And speaking of more-or-less bloodless old-school monster movies, in 2010 the fine folks at Code Red DVD finally got around to releasing the long-sought-after 1978 cheapie (as in total budget of around $100,000) Slithis (alternately titled Spawn Of The Slithis, which is more technically accurate I suppose since “slithis” is the name of the nuclear/toxic good that creates the much-moster in this movie and not the actual name of the creature itself (which, incidentally, has no name) but has the unwarranted effect of making folks think this might be a sequel to a previous movie called Slithis when, of course, it isn’t). While the DVD is pretty much a no-frills affair that features a decently remastered widescreen print (although it’s still pretty grainy to the extent that it’s even hard to make out just exactly what the hell is happening in a lot of the scenes filmed at night) and perfectly acceptable mono sound, some extras beyond the inclusion of the trailer for the film and a selection of other Code red previews would have been nice, especially since writer-director Stephen Traxler insists that this thing made millions worldwide and he never saw a dime thanks to a rip-off distribution deal he signed in desperation.
But I guess it’s the thought that counts, and I’m not one to complain about any world in which this now-obscure title is even available at all, so I won’t.
Traxler’s little opus takes place in the quaint confines of 70s-era Venice, California, and to be honest it’s this atmospheric locale, complete with its hippies (and aging ex-hippies), winos, vagrants, and general weirdos, as well as the director’s innate familiarity with it, that makes Slithis the joy to watch that it is. Certainly there’s even less gore on display here (notice the “PG” rating on the poster, for gosh sakes!), and the monster itself is more crudely realized, than in the recent release Creature, which I maligned to no end less than 24 hours ago. But whereas Creature never really makes effective use of its (at this point done to death in horror) Louisiana bayou setting, the town of Venice, with its canals, public parks, and beaches is itself the most compelling character in this tale of Three-Mile-Island-inspired anti-nuke scaremongering (not that your host is a fan of nuclear energy — anything but, the stuff is seriously bad news — I’m just trying to put the plot in some historical context).
So anyway, in case you hadn’t guessed it, the plot here revolves around a leak at the local nuke plant that infect some swamp mud teeming with unsavory bacterial life and the end result is a mud-encrusted beast that does what all these guys do and goes on a (completely gore-free in this case) killing spree. That’s all you need to know because honestly that’s all there is to it.
I’m sure at the time, if I’d been doing these armchair movie reviews like I am now (I was a little young for it back then, thank you very much), I would have written Slithis off as being a dull, hackneyed cash-in on contemporary news stories. But time changes everything, as they say, and Slithis, despite being obvious, overwrought, hopelessly unsubtle, and all the rest stands out as a fun-filled nostalgic romp to a bygone era when our societal worries seemed to make a lot more sense. In short, Slithis hasn’t gotten any better over time per se, but the passing of time has made Slithis seem better. If you can get your head around that (and it’s not that tough, is it?).Plus there’s the fact that Slithis pretty much represents the tail end of the era when guys in rubber suits could still be played off as being (in this particular instance even vaguely) scary. So for all its attempts to be contemporary as hell, it was actually verging on relic status right from the get-go, and that sort of adds another layer of, dare I say it, charm to the whole proceedings.
So what the hell, give Slithis a go, I think you’ll find it a fun slice of celluloid nostalgia.