Friday 3 February 2017


From Mollusc To Dawn

Spain/USA 1988
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón
Arrow Films Blu Ray Zone B

Ha! This movie, I’ll warn you up front, is quite delightfully terrible... in all the right places.

I’ve wanted this one since hearing of its existence a few months ago when Arrow Films said they were putting a super duper restored print onto Blu Ray. Now, to be fair, it wouldn’t really take much more incentive than the title and the promise of a movie about killer slugs to ensure I watched this anyway but... as soon as I'd heard the title I did a little quick research and realised that this is kind of like watching an old friend, in some ways...

Back in the early 1980s I, like many other kids the same age as me in their early teens, started reading horror novels. There were plenty of them about and the first author I tried was Stephen King, who I liked a great deal (although his first novel, Carrie, never did anything for me for some reason... I much preferred the movie version of that one). Of course, after you’ve tried King, things get to be a slippery slope and you go onto James Herbert where you suddenly find, if you’re at that age of around 12-14 years when this kind of thing starts to be appealing, that the mixture of full-on graphic sex and bloody carnage is a heady cocktail too powerful to resist. Soon you start trying all the trashiest horror novels you can find that have that lethal combination of flesh sliding against flesh followed by flesh mutilated by some unspeakable horror and, like I said, the bookshops of Great Britain were full of this kind of stuff and all the kids at school would be reading things by these kinds of authors.

I got through a load of books by these kinds of trashy (and often fun) horror writers... I might mention authors like John Halkin or Guy N. Smith and the kinds of books they were churning out about killer jellyfish or giant crabs etc. One such author, producing some of the more well written pulps of the late 1970s/early 1980s horror boom, was Shaun Hutson. I remember reading one of his I liked at the time called Erebus and he was also the writer of a novel called Slugs (which later spawned a sequel, Breeding Ground). I hadn’t realised, until Arrow made their announcement about releasing this title, that there had been a movie adaptation of the first novel as a co-production between Spain and the US... which updated the action from the very ‘English England’ of the novel to America.

My first reaction was... why? My second reaction was... wow, I’ve got to see this one.

And so here I am with a first watch of Slugs and, as I said before... it’s really terrible.

Now, had I seen this movie back at the time of its release (and I suspect that over here it would have been a straight to video, pan and scan job), I would have condemned it for being utter trash and would have consigned it to video hell. However, looking back at it now with the benefit of a slightly rose tinted nostalgia for the kind of movies being made and released by companies like, in this case, New World pictures, it becomes a charming, hilarious and somewhat affectionate viewing experience, for the most part.

The acting is awful and, it has to be said, the screenplay isn’t doing the performers any favours either. Neither is the score in some sequences, credited to someone called Tim Souster but credited only as Music Department for this particular film in his IMDB listing. Maybe that’s because, although there is some nicely put together, Herrmannesque scoring for the majority of the scenes, there are some ‘heroic themes’ which are completely inappropriate to the on screen action and they just popped me out of the film in some truly ‘WTF?’ moments. Which, once you have got over the shock, also contributes to the maniacal enjoyment to a certain extent, it has to be said.

However, there are some quite good practical special effects in this one, to be sure. I thought the infamous ‘slugs bursting out from a guy’s eye sockets’ effect was looking pretty good and a scene where a slug takes a small bite out of the main male protagonist’s finger looked pretty amazing. I don’t know if this was done with stop motion effects or what. I don’t think CGI would have been a viable option back then.

So what did I learn from this movie?

Well, for one thing I learned that if you eat some bits of a slug that’s accidentally gotten into your lettuce leaves, they are going to come to life inside you and eventually burst our of your head in a fairly ostentatious fashion.

Another thing I learned was something which I remember being bizarrely pushed a lot in pulpy novels and horror movies of the 1980s... if you are going to have sex with someone and it’s your wife or long term partner then that’s okay. If, however, you are either having an affair or, in the case of this movie, are a teenage couple seeing each other illicitly behind your parents backs and then having sex... you’d better watch out. In this kind of movie, nature will always find some way to punish you by having some kind of monster or mutation dispose of you in some kind of gory but completely ludicrous manner, once you have your clothes off. And, seriously, this movie is about a bunch of slow moving slugs, after all. If you fall down amongst them... don’t stay down while they eat your eyeballs out and crawl over your bosom or unleashed genitalia like they do here, surely? How is this even possible to be a credible kind of death? It’s like these people just want to be slug fodder. Can someone go and get the condiments already?

And, of course, another valuable lesson which is a familiar one with movies of this ilk also crops up again in this story. That being... if you still have three heroes left at the end trying to kill the menacing molluscs of the title then, no matter how much of a nice guy or a family man any of them are, one of them is still going to get gorily eaten by the title creatures... who in the case of this film also turn out to be strong swimmers, somehow.

And there you have it. Slugs sounds like a terrible movie and it is. The performances are varied, ranging from just this side of acceptable to truly terrible and the pacing in some scenes is... well I’d have to say it’s quite sluggish in some places. :-) However, despite all this, I was grinning from ear to ear as I watched this shockingly stupid and therefore immensely entertaining movie and it’s definitely one I’ll be recommending to my friends. Potentially a star attraction for an ‘alcohol and a few movies’ night with your friends, as far as I’m concerned. As usual, Arrow do an absolutely brilliant job with the crisp, flawless transfer and it comes with the usual spate of cool extras which sets them apart from quite a few of the other boutique home video labels based in the UK at the moment. If you’re not looking for high art then... check out this movie and see how long it takes you to groan or laugh. Definitely worth a watch.

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