The Slime Beast, by Guy N. Smith
July, 1979 New English Library
(Original edition April, 1976)
Guy N. Smith delivers just the sort of creature feature horror novel I like – a breezy, fun, gore and sex-filled tale that doesn’t overstay its welcome. At 110 pages, The Slime Beast gets right to the good stuff, introducing its titular creature within the first few pages and jumping straight to the gore – that is, after Smith has treated us to a little sleaze. Indeed the novel disproves my blanket (mis)judgment of British pulp as being prudish in the sex department, as it’s actually a bit more explicit than many of its American counterparts.
Smith seems to have taken The Creature From The Black Lagoon for inspiration, only ramping up the sex and sadism. Indeed the “Slime Beast” is basically described exactly like the Gill-Man, only with the added element of slime, which drips from the creature’s armor-like scales. Unlike the Gill-Man, this creature isn’t shy about killing, and doesn’t pine for any human women – though we do gradually learn the tidbit that it develops a taste for women’s breasts! At any rate it enjoys ripping its human prey apart, sucking out the guts, and then cracking open the skulls for a brain chaser. Smith isn’t shy with the gory details during the Slime Beast’s kills, though in true creature feature fashion the thing isn’t constantly on-screen (as it were).
Rather the focus goes to our human characters: Professor Lowson, a complete bastard of an archeologist who seeks the mythical hidden treasure of King John; Liz Beck, his sexy 22 year-old virginal niece; and Gavin Royle, a long-haired junior archeologist who serves here as Lowson’s sort-of apprentice. They’ve come to “The Wash,” aka the boggy “wilds of the East coast marshes,” to dig for King John’s treasure. This immediately affronts the locals, redneck yokels the lot of them; Lowson proves he isn’t your typical bookworm creature feature-type scientist when he flat-out punches one of the locals who comes to complain.
Smith as mentioned doesn’t waste time; the trio find the Slime Beast on their first night out, uncovering some strange metal buried in fresh mud and gradually digging up the slime-covered form of the creature. The smell is so bad that it causes them to puke (the two men even barf directly onto the Slime Beast, which I thought was funny). They figure the thing is dead and leave it there, Lowson sure that he can become rich and famous from this bizarre discovery. Liz by the way is the one who coins the name “Slime Beast,” which is my one problem with the novel; I think it should be the “Slime Creature.” I guess “beast” is more of a British thing. But as a red-blooded American, I think “creature” is a more accurate term for a reptillian monster…to me, “beast” denotes a shaggier, hairier sort of thing.
Despite being unettled by the discovery of the creature, Liz and Gavin still take the opportunity to zip their sleeping bags together and engage in some casual sex when Professor Lowson retires to his own room in the blockhouse they’re camping in. Here Smith shows that British pulp isn’t as prudish as I long assumed, with Gavin admiring Liz’s “small firm breasts” before getting on with the show: “Gently, very gently, he eased himself into her.” (“You’re not a virgin anymore,” he helpfully informs her.) Meanwhile during all the naughtiness the Slime Beast has awakened and is stalking around the Wash, initially trying to break into the blockhouse but turned back at the sight of fire thanks to a quick-thinking Gavin.
The monster’s first victim is a redneck bird-watcher who, the cops inform our heroes the next morning, was found “mutilated and dismembered.” The man’s guts and brains are gone, and there was a slime trail in the corpse’s wake, though strangely the slime disappeared in the sunlight. There’s no time-wasting with disbelieving cops and whatnot; posthaste we have angry locals storming the blockhouse, only to be scared off by a hunter named Mallard, who himself has seen the Slime Beast.
One of the novel’s most memorable sequences has a topless Liz being chased by a horny, depraved Mallard, with the Slime Beast chasing after both of them. The sequence ends exactly as expected, with the Beast feasting on Mallard’s guts and brains in humorously graphic detail, a sickened Liz watching from behind the safety of some shrubs. Not that this trauma prevents more sex with Gavin that night! This time Liz insists that Gavin fully consumate the act and not just, uh, make a deposit on her thighs. (“Give it to me properly, Gavin, like every woman wants her man!”)
Smith doesn’t limit his horror sequences to a human perspective. We also have goofy, brief scenes from the perspectives of dogs and even geese, as the animals find themselves running afoul of the Slime Beast. The killing of the dog is seen by most of the townspeople, who watch from their windows as the Slime Beast stalks down the main street and rips the animal apart, feasting on its guts. They all open up on it with their hunting rifles, but the Slime Beast can’t be killed, it seems. Even when the Army is called in, the machine guns of the soldiers have little effect on the creature.
Meanwhile Professor Lowson is determined to capture the Slime Beast. While Liz and Gavin head off to buy a “flame-gun,” Lowson gets himself some heavy netting from a fisherman and wades through the marshes each night, hoping to catch himself the Beast, which he figures to be from outer space. Throughout it all Smith delivers several effective horror fiction moments, from the traditional “going down into a darkened basement” bit to the Slime Beast ripping apart a man and a woman while they’re having a little outdoors sex (where the Slime Beast develops his taste for breasts, by the way).
Rather than a slam-bang finish with the Army coordinating an assault on the monster, Smith instead goes back to his three protagonists. Lowson succeeds in his goal of capturing the Beast, which is wounded, but this doesn’t work out so well for the professor. It’s up to Gavin and Liz to save the day with their flame-gun, and Smith doesn’t even waste any time with a lame wrap-up, ending the tale there. The book is for the most part just a streamlined bit of horror-pulp, and makes the reader realize how overwritten the vast majority of horror novels are.
Smith recently published a sequel, Spawn of the Slime Beast, which again features Gavin and Liz – and we learn that Liz really did get pregnant that night, as now the two of them, with their adult child, encounter a new Slime Beast in the present day. I think I’ll be seeking that book out for sure.
Here’s the first edition, which gives the Slime Beast more of a demonic appearance: