slugs, judging by some of these shots where they’re moving around (I’m not sure if it’s stop motion or sped up footage of real slugs, but it looks pretty cool) but then in some other shots it’s just a bunch of vaguely slug-shaped objects that don’t even move.
I forgot to mention that the slugs are apparently really good at covering their tracks, literally. The first eaten-up body that’s found, somehow there are no slime trails anywhere.
If you’re wondering how qualified the scientist guy is, never fear. #1, he wears a lab coat. #2, he spends all his time in a laboratory doing tests on slugs. Three, he has an accent. In fact when he’s chosen for help the one guy says he wants to talk to “your English friend,” indicating that it’s more important that he’s English than that he’s a scientist. Because that’s how you know he’s smart.
So the scientist figures out how to blow up the slugs using lithium. He never tried salt, in fact nobody did, although one guy thought of it when his wife joked about it, and he seemed excited. Then I guess he forgot.
They did figure out how to lure them all into one spot, but I already forget how they did it, if it was explained. I was hoping they’d put a keg of beer there as bait. Slugs like to crawl into discarded beer bottles.
There’s alot of brutal slug attacks, but the best kill is definitely in this greenhouse. The slugs attack a poor guy’s hand so he starts cutting off his own hand with an ax. Then somehow an electric cord gets loose and bumps a can of gasoline and blows the whole place up. I think it was entirely by accident, not intentional like in ORCA. But I still think it is something that slugs as a race can learn from and be proud of. I mean, when man discovered fire that was what put us on top, right? Any animal or bug race that discovers explosion… man, then it’s over in my opinion.
Obviously this is a shitty, ridiculous movie, but it has enough weirdness, gore and bad acting to be a big hit at like an all night horror marathon or Halloween get together of some kind. What makes it work is that it seems to be serious, it doesn’t come across like an intentionally campy movie. In the beginning I considered that it might be meant to be laughable, but if so they did a good job of convincing the actors to seem like they’re trying to make a real movie. I don’t remember much about PIECES other than it being completely insane, so my guess is that J.P. Simon is a little on the eccentric side and really thought he could pull off this scary slugs idea. Or maybe something was lost in the translation, since this is a Spanish-American co-production with some scenes shot in Spain with Spanish actors later dubbed into English. I don’t know, are slugs considered scary in Spain?
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.