Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Low-budget but impressive, 'Bio-Slime' delivers goopy scares

Bio-Slime (aka "Contagion") (2010)
Starring: Vinnie Bilancio, Ronnie Lewis, Victoria De Mare, Kelli Kaye, Micol Bartolucci, Magic Ellingson, Gia Paloma, and Ron Fitzgerald
Director: John Lechago
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Troy (Bilanco), a down-and-out artist whose talent has been drained away by alcoholism finds himself stalked by a mysterious slime-monster that is absorbing into its mass the occupants of the ramshackle building housing his small studio. Trapped with his agent (Lewis), a few friends (Ellingson, Kaye, and Paloma) and a porn actress from the film studio next door (De Mare), Troy has to find a way to defeat the creature before they all literally become one body and mind.

With a little nip and a tiny tuck here and there to get rid of some bare breasts, "Bio-Slime" is the sort of movie you might find on the SyFy Channel with a "SyFy Channel Original" logo slapped before the opening credits. I'm not saying that to insult the film, but to praise it, because I suspect that John Lachago made this self-funded, self-produced film for a fraction of what those movies are made for... and his end product was as good as most of them, and even better in the effects department.

And those creature effects are the real star in this film. Most of the characters really serve no purpose other than to be monster chow, each suffering a dire, disgusting, and wholly unique fate at the pseudo-pods and tentacles of the slime-monster. All the creature effects, with the exception of a few of the tentacles, were practical effects--make-up, puppetry, and cinematography tricks. And they look great, far better than even some of the computer-generated effects in recent films with budgets 100 or 1,000 times what "Bio-Slime" was made on.

This is a movie that shows that the old methods of making movies are still perfectly adequate--and even superior--to hi-tech wizardry when those time-tested tools are being wielded by talented and skilled artisans like Lechago and his special effects make-up artist Tom Devlin. Devlin and Lechago also worked together on "Killjoy 3", so they obviously make a good team. Here's hoping I see more from them in the future.

I should probably mention that while very little character development takes place in "Bio-Slime", that's not to say there isn't a fully fleshed-out story here. Not only do we get hints of what sort of life the main characters have led beyond the dingy walls they have been trapped within, but there is a sense of history surrounding the monster as well. It emerges from a hi-tech containment device that is opened by the characters through a mixture of curiosity and outright stupidity, it talks about having a life so long that it can't recall where it came from, and the "prologue" and "epilogue" scenes hint and a story far larger and a threat of a possibly global scale that might visit the terror of the few trapped in Troy's studio to the entire world.

But these hints of a larger story are not presented in the hamfisted "Oooo we're setting up a sequel, kids? See? See?! We're not really giving you a complete story here, because we want you back for Part Two and Part Three!" that has become so annoyingly common over the past 15-20 years since everyone thinks their horror or sci-fi film is the next big trilogy or franchise. No... Lechago has written them into the film in an organic way, so we become curious about what might have happened before the film stars and what comes after the end credits finish their crawl. Any dreams he may harbor of sequels is up to him to discuss, but whether he had them or not, he managed to make the events of "Bio-Slime" feel connected to a much larger world, a world that viewers can't but help be curious about; he has planted his "sequel seed" the right way.

(In fact, Lechago did it SO right that I found myself imaging what could be going on... and the players in my on-again, off-again near-future sci-fi role-playing campaign will be dealing with something "borrowed" from this movie. And I can safely say this here, because none of them bother reading my film reviews, because they get enough of my rants in person.)

In addition to well-done story, the film also benefits tremendously from a nice, very traditional-flavored music score. I didn't really notice the music until the film was building to its climax and Troy was getting ready for his final showdown with the slime-creature, but it had been there previously as well. Michael Sean Colin's score is perfect in every respect, deployed at just the right moments and providing just the right intensity needed, mostly blending perfectly with the events unfolding on screen, but stepping to the fore when appropriate as during the film's climax.

Last, but far from least, the film features a great cast of actors. As I mentioned above, the characters in film are mostly here just to get killed, and there isn't much development that takes place with them. However, we get just enough to let us know the type of character each one of them is... and that type is then brought to seemingly full life through the talent and charisma of the actors playing them. While there might not be a whole lot for each actor to work with, what there is, they handle expertly, and they make us care about relatively shallow characters and to feel horrified as each one of them dies. Lachago matched the right actor with the exact right character, and the results are quite impressive. While I can nitpick some of the dialogue and some of the character interaction, I don't feel so inclined, because the actors gave such enjoyable performances, with Victoria De Mare as the bitchy porn actress and Vinnie Bilancio as the reluctant hero who was hoping to turn over a new leaf and make today the first day in the rest of his life, are particularly good in their parts.

"Bio-Slime" has not yet secured wide distribution, which is a shame. I think it's a film that deserves as audience beyond film festivals and cranky typists like yours truly.

(For a sample of what Lechago is capable of, you can check out "Killjoy 3" from Full Moon Features. Click on the link to read my review at the Charles Band Collection.)

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