Written by artist and editor: Mikko Sovijärvi
I was 16, convinced that punk rock would save the world, (as wearing a Misfits Crimson Ghost t-shirt made you infinitely cooler than you really were), had recently found religion in near (or semi) totally forgotten American indie horror films from the 70’s, and was dead set on becoming an artist of some kind when I grew up, as I loathed the idea of keeping a straight job. That is when I came across a photo of the titular creature from Spawn of the Slithis in Michael Weldon’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. It was a glorious shot of a man in an unconvincing monster suit on a promotional tour for the movie, looking as bored and pissed off as someone inside a heavy costume possibly can. The thing was lurching across some random American campus ground as bothered passers-by tried their best to ignore him. That photo hit me like a ten-ton hammer. That photo bled the blues.
Woke up this morning and I had to put this on?
What on earth could be cooler than this?
I found a copy of the film at a local video store, rented it, took it home, watched it, and…it wasn’t an earth-shattering experience. No lives were changed. At best, Spawn of the Slithis was an amusing, very minor, low-budget 50’s monster movie throwback that didn’t take itself too seriously, and had a pleasant tongue-in-cheek groove going on. Most of the “action” took place in the dark and there wasn’t much of it, Hy Pyke had a bizarre cameo as a bug-eyed police chief, there was a lot of heavy monster breathing, an awkward sex scene with some nudity, additional this and that, and then the end.
The monster, or whatever you could make of the monster out of the murky, soft focus night-time shots, was still the coolest thing ever. It also had a origin story that was simply fantastic. Slithis was mud. Mud come to life and consciousness via radioactive waste. Muck, glop. Mud. Plan 9 deals with the resurrection of the dead, but this…this is the real thing.
The appeal of the classic monster is the appeal of the underdog. A tragic outcast figure, shunned and feared by normal whitebread society for being the Other.
What could be more of an underdog than sentient mud? A peaceful non-existence at the bottom of a lake hosting discarded beer cans, used condoms and various other forms of human waste disrupted by pollution-caused freakish mutation, and off you go. Lurching in the dark at slug speed, wheezing like an asthmatic, and killing people at random.
Not necessarily the romantic appeal of a lovelorn Larry Talbot turning into the Wolf Man, but, hey, whatever. That rubbery thing still must understand the woes of getting called a queer on a daily basis for letting your hair grow out. It, she, he, whatever, can relate. Slithis doesn’t want to cut his hair and get a real job either. Somewhere out there is a world where slithii roam the streets, the freaks and outcasts are the dominant species and nobody will ever ask you what you will do when you grow up.
Yeah, right. That, or it was a bad film with a cool, funny monster and great name.
Eventually I became an artist of sorts by a very loose definition of the word, but still have to stick with the straight job. The best definition of “art” that I can think of is when a piece of music, a book, a play, a movie, a painting, whatever, leaves a lasting impression that will stick for life. When I was 16, I wanted to own the Slithis costume. I’m 36 now and still want one, probably still will at 66. Hence, Spawn of the Slithis is the very definition of art as I see it.