With a name like Slither, you might be forgiven for expectingthisfilm to feature menacing snakes, and lots of them. You’d be wrong, though.Themonsters here are a lot odder and more interesting than mere killersnakes.
Instead, we get a mutant alien/human squid-like creature with a cravingformeat, thousands of slug-things intent on crawling into their victimsmouths,and acid-spitting zombies; even a zombie deer. If you think this doesn’tsound like your standard horror film, you’re right.
First-time director James Gunn loves the horror-comedy genre and itshows. Hegleefully packs about a thousand different ideas, into his film, each weirder and wilderthanthe one before. The result is chockfull of surprises. Thebiggest surprise of all may be just how well it all works.
Slither is not exactly a sibling to Shaun of the Dead, butitmight just be its small town cousin.
The small town in question, Wheelsy, South Carolina, is just a little offplumb: the opening day of deer hunting season is celebrated as a localholiday,and the town has its share of eccentrics long before the monsters arrive.
Themayor, Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry), is foul-mouthed, egotistical, andhilarious. The local police chief, Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) has a dry,cynical sense of humour and a laid-back manner that serve him well in hisjob,but he also has a hopeless, long-time crush on Starla (Elizabeth Banks).
She’s alocal teacher who is the stuff of adolescent boys’ dreams. Unfortunately forBill, she is also the loving wife of Grant Grant (Michael Rooker), awell-offolder businessman who saved her from a life of poverty by making her histrophywife.
Although Starla appears to genuinely care for Grant, the bloom has wornoffthe rose in at least one aspect of their marriage: Starla is seldom “in themood”, as she puts it. One night, a frustrated Grant ends up in the localbar,chatting up (or, more accurately, being chatted up) by a local honey, Brenda(Brenda James), who’s had a crush on him since high school.
They drink toomuchand take a walk in the woods, and, as is traditional in certain horrorfilms,they are punished for their moral transgression. In their case, the avengingangel comes in the form of a meteor that has recently landed, bringinginsideit an alien life form that enters a too-curious Grant. Before long, Grant isbuying lots of meat, neighbourhood pets are disappearing, and Brenda goesmissing.
You get the sense that James Gunn had a blast making this film and thefundefinitely carries through to the audience. If Gunn is not a horror film geek, who stores all sorts of horror film clichs, creatures,settings,and possible scenarios in the nooks and crannies of his brain at all times,heis doing an awfully good imitation of one. He may have been working hardwhenhe made Slither, but it feels like he was playing. Otherhorrorgeeks will be right there loving it with him.
The strange thing is that non-horror fans won’t hate it, either. The filmisscary without being too scary. Gross but in a way that is definitely moreover-the-top icky rather than mind-disturbingly gory. Will audience membersleave the theatre quaking with fear and sleep with the lights on for thenextsix months? No. Are they going to be rolling on the floor, laughing andgaspingfor air? No. But are they likely to have some chills and plenty of chuckles?Absolutely.