“Don’t let them in your mouth!”
The Scoop: 2006 R, directed by James Gunn and starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, and Gregg Henry.
Tagline: What Ever You Do… Don’t Scream.
Summary Capsule: A man infected by an alien slug eats as much raw meat as he can, then creates an army of slugs to overrun his tiny, rundown town.
Kyle’s rating: Designed just for people like me and you!
Kyle’s review: Even though the alternative press (online and offline) is getting just as bad as the “establishment” when it comes to over-hyping and over-praising certain niche projects, for the most part I’ve enjoyed all the films that have been singled out as healthy and fun alternatives to recent studio by-the-numbers crap. Slither is this month’s not-quite-indie-but-more-guerilla-than-Stay Alive release, and having only seen the one I still think I can confidently state that Slither is the superior product. The pains it takes to be labeled a “cult classic” are just as painful to experience as the horrors onscreen, but if you can withstand it all this is one slimy horror-comedy worth checking out.
And believe me when I say Slither goes to lengths to become a cult film for the ages. It references, both directly and indirectly, Troma films (The Toxic Avenger is one mother’s apparent choice of appropriate viewing for her toddler), Night of the Creeps, From Beyond, and a whole grip of slimy space alien films throughout history. Throw in a dash of kinda-zombies, and cement the fringe ticket sales by casting Serenity “hunk” Nathan Fillion as the hero, and you’ve got a solid outside-the-mainstream-but-not-really film in Slither.
Oh, and be sure to delete pretty much all nudity except a female topless shot that last about 1.2 nanoseconds (I caught it: believe me). Thanks! Although delete any sarcasm detected here if Slither gets an unrated DVD release with a couple more nanoseconds’ nudity. Here’s hoping!
The premise is worn and tired: A small town somewhere that’s pretty worn and tired itself and that depends seemingly exclusively on revenue generated by deer hunters coming in for hunting season is the location of an alien rock, and when the richest dude in town investigates he gets a infectious spine in his belly for his curiosity, and soon enough he’s looking like an alien squid and thinking about sending out an army of slugs to infect first the town, and soon the planet. If he didn’t have a weakness for his beautiful young wife, he’d be unstoppable! Oh no!
Like I said: worn and tired. Thankfully, the casting of Fillion heralds a whole bunch of Whedon-esque dialogue and jokes that keep everything running very smoothly. Just as refreshing, the dialogue isn’t the only smart stuff in Slither. It’s apparent that writer/director James Gunn has not only worked on a large chunk of recent year’s smarter fringe releases (including Dawn of the Dead) but watched most of the horror oeuvre as well, because here he treats the infection and invasion with humor and appropriate logic as well. You’ve still got the most beautiful people in town as the sole survivors and they manage to stay comically aloof enough throughout to drop one-liners like the infected Michael Rooker drops drool, but nothing really strains credibility enough to even induce the lightest of groans. I was very appreciative, and you will be, too.
There are things that don’t hold up as you walk to the car and think about it all, and as always I’m reminded of Roger Ebert’s oft-repeated observation that character in horror films act like they’ve never seen or even heard of a horror film before (contrast that with the innovative Randy of Scream and you’ll see how rare it is). But mostly, everything is handled quite efficiently and respectfully. At least plot-wise. Slither rivaled recent film V for Vendetta‘s first twenty or so minutes for the title of Film to Have Worst and Most Manipulative Score to Completely Fray Kyle’s Nerves. V for Vendetta reined it in after a disastrous beginning; Slither rocks its “please realize this is a CULT HORROR COMEDY REFERENCING ALL YOUR FAVORITE CULT FILMS!!!!” status all throughout, and my eardrums were definitely not as impressed as my cult sensibilities were.
But in these dry times, even a nudity-free gooey alien slug/zombie film stands out like a champ. And Slither gets enough right to deserve the accolades it has received. It even bombed at the box office on its opening weekend, so there’s another ring jumped through!
Most importantly, Slither has brought perennial background girl Tania Saulnier to our attention! The lack of appreciative nudity (I don’t mean to harp, but in a horror film like this it’s noticeable in its absence) and the end result of her bathtub scene I would argue prevents it from becoming a legendary scene like it clearly would like to be, but Tania stands out regardless. I have a feeling next time she’ll be the main heroine, yeah? Make it happen, Jamie Gunn!
- If the voice of Dr. Carl sounded familiar, that’s because it was Rob Zombie. Cool, eh?
- Actors Nathan Fillion and Gregg Henry were both on the TV show Firefly. Nathan Fillion was the main star Malcolm Reynolds, and Gregg Henry guest starred as Sheriff Bourne in “The Train Job”.
- As a in-reference to past genre movies, the Mayor and his store is named R.J. MacReady, the same name as Kurt Russell’s character in John Carpenter’s The Thing and the local high school featured is named after Earl Bassett, the lead character in the movie Tremors played by Fred Ward.
- There is a clip after the credits that sets up a potential sequel.
Starla: Baby, what happened to your face?!
Grant: It’s just a bee sting.
Bill: Don’t let them in your mouth!
Jack MacReady: You mean like Martians?
Bill Pardy: Martians are from Mars!
Jack MacReady: “Martians” a general term for “space f****r”!
Jack MacReady: Bitch is hardcore!
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