Code Red // 1978 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // June 25th, 2010
"Look, Pal, how you want to handle your trip is up to you, but we're
talking about some very nasty murders here."
-- Investigative journalist encourages a derelict to help unravel the mysteries of the Slithis
What do you get when you mix radioactive ooze with silt?
Why Slithis, of course.
"Slithis" is not actually the name of the monster in this fun but woebegone '70s obscurity. It's the nickname some scientists had given to radiated dirt that is now making an appearance in Venice, CA.
But the Spawn of the Slithis -- the original title, also the title that appears onscreen -- is a greasy-looking, multi-toothed humanoid that feasts on flesh blood. Any flesh and blood, SotS is not particular. Frumpy middle classers, sexy young things, drunken vagrants, stray dogs -- all are fodder for this subhuman, sea-dwelling barbarian.
High school journalism teacher Wayne Connors becomes intrigued with the stories of mayhem. One night, while Wayne and his wife are engaged in a hot game of backgammon, a scientist friend comes by to explain the whole Slithis phenomenon, and Wayne becomes convinced that the shiny sludge is somehow responsible for the wave of terror -- not, as the police believe, the local cultists. Soon, Wayne is taking a break from teaching inverted pyramid and chatting up inverted drunkards, the colorful street folk ('Nam vets, mainly) whose ranks have been thinned by the mysterious force.
Taking his leads where he can find them, Wayne talks to a rotting-potato faced scientist (nuke victim) and a jovial fisherman, who offers to taxi the faux-reporter around on his tiny boat. When Wayne and his tug-boat buddies finally encounter the monster with the munchies, all heck breaks loose.
Talky, silly, and acted in full-bore monotone by a bunch of people you've never heard of, Slithis is a barely passable Friday-night corndog with an extra helping of cheese.
There's a sense that Writer/Director Stephen Traxler was going for something a little more complex than the standard people-eating terror mini-epic. Characters talk -- a lot -- about the dangers of radiation, government plots, all that, but these scenes do little more than keep the body count low. These speeches tend to go on and on, as does Wayne's investigation.
Traxler also makes a tactical error in showing us the monster in the opening moments. A rubber-suit so dreadful it makes the creatures from Toho Studios look like denizens from a nature documentary, this is one of the least scary flesh-eating amphibians to ever grace the screen.
Sometimes, we see the "action" through the eyes of the beast in a kind of Monster-vision, which looks like someone covered the camera with a Saran Wrap nipple. People scream and flail about, then the camera cuts away before the big kill. When we cut back to the aftermath, we get the usual, ludicrous-looking bloodied corpses.
Besides the balls-to-the-wall inherent ridiculousness, what makes this kinda fun is the goofy '70s vibe. The clothes, the hair, the lingo, the furniture, the backgammon -- all captured so immodestly low-budget, it likes watching a horrible home movie. Traxler also gives us a few verité shots of late-'70's Venice, making this an occasionally funky time capsule.
According to IMDb, Stephen Traxler is still working, mainly as a producer. If only Code Red had brought him in for an interview. Unfortunately, this is one of the company's lesser efforts, with only the film's trailer and trailers for other Code Red releases -- including Horror High and Rivals as supplements. Tech-wise, the film is in marginal shape, but it's far from unwatchable.
Not as deliriously silly as it could have been, Slithis still works as a goof-fest. Worth renting if you're a bad-movie fan.
Review content copyright © 2010 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated PG