The Missing Pieces of J.P. Simon
 

The Rift and Slugs (Blu-ray Reviews)

by Scott MacDonald

The Films (4/5 - Slugs, 3.5/5 - The Rift (Endless Descent))

   I have watched director Juan Piquer Simon's classic Pieces countless times. It is absolutely one of my favorite horror movies that I go to when I'm looking for sheer cinematic fun. You would think that I would have by now begun to explore the other cinema director Simon created in the genre, but alas that was not to be. However, in the last month fans have been blessed with not one, but two of Juan Piquer Simon's horror oddities. 

     Kino Lorber in conjunction with Scorpion Releasing have released The Rift aka Endless Descent, and Arrow Video have put together a release of the directors nature gone awry film Slugs. It should not have surprised me, but both films provided hours of bizarre entertainment much in the same way Pieces has done for decades. It has made me lament the fact that I did not begin exploring the director's other output much sooner.

   One would think by 1988 the parade of films ripping off Jaws would cease, but that memo did not get to director Juan Piquer Simon who decided that the nature attacks film was very much still in vogue, and referencing Jaws was still very much a thing to do. Slugs opens up with a swimmer becoming Slug chow much like Jaws opened up with a young woman being fed upon by the shark. The film stars Michael Garfield as Mike Brady a health inspector in the community of Lyons, which finds itself hit by a rash of unexplained deaths where the victims are seemingly eaten to the bone. Brady (similar to "Brody"), knowing the town was a former toxic waste dump, and that slugs are attracted to moisture speculates that man eating slugs might be the culprit. He is obviously right, but of course, no one believes him with the exception of two friends who help him take on the slug menace.

   Slugs is a total blast. It is not a serious movie at all, and there isn't much of a plot essentially going from one set piece of absurd Slug violence to the next. Simon handles the pacing of the film, and keeps things going at a clip, and the whole thing never drags down and is never boring. Slugs is an absolute party horror film that belongs in the same pantheon of fun and trashy horror as Pieces. I loved it.

   Within the 2 years of 1989 and 1990 underwater horror became the ultimate in trendy horror subgenres for a split second in the wake of James Cameron's the Abyss. In that short period we got Deep Star Six, Leviathan, and The Rift (aka Endless Descent). The Rift stars Jack Scalia as Wick a man responsible for the design of a submarine called the Siren-1 which is now lost at the bottom of the ocean somewhere off the coast of Norway. He is tasked with a small crew including  Robbins (Ray Wise) and Captain Philips (R. Lee Ermey) to find the missing sub, by exploring the ocean floor in a similar sub the Siren-2.

   I will admit that The Rift is not as entertaining as either Slugs or Pieces, but the film falls into an entirely different genre. It is an odd blend of a submarine suspense piece with attempts at a claustrophobic atmosphere, and interpersonal character tension. Some of it effective, some of it, less than.  I am trying to avoid Das Boot comparisons here, because the film's intent is so drastically different then the Petersen epic.  Also, the FX work for the sub exteriors are quite shoddy, but in their own way fun.

   The film changes directions into what I'll call a more Juan Piquer Simon route about half way through.  The crew begin to encounter mutant monsters, and the gore begins to go through the roof. If there is one thing that Simon seems to know how to handle it's scenes of unconventional splatter, and during these moments he is at his best. The film is at a true high point during these bits, and ends on a truly fun high note.

 

(4/5 - Slugs, 4/5 - The Rift)

   Slugs is presented by Arrow Video in an excellent 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the film's OAR. The Blu-ray looks fantastic with detail being absolutely impeccable, blacks being quite deep, and color reproduction is solid. There is some damage throughout, including scratching and specks, they are minor, but noticeable.

   The Rift is presented in a 1:67:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The transfer look quite solid with strong color reproduction, excellent detail, and deep inky blacks.  Again, there are some minor issues with occasional bits of damage.

   Slugs is presented in an LPCM 1.0 track in English. The track is quite solid for the most part with dialogue and score coming through clearly, and no issue with the track that I could hear on my playthrough.

     The Rift is presented with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track in English. The track is quite good with everything coming through audibly and clearly. I did not detect any defects on the track during my listen.

 

Extras (3.5/5 - Slugs, 3/5 - The Rift)

   Both Arrow and Kino have put together excellent extras packages together for Slugs and Slugs comes with multiple commentary tracks, interviews, liner notes, and a trailer for the film. The Rift comes with multiple longform interviews with some of the main acting talent including Ermey and Ray Wise. There is also a trailer.

 

Overall

   If all you know of the work of Juan Piquer Simon is Pieces both Arrow Video and Kino Lorber are giving you quite the opportunity to catch up. While my preference between the two film is Slugs, both films are an absolute blast, and should be seen by fans of the director. They both look and sound excellent,  and have a nice slate of extras, and oh yeah, they are both HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.