Director: Gregory Lamberson
Shock-O-Rama/E.I. Independent

Hollywood has always been seen as the mecca for young filmmakers to move to, but there are so many more interesting films that came out of the New York City scene, especially in the horror genre. Shot for pennies by an SVA student and his friends, 1989’s SLIME CITY hasn’t really received the cult following it deserves. Possibly because it’s overshadowed by late-80s look-a-likes STREET TRASH and BRAIN DAMAGE. In fact, if those two films got married, had dirty sex, and gave birth to a bastard child, SLIME CITY would be that offspring. But rather than coming across as a complete rip-off, SLIME CITY is so gory, repulsive, and imminently watchable that it stands on its own two feet with ease. How could this film have eluded attention for so long?

Nice guy Alex moves into a dingy New York City apartment in a rundown building populated by creepy characters, including S&M leather-wearing Nicole, who brings home rough trade for sex culminating in blood-curdling screams, two batty old ladies, and punk rocker Roman, who rummages through garbage cans. Invited over to dinner at Roman’s place, he dines on a bowl of “Himalayan yogurt,” a green substance that actually was created by Zachary, an ancient alchemist who used to live in the building. After a black and white hallucinatory dream, Alex soon becomes addicted to the stuff, begins sweating clear slime and developing a serious case of skin mutation, and the only way he can become normal again is by killing another human being! Alex’s perky girlfriend Lori and best friend Jack (or Jerry, the name changes) begin noticing his odd behavior, but at the pace Alex is going, they both may become his next victims.

Shot in the bowels of New York City (decrepit alleyways, cramped apartments, terrifying tenements), SLIME CITY is a great scare film for those who dread the thought of living in the Big Apple. Lamberson’s very low-budget photography is very effective, especially in the great locations he’s chosen. Peeks into a neighborhood video store and bar are great time capsule scenes, too. In-between the strange Satanic storyline and the graphic murders, the film tends to drag, especially when it focuses on Alex and Lori’s relationship and her desire to take it to the next level, but for such a low-budget venture, all of the special effects will keep the audience awake and at attention. Alex graphically beats a drunken bum to death with a lead pipe, bashing his head in and being splattered with blood; an Asian hooker unwraps Alex’s bandaged head to reveal a dripping, oozing mess of a face, then is butchered with a straight razor; a street tough stabs a knife through Alex’s stomach and has his hand amputated by jaws in the body cavity, spewing blood all over the place (his buddies run off…then return for their stereo!). The piece de resistance is, of course, the very long, almost 10-minute finale, with Alex and Lori battling it out in the apartment. Lori chops his hand off, stabs him in the stomach and shoulder, decapitates him with a meat cleaver, and still he won’t die! It’s a wild scene that gets progressively weirder and sicker, with geysers of multi-colored slime spewing from orifices, innards made of sausage links and scrambled eggs, killer body parts, and nasty Freddy Kreuger-style wisecracks, and is a real showstopper that should have landed Lamberson more work! SLIME CITY is one of the best unseen exploitation films of the 80s, a last gasp for grungy NYC filmmaking and a hell of a lot of fun to watch with a cold beer and a bunch of friends.

Robert Sabin is a surprisingly fey hero, but quite likable and his transformation from geeky new kid to slimy psychopath is well done. First-time viewers may not recognize that Mary Huner not only plays the virginal Lori, but also the sexually insatiable Nicole, with a black wig! She’s good in both roles, and really gets into the gore-soaked finale.

Letterboxed at 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement, SLIME CITY probably looks the best it has ever looked, including its brief theatrical release. While there is permanent grain due to the cheap 16mm film stock used during shooting, the colors are usually strong, the image bright and clear, and dark scenes are easy to make out. The mono audio is a little weak during some dialogue scenes, due to shooting conditions, but the awesome synthesizer score (which also appears on the menu) comes through brilliantly.

This special edition DVD is packed with extras, starting with a feature-length audio commentary with director Greg Lamberson and actor Robert Sabin. Both guys obviously had a great time shooting this cheap film, and discuss how the project came about, casting the film (with some interesting stories of kooky auditions), the various locations around the city, the whereabouts of the cast, the meager budget, achieving the incredible special effects, their experiences at SVA, and their thoughts on the film today. It’s a great commentary, with no dead spots; however, the commentary eventually gets off-track with the film, meaning that the men will talk about a scene at least 30 seconds before it appears on-screen. A mini-documentary is composed of stills, behind-the-scenes footage, rare scenes from Lamberson’s previous shorts, and cool curios with commentary by Lamberson discussing the history and release of the film. It’s a great featurette, produced by Lamberson himself.

An excellent liner notes booklet includes even further historical perspective from Lamberson, discussing his work on other NYC films, including BRAIN DAMAGE, I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE, and PLUTONIUM BABY.

An entire bonus feature film, NAKED FEAR, is included on the disc. Shot in 1999 on video and reuniting Lamberson and Sabin, the latter stars as Camden, a housebound man who is afraid to go outside after his parents were killed right on their doorstep years previously. A sleazy deliveryman and his ex-con buddy, Randy, decide to ingratiate themselves into his life to get their hands on his inheritance, but Randy changes his mind and instead decides to become Camden’s best friend. However, this also means killing anyone who gets in-between the two! It’s pretty good, with some great opening shots of Times Square and its gutted theaters, an interesting subplot of Camden entering a relationship with Julie, a phone sex girl, and some great suspense sequences. On the negative side, the film is almost entirely post-dubbed, with a pretty bad keyboard soundtrack, terrible stock screams, and uneven performances. Too bad, because the script and storyline is good, and some of the photography is good; it all would have looked better on film. It’s a great bonus feature to have on the disc, but not an essential watch. Lamberson and Sabin return for another audio commentary, with Tommy Sweeney joining them to discuss how the film came about, memories of the cast and shooting locations, and shooting a low-budget film in New York City. Wrapping up the disc is a brief documentary promoting the Retro Shock-O-Rama DVD label and a collection of trailers for SLIME CITY, SATAN’S BLACK WEDDING, CRIMINALLY INSANE, and WOMENS’ PRISON MASSACRE. (Casey Scott)