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April 30, 2011

Supremely Cheesy Cinema, Vol 4: Slithis

There are those who tell you not to judge a book by its cover, and who probably also would recommend that you don't judge a movie by its cover.  Those people obviously never glanced at the cover art for Spawn of the Slithis (or simply, as the poster and DVD case say, Slithis).  With its glorious combination of a) guy in monster suit; b) a William Castle-y warning about needing a Slithis Survival Kit (hopefully produced by Acme!) ; c) cheesy tagline; and (most importantly) d) a 1970s baseball jersey font - I conceded quickly that the cover established Slithis as the greatest film ever created.
In fact, the cover makes me want a pet Slithis and a shirt that looks like this for each of us.
But after watching Slithis, I'm relatively certain it's not the greatest film ever created.  There's still an ever so minuscule chance I'm wrong, but Slithis ended up being kind of not great.  Possibly even bad.

As you can guess, Slithis is the tale of a mutated monster who is born of nuclear waste.  Actually I think he's the product of a Frankensteinan doctor who was trying to create a living organic mud, or something, according to the film.  Somehow, a bland guy with a curly fro and his woman named Jeff become enlightened to Slithis' existence by a stoner friend after a bunch of killings make the news.  The great city of Venice - which is shot with a murky lens that makes it look more like Detroit or Pittsburgh - and its police officers believe the killings to be cult related, and start to interrogate "unconventional" groups around town during a brief montage of hippies being accosted.  But our bland hero Wayne, played by Alan Blanchard, is on the track of Slithis.
We don't meet the Slithis itself until about a half hour into the 85 minute flick, as the flick only gives us a few fish-vision sequences and scaly shadows during initial attacks.  Thankfully, the film gives us a lot of things to ponder as we wait for the green man-in-suit (played by someone named Win Condict) to show up.  My notes from the first act of the film included the following riveting developements.
  • Oh, sure, they have to make the fat kid throw the frisbee too far.  That's such typical movie fat-cism.
  • When it comes to snacks, hobos are to '70s movie monsters as Jell-O is to humans.  There's always room for 'em.
  • Giant falafel sandwiches?!
  • There's big hair and mustaches all over the place here.
  • That Gabe Kaplan lookin' dude has a large framed headshot between two mood candles.  Classic.
Like I said, it's a pretty riveting film from the getgo.

OK, I lied.  It's kind of an excruciating film from the getgo.  All the actors are stiff and boring, the plot is completely spelled out in dialogue, and the film is patched together in a standard manner that provides few moments that are visually interesting.  And by few, it might actuall by none.  There's a fun moment when our emotionless hero has to fend off this wild-haired, stammering, mad scientist of a police detective with only his words, but this scene mostly works because the dude playing the detective clearly knows he's getting paid no matter how ridiculous he acts.
The missing hobo part of the story provides a little bit of intrigue and reminded me slightly of C.H.U.D. down the line, but these scenes are mostly used as failed comic relief and filler to give Wayne information that could lead him to Slithis.  The film takes a Jaws twist in the final act as Wayne and friends take to the sea to fight the evolved bit of toxic waste (on no less than a boat named CREATION!), but the action is pretty standard here and doesn't provide any scares or thrills.

The creature itself is slightly amusing, and is probably the best thing about the film.  The Slithis monster fits well into its spot between The Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Humanoids from the Deep, but both of those films had more going on than this one does.  Without inventive direction or cheesy comedy or characters that don't resemble cardboard cutouts, Slithis fails to entertain like the classy Creature or the sleazy Humanoids.  What we're left with is a b-monster movie that feels like it should have been made for TV.

I guess I should take this as a lesson learned about cover judging...but that cover is fantastic.  I regret nothing!


-Lou said...

It's kind of depressing to think that such a promising box could contain a movie anything less than awesome

Marvin the Macabre said...

My friends and I who got together for bad movies every weekend used to have a saying: "If you ain't down with Slithis, you ain't down withus."

The Mike said...

Marvin, that is fantastic. Slithis would certainly be a fun movie for that kind of setting. I for some reason had higher expectations, but knowing what it is I now feel I can mock it in the future.

Bleaux, I totally agree. I expected something a little more intentionally awesome than what I got.