'Slime City Massacre' - DVD Review


When we say Greg Lamberson wrote the book on low-budget horror filmmaking, we mean it literally, and he's got the book to prove it. Back in 2009, Cheap Scares not only offered a lot of hard-earned advice from the hard-knocks school of DIY film production, but also gave readers a funny and fascinating look at the making of his 1988 cult classic Slime City. In the years since that film sprang up on the midnight-movie circuit, Lamberson has ventured deep into horror fiction, comics and other media, and the movie finally got a cool remastered DVD release in 2006. Rumors of a Slime City sequel buzzed around the horror community for ages – eventually becoming reality last year, when Slime City Massacre began making the film-fest circuit to favorable reviews.

This summer, Massacre arrived on DVD in a Special Edition 2-disc set from Shriek Show, and we've got a full review of this splatter micro-epic on the flipside. Slime on!

Where the original Slime City was grimy, surreal splatstick, the sequel is a more ambitious science fiction/horror reboot, set in a near-future dystopia. Besides the slime itself, most of the original movie's strengths – macabre humor, social commentary, bizarre sex and hallucinogenic visuals – not only carry over to the broader new story, but get amped up to a literally apocalyptic level.

The film's prologue is set in the late '50s, where cult leader Zachary Devon (Robert C. Sabin, star of the original) introduces a young prostitute to his close-knit urban community, whose nefarious activities touched off the events of the first film. Suddenly we rocket ahead fifty years, long enough to witness a dirty bomb wipe out half of New York City (including Troma mogul Lloyd Kaufman). The central story begins seven years after the disaster, where the resulting wasteland is now populated by mutants, roaming scavengers and criminals seeking refuge. It's also hinted that the rest of the country is now under the grip of a corporate paramilitary government... another of many elements reminiscent of John Carpenter's Escape from New York.

Among the recent arrivals are fugitives Cory and Alexa (Kealan Patrick Burke & Jennifer Bihl), who are taken in by Mason (Lee Perkins) and Alice (cult horror fave Debbie Rochon), the rough and street-smart leaders of one of the city's few reasonably settled areas. Our heroes' new home is soon disrupted, however, after they discover a cache of homemade booze and "Himalayan yogurt" left in a basement by Zachary Devon more than half a century ago; apparently their desperation and hunger has left them with the common sense of a four-year old, because they immediately pop open the creepy-looking stuff and go to town.

That's where things take a hard left turn into wacky-land, when we learn that the contents of their little picnic are hallucinogenic, trigger physical mutations, and make them horny as feral cats... and they get their freak on in more ways than one when multi-colored slime begins to ooze out of their pores. As the parallel story of Devon's "coven" (depicted in black & white flashbacks) and the plight of our protagonists catch up to each other, we begin to discover the connection between the cult's mass suicide and the ability of Devon's elixir to possess the minds of those who ingest it. When things start to get seriously nasty, only a mysterious stranger named Swan (Mary Hunter Bogle, reprising her role from the original), knows how to stop the slime plague from spreading to the entire world.

Lamberson's writing skills and dark sense of humor really come into play here, taking full advantage of the dystopian premise to fire some clever pot-shots at world events. Props like duct tape and garbage bags, once the stuff of post-9/11 paranoia, are transformed into post-nuke couture, and the mercenary armies patrolling the streets purposely resemble the private security firm Blackwater. The satirical moments are far more refined than they would be in, say, a Troma flick, but the horror elements are as outrageous as they come, on par with the perverse visions of Frank Henenlotter (the "decapitation by giant vagina" scene could have come straight from Frank's Bad Biology) and 1987 exploitation fave Street Trash.

The grim premise is also enhanced by the location – mainly an abandoned factory in Buffalo, its dark corners often lit a sickly radioactive green. The practical makeup effects, which drive the film's most outrageous scenes (and there are many), are well-executed and very clever considering the budget limitations, and as in the original film, the surreal scenario allows Lamberson and his FX crew to create some seriously outlandish set-pieces. The use of CGI is fairly limited – which is probably for the best, because it tends to look a bit clunky.

Gore and slime aside, it's also the well-crafted characters that keep things interesting. Most of the performances are strong – particularly Rochon, whose portrayal of recovered addict Alice is compelling to watch. Sabin's fatherly take on the cult leader is also interesting, and Bogle gets a much cooler dimension to her character this time around. The supporting roles are also solid and entertaining, particularly Robert Bozek as the city's incredibly sleazy "Mayor," and there's a fun cameo from filmmaker Roy Frumkes (Document of the Dead) as a crooked land developer aiming to exploit Slime City property.

Shriek Show's presentation is also solid, containing the main feature on Disc 1 in 1.78:1 widescreen and Dolby 2.0. The picture is pristine and the audio is decent, punctuated by lots of loud and squishy sound effects. The disc also includes an energetic, anecdote-packed commentary from Lamberson and most of the main cast, as well as makeup effects artist Rod Durick. Disc 2 features the documentary features Slime City Survivor (basically an on-set video journal, but with some very funny moments) and Scoring Slime, a session with the film's composer Mars (whose '80s-flavored music also accompanied Stephen Romano's Shock Festival DVD set). Other extras include outtakes and bloopers, trailers and stills.

It's a pleasure to see Lamberson back on feature-film turf again, exploring his familiar themes on a larger scale thanks to the relative affordability of digital video. Slime City Massacre is a wild, ballsy sequel that makes good on the promise of the original, and it's well worth watching on the small or big screen. Speaking of which... hopefully a planned series of theatrical showings this year via IndieFilmNet (part of their "Cinema Meets Horror" series) will introduce a new generation of horror fans and filmmakers to Greg's work on a grand scale, and bring a little midnight-movie nostalgia along for those of us who dig the old-school spirit of classic '80s indie horror.

Check out the trailer below...