Slime (UK: Hamlyn, 1984)
Tagline: "Turn on the tap...and die of terror!"
This was another one I never actually read back in the day, but
after seeing that absolutely outrageous cover I knew I had to
get this one. John Halkin, of course, is the author of
Bloodworm, the very first book I reviewed here at Guilty
Pleasures and one I enjoyed a great deal. With a title like
Slime and that really fun cover I was pretty sure this was
exactly what I was looking for. Ah, the days of photographic
covers when you could take an attractive, busty model and
cover her in jellyfish slime! Nobody does this kind of thing anymore and it's too bad
because great exploitative covers like this certainly caught the eye and when you catch
the eye, people tend to open their wallets. Anyway, let's take a dip into the murky,
oogy waters of Slime and see what we can dredge up with our nets.
This one begins (as does any good nasty) with an innocent getting attacked by the
slimy nemesis alluded to by the title which are jellyfish (in case you didn't catch that). A
boy out on a sailboat alone. He gets knocked into the water and watches his boat
sailing off into the sunset. Not being too far from shore, he figures he can swim back
in. BUT...aha!...drowning is the least of his worries he soon discovers as a flotilla of
mutant jellies converge upon him, stinging him mercilessly:
"It felt like nettle-stings, only a hundred times worse. He was left twisting in torment as
the poisonous fluid reached his kidneys...his intestines...his bowels..."
This opening is typical of the British nasties, most of which were written to a very
simple template developed by the great James Herbert: somebody gets lunched upon
and then we introduce our characters as the horror becomes apparent and unfolds
Plot. Tim Ewing, a pretty boy type TV actor, is busy shooting his hit series, The
Chronicles of Gulliver, when he takes a pounding from a thug (a hired extra who
literally doesn't pull his punches). The director decides to shoot another scene after
Tim recovers and this time, they accidentally stumble upon the corpse of the boy from
the opening which the tough guy thug is too dainty to even approach:
"The jellyfish shifted uneasily over the dead man's face; then it began to glow with a
speckled red and pink luminescence. It puckered up into a bell shape, withdrawing its
tentacles, and slipped into the water. Of the face, there was very little left. No cheeks,
no flesh of any kind; only the teeth set firmly in the jaw, and the pale, naked skull..."
It doesn't take Tim and his journalist friend, Jane, long to figure out something rotten is
afoot. As more jellyfish attacks occur, they begin to show in numbers along the English
coastline. So many in fact that their greenish lambent glow lights up the sea at night. A
few nights later at the wharf, Tim gets rousted by the thug from the shoot, now drunk
and now fully intending to impress his mates with his bravado. He attacks and Tim flips
him into the sea. His mates laugh. Then the jellies attack, stinging our thug until he
loses consciousness. Tim jumps in to save him and both end up in the hospital. Only
Tim walks away, our thug is permanently paralyzed by toxic jellyfish venom. As other
swimmers are attacked and a fishing boat is swamped by jellies, Tim and Jane peer
through the curtain of official denial, intending to expose the truth. But wait...step
aside, you hideous flesh-eating jellies, we have some soap opera business to settle.
Tim is estranged from his wife, Sue, who is part of a Shakespearean troupe. Tim had
once belonged to the troupe himself before fame found him. Now he is successful, but
his wife is still a starving actress. She considers her husband to be nothing but a hack
and he secretly agrees with her, even if he does think she's something of an idealist.
Sue is busy screwing another actor in the troupe while Tim falls into bed with Jacqui,
his director, and then has a weekend romp session with Sue who promptly dumps him
after the sex. And this while he's trying to woo Jane...something Halkin spends a lot of
time setting up but never reaches fruition (as if he were bored by this point). Back to
the jellies. Things are worse. Wave after wave of jellyfish attacks has the UK in panic.
Adding insult to injury, there is a torrential storm that floods seaports and washes
jellies into houses. Then...tiny jellyfish start pouring out of the water taps. Nowhere is
safe. Sue gets trapped in a flooded hospital while looking in on her lover and Tim goes
to rescue her along with some soldiers. Speaking of soldiers, the British Army uses
flamethrowers to keep the marauding jellyfish at bay--you see, they now have the
ability to travel over dry land and do so in marching (slithering?) throngs. Why the Brits
don't simply use napalm is never explained. In the end, Tim rescues Sue and a little
girl and discovers the one thing that can kill the jellies: the Sabin polio vaccine. No, I'm
Pros: Despite the tangled soap opera love triangles, the characters weren't bad. Tim
was fully developed, but Jane is never explained adequately before the jellies get her
(and this without consummating her love for Tim).
Cons: Halkin had a lot to work with here, but he rarely takes advantage of the more
gruesome aspects of jellyfish like he did with worms in Bloodworm. He writes most of
this one like he was bored and by midpoint, so is his reader.
Overall: This one disappointed me. For one thing, we're never told how or why the
jellyfish mutate. The EXPLANATION is always stock in trade for a pulp horror nasty. It
adds an air of pseudo-scientific reality to the proceedings. Secondly, the book is never
really Ghastly, Gruesome, or Gor-ifying. And some of the characters behave irrationally
without us knowing why. Not a bad read, but not a good one either. Buy it for the cover.
Two Bloody Skulls out of Five.
Our next Guilty Pleasure:
"From the depths of the earth rose a hideous stench of death..."