Slithis (1977)

It was my birthday. I was walking along the sidewalk on the north side of Chicago and noticed a creaky old indie video store off the beaten path. A sign in the window read, “Going Out Of Business Sale — Everything Must Go! Cheap!” Expecting the worst, I entered. Around the back of the store, on one of the last shelves, was something I wasn’t expecting — an entire wall, filled to the brim with 80s trash and horror films. And there, on the last shelf, was an original Media VHS of Slithis, which said:

“Finally, nature unleashes its revenge! Hell hath no fury — like Slithis!”

Obviously, I was well on my way to having the best birthday ever. But when I got home, I watched Slithis. And I was well on my way to having a mostly average best birthday ever.

When the toxicity of Los Angeles reaches alarming new heights, Slithis — a radioactive beastie who resembles a decayed watermelon — prowls the waterfronts of Venice Beach. Of course, many people are destroyed by Slithis’s gore-soaked carnage. The local high school journalism teacher (!!?) is hot on the monster’s heels, aided by an assortment of useless dopes. A racist scuba diver! An inebriated biologist that lives in a geodesic dome! A woman named Jeff! But of all these insane cohorts, true happiness arrives in the form of spastic bit-parter Hal Pyke (Hack-O-Lantern) as an angry police chief. There is also a ten minute scene between two hoboes discussing whether or not they’ve “crapped” their pants.

If Creature From The Black Lagoon was “updated” by those same hoboes on a quaalude binge, it might feel something like this movie. While there are welcome bits of gore and nonsensical tangents, Slithis is mostly filled with empty spaces. Here’s what not to do when you make a rubber monster movie: Add some talk. Add some more talk. Feature a group of characters who search for a soil sample for twenty minutes. Add more talk. Give the Slithis five minutes of screen time. Include a scene of competitive turtle racing at a local bar.

I’m bummed. Slithis was painfully slow, poorly composed, and lacking direction. To add even more disappointment, the film ran around 90 minutes (!). The ending was pretty exciting and the monster was a trash-classic, but it wasn’t enough to make the whole thing stick.

Audience members at original theatrical screenings of Slithis were handed the “Slithis Survival Kit,” which was a glorified ad for the “Slithis Fan Club.”

The fan club did not exist.

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