There must have been something in the air in New York in the 80s that inspired a ton of underground, micro-budget directors to emerge and create a lot of entertaining cinema. Combat Shock, Street Trash, Basket Case and to a lesser-extent The Toxic Avenger (since it was mostly shot in Jersey; close enough I say!) all embodied the sort of rebellious, punk spirit that was rampant in New York at the time. One film that you don’t often hear mentioned among with these grimy urban gems but is equally worthy of inclusion is Greg Lamberson’s Slime City. Maybe it’s because it came along last, maybe it’s because it’s not quite as good as the others, maybe it’s just bad luck; regardless of why, it’s time to rectify that as Slime City is well worth checking out.
The new apartment Alex has moved into is indeed too good to be true. While the rent is low and it’s close to whire his fiancée lives so they aren't far apart, the other tenants are a bit weird, and for good reason: they’re all possessed by dead members of a cult, their bodies serving only as mere husks. Alex has been pegged as the vessel for the leader of the cult, and once he ingests some foreign goop and weird liquor, the transformation begins. Alex starts to melt, and not only that begins having homicidal tendencies. The only thing that seems to quell the melting is murder, which makes it a much more appealing proposition. He’s well aware of his predicament and attempts to fight off the evil as well as cut ties with his girl and best friend. Alex is fighting a losing battle however, and when those closest to him refuse to stay away, they unwittingly put their livelihood in danger.
If you’re looking for a polished, refined piece of cinema, then you need to look in the opposite direction of Slime City. If however you’re a fan of the aforementioned cult classics and enjoy bad films where it’s apparent everyone involved was having a great time and were utterly committed to its creation, then Slime City is definitely for you. While it may not have the best acting, editing, story, or pace, the enthusiasm with which the film was made oozes from every scene...literally.
Slime City makes good on its title, as it’s filled to the brim with gooey, sticky nastiness. The effects on display are without a doubt the film’s strongest asset, and a lot of care was put into making them as over-the-top as possible to compensate for the obvious lack of realism. Green goo and jelly fly around the frame furiously and it’s quite neat to watch a guy basically melting away to nothingness. The effects aren’t a one trick pony either though. There’s a lot of red stuff flying around as well, not to mention carnivorous stomach cavities and severed heads. It’s all tongue-in-cheek, but damn is it ever entertaining. Stuff like this makes me pine away for the glory days when film creators got their hands dirty rather than sitting behind an animation suite on their Mac.
The acting is pretty flat overall, but I’m sure you’re not going into Slime City looking for an actor’s showcase. The bit actors are the worse offenders, which isn’t surprising although they do add a nice layer of unintentional hilarity to the film. Watching an Asian hooker have her face slashed while replying “You bastard!” with absolutely no emotion makes for a good laugh. Robert Sabin is decent in the lead as Alex, but the real star here is Mary Huner, who not only plays Alex’s virginal fiancée Lori, but also his seductive neighbor Nicole by donning a Julie Strain-esque black wig and leather dominatrix gear. Huner does so well juggling the two characters and offering up completely different performances that I had no idea she played both roles until I watched the making of featurette on the DVD!
The film’s biggest flaw is its story. The entire possession idea feels underdeveloped, especially considering that we’re never really told why the possessing spirit makes their host start to melt until the process is complete. The green pudding that’s ingested to begin the possession process is said to be ectoplasm, but it doesn’t make sense why it would then ooze back out if it’s needed for the ritual in the first place. There’s lots of little idiosyncrasies in the plot that will leave you scratching your head too, wondering to yourself who thought they were good ideas. One of the biggest is after Alex kills his second victim he chops her up and puts her out front for the garbage. I know New York wasn’t the poster child for law enforcement in the 80s, but no one noticing a dead body out front is damn hard to believe, even in a film where a guy is melting! I’d also love to know why he suddenly develops a gaping, flesh-eating mouth in his stomach, but I guess it being “cool” will have to suffice for an explanation.
Even with all of its flaws, Slime City is still a thoroughly entertaining heap of oozing schlock that any fans of Troma or Frank Henenlotter should appreciate. The effects alone make it worth your while, and will remind you of the good old days when horror filmmaking was about passion and a love for the genre instead of just making a quick buck.
Slime City is the main attraction on Shock-O-Rama’s recently released Slime City Grindhouse Collection, which is basically a Greg Lamberson collection considering it contains all of his films up until this point. This review is only for Slime City, and comments on the quality of the other films and their specific extras will be included in their individual reviews. Slime City is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks pretty solid. It’s not going to win an AV awards, but the grimy look of the 16mm print lends itself well to the film’s tone and there’s minimal print damage. Audio is available in Dolby Digital 2.0 and sounds a tad hollow, but all of the dialogue is easy to make out.
Extras include an audio commentary with Lamberson and star Robert Sabin, with both of them reminiscing about the good times and relaying some fun stories about the production. A moderator would have been nice, since there’s a good amount of dead air in the conversation, but when they are speaking it’s generally entertaining. Next up is a brand-new 45-minute interview with Robert Sabin and Mary Huner entitled “Slime Heads”. The two seem really loose talking with one another and have nothing but fond memories about their participation in the film. Also included is a short making of that runs about 8 minutes which contains still images as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the make-up and gore FX with a voice-over from Lamberson to accompany it all. The extras are rounded out with a Shock-O-Rama trailer reel, liner notes courtesy of Roy Frumkes, and a mini-poster for the Slime City Film Festival. It’s really impressive to see a film like this get such an in-depth treatment. Kudos to Shock-O-Rama!
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