SLIME CITY MASSACRE!
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: SLIME CITY MASSACRE (2010)
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A blasted-out housing project after a nuclear apocalypse. As L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA approach, they notice that there’s a banner strewn between two bent lampposts that reads, “WELCOME BACK.” A glowing, radioactive JOHN TRAVOLTA pops up from behind a street sign, dressed as Vinnie Barbarino and begins singing…)
TRAVOLTA: Bar – Bar – Bar . Bar-Bar-Barino
LS: No, no, it’s not that old TV show WELCOME BACK, KOTTER! This is Cinema Knife Fight.
LS: I’m not gonna play this game. Why don’t you go make some more awful movies so we can make fun of you in a future column.
MA: Actually, Travolta’s made some pretty good movies.
LS: Really? Let’s see. (Counts on one hand) PULP FICTION (1994), GET SHORTY (1995) and FACE/OFF (1997). That’s barely “some.”
MA: Ahh, the old Barbarino schtick! I used to love that.
LS: Figures. You probably loved Arnold Horshack, too.
MA: As much as I used to enjoy WELCOME BACK KOTTER, you do realize that nobody under the age of 30 is going to understand this joke.
LS: What about reruns? Besides, this is fun because it will piss off Greg Lamberson. I know he’s reading this right now wondering “When the hell are they going to review my movie!”
(LS throws TRAVOLTA in front of a passing car, getting splattered with blood)
LS: Don’t you start! We have a movie to review.
MA: Yes we do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be caught dead in SLIME CITY.
LS: You don’t like it here?
MA: It’s not bad, but it feels as if we were just here!
LS: That’s because we were, and the last time we were here was to review THE SLIME CITY GRINDHOUSE COLLECTION on DVD (Note: we originally reviewed this box set in August 2009 for Fear Zone, and it was republished here in February 2010). But that was a collection of movies director Gregory Lamberson made from 1988 to 1999 (and a video he did in 2007). This time, we’re here to see something brand new, SLIME CITY MASSACRE!
I’m not sure if SLIME CITY MASSACRE is going to get a proper release, but I hope so. Either way, it’s bound to come out on DVD at some point. And it has been making the rounds of several film festivals. It was just nice to have someone send us a screener disk, instead of having to pay for a movie ticket.
MA: Yes, it certainly was, and wouldn’t it be nice if it happened more often?
Why don’t you start this one and tell the fine people what SLIME CITY MASSACRE is about.
LS: Well, in the original SLIME CITY (1988), Robert C. Sabin, as a young guy named Alex, moved into an apartment building where the followers of alchemist Zachary Devon used Himalayan yogurt and weird-looking wine to control, and eventually possess, the bodies of young people, in order to live forever.
MA: The brightly colored yogurt looks like something conjured up on SESAME STREET. Had the stuff looked more like real yogurt, I would have found that scarier, but obviously that’s not the point here, to scare. We’re not talking serious horror here. We’re talking camp.
LS: This time we get to see more of Zachary Devon himself, in the past, as well as several people in the future, after a nuclear blast, trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world – who happen to stumble upon Zachary’s stash of weird edibles.
The 1950s scenes are shown as flashbacks in black and white, and this time Robert Sabin from the original movie is now portraying Zachary – a weird guy who runs a soup kitchen in the city and brings in stray people like Nicole (Brooke Lewis), a prostitute. Zachary is a kind of cult leader, and when he finds out that he is dying of cancer, he convinces his inner circle to commit suicide with him, thus setting the stage for them to “live forever” by possessing other people over the years who eat the yogurt and drink the wine.
Kind of like a strange unholy communion.
MA: With the emphasis on strange. These people are about as believable as SCOOBY DOO villains. I know, I know: camp.
But, if I were to find a way to live forever, this wouldn’t be it. They just become slime monsters and kill people. What kind of existence is that? It’s boring! If I could live forever, I’d be doing things, things I wouldn’t normally do, since I can live forever!
LS: Then, in the future, four people try to stay alive in a bombed-out housing project, much like the one we’re standing in now. One couple, Cory and Alexa (Kealan Patrick Burke and Jennifer Bihl), are looking for shelter from the streets. The other couple we focus on are Mason and Alice (Lee Perkins and Debbie Rochon), who live in the “abandoned” building that Cory and Alexa try to squat in. The four become allies and begin foraging for food together. When the two guys stumble upon Zachary’s now-abandoned cellar, they get more than they bargained for. Desperate for supplies, they bring back jars of neon-colored yogurt and bottles of Zachary’s “special elixir,” that looks like homemade wine. But this turns out to be a bad idea.
MA: You think?
LS: As we know from the original SLIME CITY, both of these things turn people into slime-oozing monsters who must kill to revert back to normal. Meanwhile, as they undergo their weird transformations, Zachary and his followers slowly get a foothold into the world of the living through them.
Hey, look what’s inside this dumpster! A jar of Himalayan yogurt. This one is bright purple! And it’s unopened.
MA: You’re not going to eat that stuff again, are you? Don’t you remember what happened to you last time you ate that?
LS: No. What happened?
(LS opens the lid and gulps down the yogurt)
MA: Is it just me? Or does anyone else out there think it might not be such a hot idea to eat stuff in jars that you have no idea what it is? Like the folks in the movie. It could be radioactive for all they know, yet they eat it. I realize they’re supposed to be starving (though they don’t look it at all) but I’m not sure I’d go the route of neon-colored goo, but then again, maybe I’m wrong. (LS burps and wipes purple yogurt from his mouth, chucking empty container into dumpster). Wow. You finished that quick.
LS: That’s because it’s yummy for your tummy – which you would know if you ever ate the stuff.
MA: I’ll stick to yogurt from the supermarket.
LS: I found a few aspects of this movie interesting. Like the link to the horror writer community. Director Lamberson is not only a filmmaker, he’s a novelist who has several books out (many of which are published by Medallion Books, who also helped produce this movie). But he hired a few writers as actors here, too. Kealan Patrick Burke plays Cory, one of the main characters, and Sephera Geron plays Zachary Devon’s wife, Ruby, in the flashback scenes. Burke, in particular, is actually pretty good for someone who is new to acting. Not that anyone here is Shakespearean trained, but it was interesting to see.
MA: I’ll go one step further. I thought one of the strengths of this movie were the performances by the four leads, and Burke in particular. Burke came off as a professional actor. He was really good. I thought he had the strongest performance in the movie.
LS: Yeah, Kealan rocks here.
Probably the most famous name in the credits, for a major role at least, is “scream queen” Debbie Rochon who plays Alice, and she turns in a good performance here. Lee Perkins, who plays Mason, has also got a lot of previous credits in mostly character roles, and he’s pretty good, too.
But my favorite was Jennifer Bihl as Alexa. I sympathized with her character the most.
MA: Yes, they were all excellent and really made the proceedings, which so often bordered on the ridiculous, enjoyable to watch.
LS: Like the original movie, there’s lots of multi-colored slime, and people walk around wrapped in bandages like the Invisible Man, to hide their oozing faces.
I liked parts of SLIME CITY MASSACRE, especially the future scenes. The scenes in the 1950s weren’t as good, and I never really bought that we’d gone back in time. Despite the black and white, people don’t seem to be wearing genuine 50s clothes or have the hairdos of the day. It just looks like modern-day people in black and white.
MA: Yes, I would agree with you here. These scenes really didn’t work all that well, for that very reason, they looked like modern-day scenes shot in black and white.
LS: And while it’s good to see Sabin here, (I really liked him in SLIME CITY), he’s not in this movie enough. Then again, I thought Zachary would be a much more sinister character.
MA: He’s in it TOO MUCH for me. I mean, Sabin’s OK, but the four leads deliver much stronger and much more believable performances. And you’re right, his Zachary is not scary at all.
LS: His co-star from the original, Mary Bogel (back in 1988, she was credited as Mary Huner), is in it as well. Even Lamberson regular Tommy Sweeny shows up (from UNDYING LOVE (1991) and NAKED FEAR (1999) as McBain, another soldier who meets a grisly end. I always thought Sweeny should have had a bigger acting career.
The production values seem to be a step up from Lamberson’s previous films, but a big “killer brain” scene toward the end – that pays homage to the original film – just didn’t look as cool this time around. I actually preferred the original brain scene! Sometimes low-budget horror is more effective, I guess.
MA: Yes, I would agree. The production values were much higher this time around, and SLIME CITY MASSACRE looks much better than the original. That being said, I agree that the killer brain scene toward the end was also kind of a letdown, though the little brains oozing around reminded me of the critters in the old 1958 chiller FIEND WITHOUT A FACE. I thought the brains in their bright neon colors looked rather silly, though.
LS: Really? I thought the creatures in FIEND WITHOUT A FACE were kinda scary for a 50s movie.
MA: Yes, they were scary, scarier than the ones in this movie. They just reminded me a bit of each other.
LS: The brain monsters in this movie were kinda “cute.”
MA: The whole movie wasn’t all that gruesome, either. While there were some gory scenes, I thought this one was a bit milder than I expected. Were you surprised there wasn’t more gore?
LS: I’m always looking forward to gore. And yeah, this one didn’t really deliver on that. There’s barely any nudity for most of the film, either – although Rochon solves that toward the end, at least. But it’s too little, too late.
There are also cameos by Lloyd Kaufman (of TROMA fame) playing himself in the beginning of the movie (He’s reading the newspaper and does a goofy reaction shot when the nuclear bomb goes off), and Roy Frumkes (the director of STREET TRASH) as an evil corporate guy who wants to wipe out the homeless people who are squatting on his property (Frumkes is actually pretty good!).
As characters get hooked on the slime stuff, it could have been an allegory for addiction, but it never gets that poignant. Overall, I’d hoped this movie would be more serious – and more dark – than it is. With a bigger budget, I was hoping Lamberson would roll up his sleeves and give us some bonafide horror. I wanted some real scares, but a lot of the characters are kind of goofy.
MA: There’s a lot of goofiness in this one. If you’re looking for something dark, this isn’t the movie for you. To me, the neon colors say it all. They’re happy colors, silly colors, colors you’d see on PBS kids’ shows. When all was said and done, I wasn’t feeling all that dark and depressed. I felt like eating birthday cake and ice cream, and singing “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison. I don’t think that was the intended effect.
Not that this kind of formula couldn’t be successful. Take THE BLOB (1958) for example, considered a classic science fiction movie. THE BLOB has silly special effects, a bright red giant globule of goo that looks horrendously fake, and an upbeat theme song by Burt Bacharach! But it was anchored by a young Steve McQueen, and it took itself seriously, and by the end of the movie, it didn’t matter that the blob looked like a massive jelly spill, it mattered that the believable characters in the movie were in danger, and we as an audience cared about that.
That’s one major flaw with SLIME CITY MASSACRE. I didn’t find myself caring all that much.
Plus, in THE BLOB, there was enough of a budget for the director to craft some creative scenes, like the “blob-in-the-movie-theater” bit. That scene really resonated.
SLIME CITY MASSACRE really doesn’t have anything like that going for it, there’s no scene here that really resonates and lifts it to another level. I will say though, that what happens to Alice in the bath tub was an interesting scene, and while I wasn’t blown away by it, I did like it. So, I’ll give credit where credit is due. The slime in the bath tub scene was a memorable image, but it wasn’t enough to save this movie.
LS: I like Rochon, and I liked that scene a lot. The face floating in the slime was cool, and what she eventually becomes is even cooler. (Eyes grow wide) Hey, look what I found in the dumpster while you were yammering! A copy of Zachary Devon’s book FLESH CONTROL which teaches you how to control your own flesh and possess the bodies of others!
MA: That thing is huge.
LS: That’s what she said.
MA: Hey, a joke that someone under 30 will get!
LS: Gotta stay contemporary. But do you really think anyone has ever read Zachary Devon’s book? It looks more like a door stopper.
MA: You could eat dinner off that thing.
MA: I like a lot of things that are fun, but I wouldn’t describe this movie as being all that fun. It was more like— eating a yogurt. When I eat yogurt, I enjoy it, but it’s not the same as eating, say, an ice cream sundae! It’s just not that exciting, nor all that fun! I feel the same way about this movie. It was just sort of there. If you like straight horror, then it’s certainly not scary enough, and if you like camp, I don’t think it’s campy enough.
I said this when we reviewed THE SLIME CITY GRINDHOUSE COLLECTION, but I liked Greg’s novel JOHNNY GRUESOME better than any of his movies. I hope that his next film project is a bit more like that novel, more serious and ambitious, and darker as well.
(LS wipes his forehead, which is covered in slimy purple ooze. His entire head is purple)
LS: It sure is hot out today.
MA: You’re turning into slime!
LS: Oh yeah. I forgot that’s what happens when you eat Himalayan yogurt.
MA: I told you not to eat it.
LS: And I’ve got a stomach ache!
MA: We better leave before you become a slime monster. See you next week, everyone!
© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(Correction: In the original post of this article, it was stated that Kealan Patrick Burke also starred in the short film, “Peekers.” However, this was wrong. He wrote the short story that film was based on, but he did not act in that one).