The Slime City Massacre Diaries: #1

A few years back, I got a rather surprising email from novelist/director Gregory Lamberson. It’s hardly unusual for me to hear from fellow authors, but it is when they’re writing to me from the director’s chair.  At the time, Greg was gearing up to shoot a movie called DEADLY RITES, a sort of WRONG TURN meets HELTER SKELTER hybrid, and, after reading about my time spent laboring in theater, he wanted me to read for one of the lead roles. Despite being flabbergasted by the request, I was definitely interested, even more so when I read the script and found it to be an intense thriller which would have required me not only to act, and act well, but also to meet the physical demands of the role–a giant leap from the static pontificating of the Shakespearian roles I’d played in the past.  So I answered his request with a resounding “yes” and immediately began practising my Brooklyn accent.

Unfortunately, the movie never came to pass after some decidely underhanded moves by a self-proclaimed producer who failed to honor any of the promises she had made to that point. For the full story behind the debacle, you’d have to ask Greg himself as I heard only enough to know that it was a disaster, and one that left a bitter taste in the director’s mouth.

Cut to January of this year when I heard from Greg again. He has, in the years since DEADLY RITES, been somewhat stunned by the continuing interest in a small low-budget B-movie he made back in the 1980’s, which, following in the footsteps of such over-the-top gems as BASKET CASE and STREET TRASH, involved the disintegration of the human body in increasingly nasty ways.  The movie was SLIME CITY, and while some of it seems dated, and the inexperience of some of the actors (one in particular, who, when slashed across the face with a knife, reacts as if someone farted in her direction) is evident in places, the special effects still hold up remarkably well. The film quality is also leagues above a lot of similar movies released at that time. After a short theater run, the film found new life on VHS and did well in the foreign market.

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Ultimately, SLIME CITY’s cult following led to the recent rerelease of the movie on DVD, with tons of additional features, including another of Greg’s films, NAKED FEAR, and a very entertaining making-of featurette, which documents the fun and frustration involved in bringing the movie to the screen.

Clearly, the film is remembered with great affection by those who grew up with it, and the sheer weight of that affection led Greg to start pondering a sequel to the movie. And so he began writing the screenplay for SLIME CITY MASSACRE, a script that reads as if it was written by a director who has learned a lot in the two decades or so since the first film, but hasn’t forgotten why it endured.

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By the time he emailed me, Greg had already cast some of the roles and started financing the movie. He asked if I’d be interested in playing one of the lead roles, that of Corey, an army deserter making his way through the post-apocolyptic ruins of Manhattan with his girlfriend (Jennifer Bihl) in tow. Together they seek refuge in an abandoned train station, where they unite with another couple (played by Lee Perkins and Debbie Rochon)  and encounter paramilitaries, cannibals, and a (familiar-to-fans of the original) soup kitchen stocked with elixirs and yoghurts that contain the spirits of the dead cult members from the first film (played by, among others, Robert Sabin, Sephera Giron and scream queen Brooke Lewis). It’s a wild script, filled with comedy and action and over-the-top gore, but of course, to say much more than that–yet–would be to spoil it.

After reading the screenplay, I promptly wrote back to Greg and told him there was no way I could not do the film. It sounded like way too much fun to pass up.  As enthusiastic as I was, however, I admit to not being totally convinced that the film would ever materialize, as I’m intimately aware from a screenwriter’s perspective, just how unstable things are in the movie world.

But now, four months later, a lot has happened, and the one thing I can tell with great certainty, is that barring natural disaster, the film will shoot in July, that’s little more than six weeks from now. I have been to Buffalo and visited the location, met the director, the crew, and some of the actors, signed contracts, participated in a cast reading and have gotten to glimpse the machinations of movie-making first hand. I have hashed out scenes with my costars and talked on the phone with those I have yet to meet. So, the movie is happening, and I’m more than a little excited to be a part of it.

From here on, with exceptions when necessary, I will be using this journal to chronicle the highs, the lows, and the wtf’s? of my involvement in the SLIME CITY MASSACRE.

Next up: A Weekend In Buffalo, NY – Meetings, Monoliths, and Monsters

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