Monday, October 15, 2007

The October Ordeal day 14: Slime City

October 14th: Slime City (1988)

Of all the low-budget trash horror flicks (and I’m talking low) of the 80s, the cheapo gore fests filmed in New York City seem to have the most life. When you watch a film shot in who-knows-where with a cast of eight and only two or three sets, it seems fake, the budget limitations obvious. Something about this same strategy works if the film is set in a big city however; it’s somehow believable that in a city so large and dense a gruesome scenario could play out behind closed doors without anybody noticing. We get that it’s a big city, so instead of wondering where everybody is, we are simply unsettled by the fact that a character in a place so packed could be so isolated. Yesterday I reviewed Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker, a gory flick placed in NYC. His earlier picture Brain Damage benefits further from this quality. The director of Slime City, Greg Lamberson, is credited as first AD of Brain Damage, so these two films share more than just the same aesthetic, they share the same DNA.

Shameless sleaze-merchants Camp Video can actually count Slime City as one of their higher-budget releases, if you can believe that. Camp’s recent DVD releases (mostly of SOV obscurities) claim “The Awesome 80s are Back!” Well, back in the VHS days, their logo read “Your Ticket to the Future.” Whether Camp looks forward or backward depends on the market I guess. Whatever the case, Camp knew their target in ‘88: the box boasts “A horror film with guts!”

The guts in question belong to our man Alex (Robert C. Sabin, fresh off the no-budget I Was a Teenage Zombie), a starving artist who works at a video store (see also: Night Vision, Remote Control, Video Violence). Alex may be an underground painter, but he acts like a typical frat boy. This is the type of character you only find in horror and soft-core porn. Alex’s major dilemma in life is that his square girlfriend Nichole (Mary Huner) won’t have sex with him. T.J. Merrick plays his stock best friend Jerry, a creep who drools over Alex’s goth neighbor Lori (arbitrarily also played by Huner).

Alex has just moved into a new apartment, a decent room in a decaying building. Roman (Dennis Embry), an unhinged guy from the floor just below, initiates him into a black magick cult by feeding him green yogurt and putrid wine, which all the tenants consume. The confusing origin of the cult involves alchemy, suicide pacts, murder and reincarnation. Soon after, Alex becomes addicted to the slime, and unless he murders bums and prostitutes, his face will melt. Doesn’t make sense, but allows for some interesting sequences. Alex goes through the same sort of bodily ordeal seen in Henenlotter’s films, or Cronenberg’s, a clear influence on the entire gore crowd (there’s even a handful of obligatory bathroom mirror scenes). As Alex becomes more and more addicted to the slime and the subsequent killing, he feels alienated from his friends, even though he’s reluctant to commit fully to the cult living all around him.

In the final scene, it’s a face-off (can I say it? Literally) between Alex in full-on melt mode and Nichole, who causes all kinds of harm to Alex using various kitchen appliances. This effects-heavy scene is what has gained Slime City its minor notoriety. Yet, as with Henenlotter’s films, the gore here is not what interests me. This is a fun, trashy flick which confidently allows its aesthetics to be the substance. The riff-raff populating the film create an idealized NYC; this is a love letter to scum. The crumbling buildings, drug addicts and prostitutes here seem to represent an era that maybe shouldn’t have been idealized, but nevertheless was and is. In such a cinematic environment, a mobile brain escaping from a severed head seems slightly less weird.
Special attention must be paid to Slime City’s fantastic score. Robert Tomaro’s original songs sound like something from a Messthetics compilation, and remind me specifically of the L.A. synth-punk bands, especially Nervous Gender and the Screamers. Synth and piano dominate, but jagged edges of surf, dub, jazz and minimalism jut out as well. While New York’s rich underground history has been well-mined, the trash-synth soundtracks to many NY underground gore flicks have yet to be revisited.


Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for the SLIME CITY review. FYI, A re-mastered soundtrack of Rob Tomaro's score is available through my website, And we shoot SLIME CITY MASSACRE this July.

Gregory Joseph Tessier said...

Mr. Lamberson I presume? If so, it's really great you found my review. While I am critical of aspects of the film, I really do like it, and it has really stayed with me. I can't wait to check out the sequel!

Greg Lamberson said...

Oh, it deserves to be criticized! For many years I couldn't even watch it, but I like it now that it's been letterboxed for DVD. We made this announcement today:

Cameras will roll on SLIME CITY MASSACRE, writer-director Gregory Lamberson’s sequel to his 1988 splatter film SLIME CITY, in Buffalo, New York, this July. The film is being produced by Marc Makowski, who co-produced the original.

SLIME CITY MASSACRE serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the original cult film. Flashbacks set in 1959 show how cult leader Zachary Devon formed his Coven of Flesh, and why its members committed ritual suicide, setting the stage for the events depicted in SLIME CITY. In the new film’s main narrative, set in a post holocaust New York City, four survivors discover Zachary’s elixir and “Himalayan yogurt” in the ruins of his soup kitchen and become possessed by the spirits of the dead cult members. The story focuses on a battle between three factions for control of midtown Manhattan: the“Slime Heads,” cannibals and mercenaries.

Popular actress and FANGORIA Radio hostess Debbie Rochon, award-winning horror author Kealan Patrick Burke, and newcomer Jennifer Bihl (who appeared in Lamberson’s short film GRUESOME) join SLIME CITY stars Robert C. Sabin and Mary Bogle for this new chapter in the slime saga. Other parts will be played by scream queen Brooke Lewis, erotic/horror author and tarot card reader Sephera Giron, and Tommy Sweeney, who starred in Lamberson’s UNDYING LOVE and co-starred in NAKED FEAR.

“It’s a much more ambitious project than any of my previous films,” says Lamberson, who anticipates completing the film for a 2010 release. “It’s full of action and really outrageous, over the top gore sequences, as you would expect from any film aimed at fans of 1980s horror flicks.”

The film will utilize old school latex special make-up effects and cutting edge digital work. Special make-up effects will be handled by Craig Lindberg in New York City and Zombified Studios in Buffalo, with R.J. Sevin, one of the founders of Creeping Hemlock Press, creating the digital effects.

Last year, Medallion Press and Bad Moon Books published Lamberson’s novel Johnny Gruesome and McFarland published his nonfiction book CHEAP SCARES! Low Budget Horror Filmmakers Share Their Secrets. This October, Medallion Press is reprinting his first novel, Personal Demons, as a mass market paperback.


Greg Lamberson’s website: