Hardware – Slugs: The Movie – tape 1359

First up on this tape, Hardware, the feature debut by director Richard Stanley, which has a very brief introduction by Stanley and actor Stacey Travis.

Firstly, I was just talking in the last entry about Palace Pictures, and this film was part-funded by Palace, as well as the ill-fated British Satellite Broadcasting, the original UK satellite company that couldn’t compete with Sky TV and eventually got consumed by them.

Hardware Production Credit

Bob and Harvey Weinstein are Co-Executive Producers, although it wasn’t under the Miramax name.

The film opens with a bible quotation. “No flesh shall be spared” from Mark 13. This is, as we will discover later, a pun.

The titles run over shots of a desert, heavily tinted red. Stanley comes from South Africa, but this opening scene was shot in Morocco.

Strange Desert Man

The expansive opening is a quite clever way to make the audience think the scale of the film is bigger than it is. The rest of it was shot, I believe, in the Roundhouse, and is a bit smaller.

Our masked scavenger unearths something in the sand. Something with eyes.

Eyes in the Sand

The action moves to some kind of city, with Iggy Pop blaring from the radio as DJ Angry Bob, warning the population of the dangers of going out in the sun. We’re in some sort of post-nuclear dystopia.

John Lynch is trying to persuade Dylan McDermott to go to New York, a shangri-la for scavengers. They rock up at a scrap merchant’s, just as the nomad from the opening appears with the stuff he found in a bag.

McDermott likes the stuff, and pays him for it. Lynch asks who it was. “Zone Tripper” replies McDermott. A little close to “Zone Trooper” from 2000AD perhaps? When this film was released, a strong similarity was noticed between its story and a 2000AD story called Shok! by Steven McManus and Kevin O’Neill, and publisher Fleetway sued the film’s makers, and got  credit added at the end.

Lemmy from Motorhead makes a brief appearance as a taxi driver.

Lemmy

A lot of the computer sound effects in this film sound like they’re straight from a BBC Micro. Stacey Travis’ door camera beeps like a Beeb starting up.

Dylan McDermott

Travis is an artist who specialises in sculptures made from scavenged scrap. She and McDermott are sort of together (when he’s not off for weeks scavenging) and he gives her a gift of the bits he bought from the Nomad. And as the two of them have a bit of make-up sex, the head found in the sand starts waking up.

It’s not the only thing watching them, either. Next door neighbour William Hootkins (Porkins from Star Wars, and “Top Men” from Raiders) has a camera in her bedroom, and he’s watching tem. He’s repulsively creepy in this.

Mac McDonald from Red Dwarf plays a newsreader.

Mac McDonald

Travis paints the head and makes it the centrepiece of a piece of artwork.

Alvy, the scrap dealer who bought the mechanical hand that was part of the nomad’s find has been researching it, and uncovered a lot of classified documents about the Mark 13 project.

This tape is suffering from a poor recorded soundtrack. Some of my tapes have Hi-Fi sound which crackles, but this one frequently drops into linear Mono sound, making it quite difficult to listen to.

Anyway, McDermott and Travis have a brief argument about him going out to work again, then he leaves. Creeper Hootkins takes the opportunity to phone her up and harrass her on the phone, because presumably in this post-apocalyptic nightmare, the internet no longer exists for him to harrass and abuse women.

And while she sleeps, the Mark 13 reassembles itself out of the hardware in the sculpture, then tries to attack Travis.

She fends it off, but her door lock is malfunctioning. Hootkins turns up as the good neighbour, although his people skills are sub par.

William Hootkins and Stacey Travis

But he’s soon skewered by the Mark 13 in fine style – although the film’s “all red all the time” colour grade means that the impact of the effects is somewhat diminished, especially in this very hazy VHS recording.

Stacey is stalked a bit more, works out the thing is using infra red to see her, so she gets into the fridge. Yes, she fridges herself. But remember kids, don’t try that at home, only professionals like Stacey and Indiana Jones are allowed to perform such dangerous stunts.

The film also flirts with a scene that’s almost as bad as the tree scene in The Evil Dead but doesn’t carry it through.

She almost kills it by blowing up her kitchen, but it comes back. Then McDermott turns up with friends and guns, blow it out of the window. But it comes back and grabs Travis, so she falls and grabs onto a power line, so he can’t grab her to save her, and she ends up swinging into the apartment of the nice Japanese couple underneath her.

Then it comes back again to fight McDermott, and sticks him with drugs before he shoots it again, so he’s lying there raving, then Travis comes back with some help, but the door’s malfunctioning so one of them gets caught in the door and chopped in half, so it’s just Travis and a baseball bat.

But she hacks into Mark 13’s system, and it handily tells her all about its biggest defect, its susceptibility to moisture. So she lures it into the shower and finishes it off.

I’ll be honest and say that, although I quite admire Hardware, mostly for its ambitions, I think it’s a bit unbalanced, having most of its action all crammed in at the end, so the first half feels very slow, and the characters are so underwritten they might just as well have no dialogue at all. Also, I’m not a fan of the monochrome red colour palette, which makes everything look blurry.

I do think it’s a shame Stanley’s subsequent film career stalled so badly when he was fired from his remake of The Island of Dr Moreau. He might have been a major genre talent.

After this, a slightly more obscure horror film.

A couple are fishing on a lake. She wants to go swimming, but he advises against it. “We passed a sewer outlet on the way here.”

She gets as far as taking her skirt off before he’s suddenly pulled into the water by something. She just stands in the boat complaining. “Would you just stop kidding around.” This is despite him waving frantically from underwater, then totally disappearing from view. I thought she wanted to swim. “If you don’t stop I’m just going to row away.” She only knows something has gone wrong when a fountain of blood starts bubbling to the surface.

This is Slugs The Movie, based on the novel Slugs by cut-price Garth Merenghi, Shaun Hutson. There are few familiar names in the credits – only music by Tim Souster, who once recorded a very good version of the theme to the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Journey of the Sorceror.

(That was the single that had Disaster Area’s ‘It’s Only the End of the World Again’ on the other side.)

Anyway, back to the film. An old drunk man walking his dog is almost run over by some teenagers in a car. Then he gets home, but his dog won’t go in, and is making a very distressed sounding noise – I hope no cruelty was involved.

He’s received a final eviction notice, and his only light is gas lanterns. As he goes around the house, the camera keeps cutting to a lot of slugs writhing around, but with no context to tell us where they are, so it’s a poor way to build tension. Then he lies down on his couch and suddenly starts writhing and shouting “No, No” so I’m assuming the slugs have got him. Not that we see how.

We then cut to two couples not having a good time in a bar, until one couple leaves, Mike and Kim, and they bump into Maria and Don. Don’s the county sanitation supervisor. Don’t wife isn’t the most tactful. “Good to meet you. Funny, but you don’t look anything like a Wicked Bitch of the North to me.”

Don and Maria

But she explains – she’s the mother of two kids that Kim teaches.

Later, as Mike and Kim smooch goodnight, there’s ominous music as some slugs crawl around on their window.

Having mentioned the music, there’s a very strange scene next, as Mike meets with the sheriff, on their way to evict a drunk. The music for this short scene sounds as if it’s the theme music to a local news show. Very odd.

When they get to the house, the tenant isn’t in a good way.

Dead Drunk

“The coroner said his liver, kidneys and heart are all gone too” says a deputy to the sheriff.

Mike is called to a woman complaining that her local sewer is making a stink, and when he arrives he finds Don, the health inspector. Don dons his hazard suit and goes down to check the sewer. Mike doesn’t take up his offer of a spare suit.

he roots around in a sewer pipe for a while, pulls out some unrecognisable blobs of something, then his sewer tongs get grabbed out of his hands, so he sensibly leaves quickly.

We cut to Mike’s wife’s English class. “So how do you think Romeo and Juliet could have solved their problems?” “Well I think they should have talked to their parents about it” says one girl, missing the whole point of the play, I think.

The writers are clearly very proud of their ‘wicked bitch’ line, as the kids use it again in conversation.

The kids are discussing how the old drunk dies. “It was the goat killer” says one.

An older couple are tending to their greenhouse. “Harold, what are these?” “Slugs’ eggs.” These lines are very poorly overdubbed, like a bad Italian Giallo.

A woman comes home with shopping, puts the lettuce into the sink, then goes to have some wine, and the lettuce moves ominously in the sink. Later, she and her husband have salad, and his digestion is a bit upset.

The old guy doing the greenhouse puts on a gardening glove with a slug in it. “Something’s biting my hand” his looped voice says as he thrashes about, tries to use shears to cut open the glove, and pulls a row of shelving on top of him. His wife can’t hear him call for her as she’s hoovering, and he remarkably quickly picks up an axe to hack his hand off. His wife hears him, runs to help him, and then the greenhouse explodes.

Exploding Greenhouse

Kim tells Mike about the couple having died – news travels fast here. “They were nice people. I liked them a lot” says Mike.

Then he finds slugs in the garden. “I saw the biggest slug in the world right before you got home.” “Jesus Christ those things are big.” “I told you they were big.” “They’re gigantic!” All this dialogue presumably in lieu of actually showing us how big they are. All we’ve seen so far is close-ups of regular slugs, with nothing to gauge scale.

Then one of them bites Mike’s finger. This is the best effects shot of the whole film.

A Slug Bit My Finger

I wish we’d had more of the slug with the mouth and fangs. Maybe he should have talked too.

Mike and Kim have a clever English friend, who’s an expert in slugs, probably.

 

A teenage couple are messing around while the girl’s parentsClever English Guy are out. He’s a bit of an arse, so I’m glad when a slug bites him on the foot. But she doesn’t really deserve it when she falls naked onto a floor covered with them.

Mike is called to the house where their bodies were found. The Sheriff is the rudest sheriff I’ve ever seen. But then much of the dialogue in this film is people being rude to co-workers. Even Mike does it to his secretary.

The man who ate the slug salad earlier is pitching for a big business deal at a restaurant. But he takes a turn for the worst.

Slug Salad repeating on him

Armed with all this new information, Clever English Guy tells them that it is indeed killer slugs they’re dealing with. Mike gets a call from his wife and has to rush home to kill some slugs in the sink with a frying pan. It’s this kind of gritty action scene that’s the hallmark of a good film.

Frying Pan

Mike tries to get the town’s water supply shut down, to keep the slugs in the sewers – not sure that’s quite how things work – but the man in charge won’t pay any attention to him – probably because Mike’s being rude to him again. But never mind, he’s got slugs in his toilet, so he’s dead soon.

The mayor also won’t listen,. because he’s trying to get a company to sign a deal for a new supermarket on the part of the town where the slugs are breeding. So it’s up to Mike, Don and the English guy, who’s concocted a formula that will make the slugs explode. So they just have to lure all the slugs into one place.

There’s some random teenagers doing random teenage things, like one boy accusing a girl of playing mind games because she won’t let him put his hand in her pants, and another putting on a Halloween mask then attacking the same girl and trying to molest her. And as if the gorl didn’t have enough troubles, she runs away and falls into the sewer. It sounded like she might have been eaten by slugs, but with the sloppy way this movie is directed, it’s hard to tell.

Mike and Don find the slugs, but “It’s worse than I thought” so they run away, but not before cutting an electrical cable and electrocuting them.

They find the slugs’ breeding ground, and radio to the English guy to send his formula through the manhole – but he’s interrupted by the angry sheriff. Don gets knocked into the pool of slugs by a jet of water, and despite Mike’s best efforts, he doesn’t make it.

Don Gets Slugged

Mike gets out, and he and English Guy pour the liquid down to the breeding ground, where it does, immediately, make them explode, and the fire spreads throughout the sewers of the town, causing manholes to explode,

Exploding manholes

I have to admit, the explosions are impressive, and the gore effects are more impressive than anything in Friday 13th part 8.

So it’s a happy ending for everybody, except all those people who died. But the last shot of the film is of one slug that survived…

After this, some trails and the tape ends.

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2 comments

  1. I have happy memories of seeing Hardware in a cinema on a cold winter’s evening, and really think it stands up as one of the most promising debuts of the 90s. Pity how that turned out. Love the use of Public Image Limited at the end, a track that was really difficult to get hold of. You didn’t mention the bloke who got done in by the door was Tony from 80s EastEnders! Always good to see a familiar face in a horror movie.

    Slugs is actually a Spanish film, from low rent hack Juan Piquer Simon, who was responsible for the genuinely hilarious Pieces. Slugs isn’t quite as consistently funny as that, but it is absolutely ludicrous, and the solution to the infestation, basically blowing up the town, must have killed more people than the slugs did.

    1. I wondered if it was Spanish – or at least Spanish-American. I think the actress playing Maria, Don’s wife, was probably a famous Spanish actress, given she got the ‘as’ credit but was hardly in it. Also she was the only performer with an accent, so I guess she was the only Spanish performer to dub her own lines.

      The director’s name rings a bell – he was probably profiled in Starburst or Fangoria, or similar.

      I was trying to remember where I recognised the door slice guy – That Eastenders is a long time ago, but that would be why he was familiar.

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