Slime City Grindhouse Collection:
Just a couple years after the last Slime City Special Edition comes this new, four-films-on-two-DVDs Grindhouse Collection. Packed with extras, this set should be the go-to for Slime City fans, but if you've already got the 2006 release, you'll need to carefully judge your need for a bunch of additional middling extras and two other Lamberson flicks.
Lensed in the waning days of grindhouse glory and not released until 1988, Slime City missed the boat in more ways than one. But for all its low-budget prurient passion, the feature has a lot going for it: it's put together with a level of skill and professionalism missing from most DIY gorefests. Still, reserving most splatter for final moments (thus less gory than some might hope) Slime City spends a lot of time on semi-coherent plot and romance, never really finding its proper tone. Roundly, it's a case of too little, too late, meaning the movie is more rightly remembered for its garish poster and perfect Variety blurb - 'Repulsive' - than for being a testament to insane, low-budget grue, until the last ten minutes, that is.
Alex (gamely played by Robert C. Sabin) is struggling in a new walk-up in New York. His girlfriend Lori (Mary Huner) doesn't seem to want to put out and his weird neighbors force-feed him chartreuse 'Himalayan Yogurt' which contains a few too many active cultures, if you get my drift. Yes, the yogurt turns Alex into a slime covered, decaying freak that can only control his mutations and rage by brutally murdering people. Lori ultimately can't really handle it, but sexpot neighbor Nicole (also played by Huner) is kind-of into it. Really though, viewers aren't into director Greg Lamberson's attempts at drama, no matter how decently put together they are. We want the gore!
If it's the red stuff you want, Slime City is a mixed bag. A suitably brutal brain bashing and comic arm-chomp ala Carpenter's The Thing liven up the first hour, but like horror movies of old, all the good stuff is saved 'til the end. It's old-school good stuff with a pus-like yellow emphasis, as [Spoiler Alert!!] Lori hacks and slashes Alex to bits with his own bargain basement cutlery. Juices spurt and brains crawl in this ode to offal, even though none of it is even remotely realistic. This slime-soaked finale is still a lot of fun, but not necessarily worth the price of admission, considering the amount of earnest yet truly dorky plot-points, half-baked comedy, and other fillers making Slime City (in this edited director's cut version) a movie only a stoner could truly love.
Undying Love either represents Lamberson's sophomore slump or a disturbing trend. Actually more slickly put-together than Slime City, this love potion fails on most other counts, not the least of which is the count that says Counts (as in Dracula) have been played out since 1940 (and I don't care what you Twilight fans have to say). Tommy Sweeney plays suicidal loner Scott Kelly, a black trench coat-wearing misanthrope who'll go to your party, insult you, demand a beer, then stand sullenly in the corner glaring at people. (The fact that this was my M.O. exactly while in high school leads me to be a bit forgiving.) Anyway, Kelly gets a break when a tramp significantly named Carmilla takes a fancy to him.
The problem is, this leads to some lame-o neck bites and wack-ass, ultra soft-core vampire BS nookie featuring two dumbass vampires. (I apologize for my overuse of the 'ass suffix', it's just what this movie requires.) Undying Love blends Sweeney's intense-but-stilted performance with loads of amateur acting and aesthetics (giving Lamberson a break, however, since he had zero budget) to create a movie that's the vampire equivalent of a poor Saturday afternoon TV feature. One hopes for a lively cooking gadget infomercial to ultimately take the edge off of Undying Love.
Naked Fear (not to be confused with the recent Joe Mantegna thriller) takes an amusing concept - agoraphobic Camden (Robert C. Sabin again) takes in a roommate, Randy, (Tommy Sweeney again) a claustrophobic dude with a penchant for killing. However, this (you gotta be) high concept devolves into what I would term a pile of something-or-other, with both Sabin and Sweeney seemingly losing acting brain cells as they go along. Perhaps it's the one apartment, shot-on-video aesthetic, or the fact that Sabin and Sweeney seem to be simply enjoying a little fun rather than getting deeply into their characters, but this thriller, though decently put together, comes up short of thrilling.
All features on these two discs come in the IAR (intended aspect ratio) of 1.78:1, perfect for your 16 x 9 television screen, and in particular rendering Slime City framed the way it was meant to be. Of course, low budgets show through brightly, with some film grain here, scratches there, soft imagery all around, (except for the shot-on-video Naked Fear) and muted colors, plus a weird green glow on the left side of the screen during the entirety of Naked Fear. Cult fans and seekers of the rare should expect these deficiencies - they're not disturbing or distracting - and enjoy the presentations for what they boast, lack of compression artifacts.
Digital Stereo is adequate in all cases except for the Slime City Commentary Track, in which movie audio competes with commentary. Otherwise, expect an OK bunch of audio, with dialog always clear and up front enough to understand, even when room sound makes it echo-filled, and music balanced accordingly. None of these features are here to create delight in the audiophile's world, but they won't aggravate the casual listener either.
Extras? We got 'em! Almost too many to adequately comment on. Though one might consider additional features Undying Love and Naked Fear as extras themselves, we'll relegate the fourth 'movie', the 9-minute short Johnny Gruesome to true extra status. This Misty Mundae vehicle finds the lusty lass's rocker boyfriend gone but not off his feet, and intent on righting a few wrongs. It's standard zombie fare with that hip retro-rocker twist, some cornball songs on the soundtrack and not much else.
But what else is there, you ask? Well, in this standard keepcase with flipper and slipcover, you'll also find a collectible Full Color Slime City Mini Poster, three page Liner Notes by Document of the Dead director Roy Frumkes, and much more. How about Commentary Tracks for all three feature-length movies? OK, so the Slime City commentary (and the others to a lesser extent) suffers from the fact that audio from the movie is way louder than it should be, competing with the commentary, and the other commentaries also suffer from 'room sound' as well, making them not optimal, but what are you gonna do? The commentaries are lively and tangent-laden, including Lamberson, Sabin, Sweeney and Huner when appropriate, and are in some cases more entertaining than the movies themselves. Plus, get ready for a number of about ten-minute-long featurettes and interviews, including the Making Slime Mini-Doc (also on the 2006 release) with archival shots and goodies, a Slime Heads interview with Sabin and Huner that bucks the time-trend, clocking in at over 40 minutes (possibly too much of an OK thing?) and the Making Love the Grindhouse Way mini-doc, with more Lamberson reminiscences. Johnny Gruesome gets the Meeting His Maker mini-doc, too, to round out this full load of extras.
Slime City represents the last gasp of gore-for-gore's sake low-budget 1980's movie making, and as such has some delightful hack and ooze amongst plenty of semi-painful exposition. Additional features Undying Love and Naked Fear seem to display diminishing returns. This two-disc Grindhouse Collection certainly lays on the extras, and at about 25 bucks, Slime City fans who don't have this in their collection should pick it up, but if you've got the 2006 release you'll need to think carefully before engaging in the double dip. That said, fans of dorky horror who can't get enough of obviously fake dismembered torsos spewing yellow goo can consider this release tentatively Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com