The scenic town of Ashton has a small problem... very small. Millions of mutant, meat-eating slugs, the byproduct of an old toxic waste dump, are infesting the town's gardens and greenery. They're also teeming in Ashton's sewer system and making their way into buildings through the piping. They devour on contact (or worse yet, ingestion), making short and incredibly gory work of some unlucky townspeople. As is expected, the police are worthless. The brunt of stopping these slimy assassins falls on Mike Brady, the local health inspector. With a couple of friends, a daring plan and a garbage bag of raw meat, he ventures into the thick of the viscous mass to put a stop to the slime trails and the body count.
Chances are, you've never seen Slugs: The Movie, and that should be remedied immediately. Based on the Shaun Hutson novel of the same name (hence the designation of "The Movie"), Slugs is a true '80s horror masterpiece. The full name of the film appears only in the opening titles. Everyone knows the movie as Slugs, and even many fans aren't aware of the book. I liken "The Movie" suffix to a middle name: You know it's there, but it's used only for official purposes. Incidentally, the novel did get a sequel, but no film materialized from it.
Like some of the best horror flicks (Night of the Living Dead, Friday the 13th), Slugs was filmed in a small town, on a small budget (under one million dollars). In this instance, the sleepy burgh of Ashton is in reality Lyons, NY. At least, that's where Slugs was filmed Stateside. Much of the movie (notably many interior scenes) was filmed in Madrid, Spain. The connection between these apparently arbitrary filming locations is production supervisor, Mrs. Larry Ann Evans. She had grown up in Lyons, and moved to Madrid to pursue a career in film with Spain-based Juan Piquer Simon, the film's writer and director. When Simon was looking for a location to film his adaptation of the novel, which Larry Ann had translated, she told him to look no further than Lyons, the home of her high school.
With its picturesque charm and "Anytown, USA" feel, I learned from Larry Ann that Lyons also aided in the production of the 1988 horror film, Lady in White. In fact, a scene from that movie was being shot in Lyons at the same time as a sequence from Slugs, on opposite sides of the street! Because of all this action, the little town of Lyons was unofficially known at one point as "the Hollywood of the East."
For years, my friend Luke and I talked about visiting Lyons. It's about an hour and a half from us, so it had long been of those "we can do that anytime" deals. A contributing writer for this website, Luke will shortly be making a long-term trip to Sweden, so last weekend we finally had a motivation to make the trek. My wife Adrienne joined the fray as our official photographer, as we drove my 1995 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor ever northward to our ultimate goal: the Museum of Wayne County History, where Mrs. Evans has served as executive director for the last ten years. (I would later trade the cruiser for a custom 1987 Cadillac hearse.)
I was seriously pumped for the whole thing. The previous night, Luke and I had a VHS viewing of Slugs (the same tape that's mentioned in my defunct video store tribute). The goal was to use the movie as a catalyst for a list of questions for Larry Ann. Luke suggested we up the ante by watching it on my console CRT Zenith television, so I hooked up my spare VCR to the beast. We had tracking issues, and at one point, the tape sounded like it was going to be eaten. It was a great time, and we came up with fifteen pretty solid inquires for Mrs. Evans. If you're not into analog, Slugs has been released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video, the same company that handled Miracle Mile.
The following morning, I woke up well before the alarm on my calculator watch went off.
On an eighty-five degree day, in a car with broken air conditioning, the trip seemed like a lot longer than ninety minutes. To compound things, I had slept terribly the night prior due to the sheer excitement of the pending excursion. Should you watch our featured videos, keep in mind that I'm not really at full capacity, mentally. (The actual percentage of my functioning brain will remain undisclosed.)
The trials and tribulations would all be worth it, as Larry Ann would be gracing us with first-hand knowledge of the production. Little did I know how much time and effort she would lavish on us: She ended up giving us a personal tour of the town in her black Fender Guitar-edition Volkswagen. She would also show us around the museum itself, which houses an unreal vintage jail, the site of a hanging! (The entire building is allegedly haunted, and Mrs. Evans reports that things routinely fall off of the walls. Had I known about this ahead of time, I would have brought my ghostbusting gear.)
When we first got to the museum, Larry Ann greeted us warmly, and wasted no time in getting to the good stuff. That list of fifteen questions? We never needed them. She just kept talking about the film, answering things we'd never dreamed of asking. For the most part, I just let her tell us stuff, knowing full well that I was partly out of it. Honestly, she made the whole process really easy.
Larry Ann had brought from home the original Spanish Slugs theatrical poster seen at the beginning of the article. Here she is with me (standing) and Luke. We're clearly basking in some serious Slugs excitement. In case you're legally blind, I arrived in style, wearing my The Stuff shirt. That film was released by New World Pictures, just like Slugs. I'd like to say this was a deliberate fashion statement on my part, but the truth is, I didn't realize it until Luke mentioned it. (Or maybe it was a subconscious decision. Let's go with that.)
One of the highlights of the trip was getting my trusty Slugs tape autographed by Larry Ann. The once-lowly $2.99 rental cassette has now transcended the movie collection, taking a place of prominence as a display piece.
As I mentioned, we rode in style as Mrs. Evans drove us around town to check out the current state of the film's various shooting locations. Only the diner had been torn down; the rest of Lyons seemed to be in a time warp. At one point, we ran into a local who came out of one of the featured houses. Larry Ann asked him if he'd seen any slugs around the place, as the non-native Spanish species have in fact been spotted in the town over the years. (Fifteen crates of slugs will do that.) When he replied he had not, she told him that if she came across any, she would bring one over to him. And I bet she would have. Larry Ann really is that cool.
In the film, the following residence is the home of main character Mike Brady (Michael Garfield). His garden is the site of one of the movie's most terrifying moments, in which a slug bears fangs and chomps on his finger (below)! I remember seeing this for the first time, and being really impressed at the effect: Larry Ann told us that it was achieved with an arm-sized finger (which she operated) and a giant puppet slug.
The movie's poodle-toting lady who lives at the below house was based on Larry Ann's aunt. In real life, Mrs. Evans resides at this address, just down the street from the "Brady home."
Ride along with us in a mercifully air-conditioned Bug (how appropriate), as we tour the filming locations of Slugs. Larry Ann even showed us the town drugstore, where a rare domestic interior scene was filmed, only to be deleted by the distributor for pacing purposes. I guess New World thought Slugs needed to move a little faster. (Insert rimshot here.)
Back at the museum, the fun continued with a grand tour of the old jail. Even though it's been out of service since 1960, the place was still sketchy... literally. The walls are covered with incredible pencil art from the prisoners. They probably had plenty of time to hone their craft.
To top it all off (pun intended), Larry Ann hooked me up with this great Slugs headwear. Could she have somehow had prior knowledge of my obsession with trucker hats? Of course not.
Later that same weekend, my wife decided to take up gardening. Maybe if she had seen the film with me and Luke, she would have felt differently. Immediately after installing her first... plant (I don't have a green thumb), what should show up? You guessed it:
Major thanks go out to Mrs. Larry Ann Evans for all of her help and time. We all had a blast visiting Lyons, otherwise known as "Slugsville." If you're ever in the area, drop on by the Wayne County Museum and pay her a visit. Just watch your step.
I'll leave you with the Slugs line that once made me laugh until it hurt.