Andrew: There's one part of Slither that you
don't need to see. You know that little teaser that comes after
the credits in all movies that have a sense of playfulness?
Nothing to see here, folks.
I mean, there is something, but it'll just cheapen your view
of the movie as a whole (and of James Gunn's inventiveness in
And it's such a strange inventiveness. His first film was
Tromeo & Juliet which, I say somewhat happily, that I've
Laura: Oh! Oh! I've seen that! It was ridiculous, over
the top, and brilliant. My favorite Troma film actually. But
you may continue, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you. Then he made The
Specials, two Scooby Doo films, and the Dawn
of the Dead remake. His oeuvre, so far, seems to be
in taking other, older ideas and making them his own. The Dawn
of the Dead was good as a film, visceral, but skipped out
on all of the socio-political commentary that made Romero's
film a masterpiece — but, frankly, the two films are so
different in their take on the events that it is pointless to
With Slither, Gunn is essentially doing a remake of
Night of the Creeps, a 1986 movie that involves an alien
parasitic infestation based around a college campus. These leeches,
or whatevers, enter through the mouth so [tagline alert] "If
you scream . . . you're dead." With Gunn, the setting
changes to a small, unapologetically hick town where it's best
to "Whatever You Do. . . Don't Scream." Cause, see,
there are these things that enter through the mouth . . .
oh, yeah, you know the drill.
What Gunn does is take the story of Night of the Creeps
(also, coincidentally, written and directed by the same person:
Fred Dekker) and make it completely his own. Parasitically zombifying
it for his own horrible, twisted ends, if you will. And if you
won't, he'll make you.
Okay, Laura, time to open your mouth, say yeah.
Laura: This film can infect me anytime. Anytime, baby.
First, I'd like to acknowledge that this is my favorite genre:
the goofy, gory horror comedy. If you're partial to classics
like Evil Dead II and Dead Alive, this should
be up your alley. It's not quite as good as those two, but not
everyone can be Leonardo Da Vinci. Unfortunately. The film does,
though, have a nice blend of gore and solidly delivered one-liners,
grounded by solid special effects work and the able acting talents
of Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, and Elizabeth Banks.
Andrew: The supporting cast also does amazing --
Laura: I would like to insert here, for the girls and
those men who can appreciate an attractively put together piece
of male flesh, that Nathan Fillion is quite easy on the eyes,
and his blend of clumsy charm, masculine bravado, and self-deprecating
one liners is the stuff that long, happy dreams are made of.
Bravo to the casting director for casting Nathan! Let's hope
many other directors follow James Gunn's lead in using the Firefly
star. I'd like to see Nathan in SHOUT! Commercials, in a guest
spot on House (preferably kissing Hugh Laurie), and in
(gasp! I'm getting my hopes up) a Serenity sequel.
As far as plot goes, Slither is an odd mix of alien-invasion
film, The Blob, and a zombie flick. The basic schtick
is that a meteor crashes to earth in the small town of Wheelsy,
and it houses a nasty blobby slug thing, which soon infects
Grant Grant, local nerdy (but strangely buff) rich man and husband
to our heroine, Mrs. Starla Grant. Grant soon begins acting
odd (if killing and eating local dogs counts as "odd"), and
it become apparently that this infection means to spread —
which it does via various gross methods, including penile stomach
extension-thingies that make the victim pregnant with a bazillion
nasty worm sperm slugs; once the sperm slugs exit the victim
(which usually involves said victim exploding in a hail of sperm
slugs), the sperm slugs enter another person through the mouth,
and turn that person into a green bile spitting zombie creature.
(I know my vocabulary was a bit repetitive there, should've
used some pronouns, but you don't get to say "sperm slugs" everyday.)
Our hero, Bill Pardy, played by aforementioned hottie Nathan,
attempts to stop all this with the help of Starla, the town
mayor, and a couple members of his police force. I think I neglected
to mention that he's the police chief. (There are just so many
reasons to find Nathan hot and manly that I miss a few occasionally. . . .)
Props to writer and director James Gunn for incorporating
references to Troma films as well as the childhood classics
series Goosebumps. Some dudes watch the classic The
Toxic Avenger on TV at one point, and Troma's main guy Lloyd
Kaufman is also cameoed as a Sad Drunk. Not to mention the very
Evil Dead opening scene of swooping through creepy rustling
woods with strange sound effects. Okay, so this isn't really
all that Evil Dead-esque.
Andrew: No, I second the notion. Any thirds?
Andrew, too: I third it. The movements of the camera
capture the feeling of the Evil stalking the woods in Evil
Dead too perfectly to be less than a homage.
Laura: Anyway, Andrew . . . Andrews . . .
plenty of movies have woods scenes. However, given how much
I enjoyed this film, I'm inclined to think that James Gunn is
cool enough to know and revere the Evil Dead series as
much as I do. It's therefore, as seconded and thirded, an Evil
Andrew: The many references in the film come off like
that swoop through the trees. Gunn obviously has a deep knowledge
of science fiction and horror, and many of his shots and situations
(especially Bill Pardy's reaction once he enters the barn) play
off of what he expects his audience might be familiar with.
And from the opening shot of the meteor hurtling through space
towards Earth, you can tell that the movie will be drenched
in Old-School Science Fiction (by which I mean older than 1986.
Circa '50s and '60s, natch). You can hear the meteor as it tumbles.
Let me say that again: You can hear the meteor as it tumbles
through space. Yes, it's clear that Mr. James Gunn has no regards
for science. Not even fond ones.
This is a "good thing." What it does, strangely enough, is
bring Slither closer to Romero's work, to Carpenter's,
to Cronenberg's: As with those directors, Gunn's film takes
on a personality that is separate from the genre itself —
at least his films are starting to. He still holds remnants
of Troma's overwillingness to shock (Gak! An edible penis!)
and to gross out seemingly needlessly (Gak! An edible penis!).
In Dawn of the Dead, a zombie fetus was perhaps not called
for and, in addition, really, really silly (OK, there is really
no edible penis), but Slither seems to hold the rough
edges and interests of the auteur and make the various parts
work as the house James Gunn built. You know, along with the
actors and crew. That crew really helps, with their hammers
Gunn's aesthetic seems Cronenbergian in ways, especially the
specifics of the alien invader, but instead of a fascination
with the gross reality of the human body and blurring the notion
of flesh with technology, Gunn explores the idea of the alien,
and how what is alien is related to us (can only be related
to us?) through its humanness, or utter lack thereof. In a similar
way, there is Gunn's focus on old school sci-fi where the threat
was more important than the logic behind it, and the small town
held appeal over the urban center. ('Cause if a small town is
wiped out, I mean, who really cares? I mean, knows. Who really
knows. Don't hate me all you small townies. I mean, towners.
Laura: On the small-town point, I thought what Gunn
did with that was interesting. Most films, even horror flicks,
set amongst the locals of a small town tend to present that
small town as an idyllic haven, the American Dream in miniature,
which then must be defended against the terrible threat of invasion.
This movie doesn't do that. The shots we have of Wheelsy and
its locals emphasize dirt and decay, even deformity. One of
the first shots of a living person we get is of the mayor screaming,
"Get the f*** out of the way, c***sucker," from his car window.
It's apparent that we're dealing with flawed, far from perfect
The film could go too far in this direction and present no
one with whom the audience could identify, but it doesn't. Most
of the townspeople that we meet are flawed and imperfect (and
likely have dirty mouths), but they still come across as generally
well meaning and interesting. [SPOILERS COMING UP. CLICK AND
SWIPE TO BE SPOILED.] Even Grant, who
ends up being the Big Bad, is an annoying but generally good
guy; when offered the chance to cheat on Starla with the town
slutola, he begs off, noting that "Starla gets real worried
if I'm out too late." It was at this moment that I sat up a
bit, as I noticed that this movie wasn't going to offer easy
outs: The villain wasn't the asshole that a lesser movie
would have made him.
The one weak plot/characterization point is an unnecessary
dependence on a weird sort of psychic experience for the necessary
revelation of how to stop the infection. [PRETTY MUCH A SPOILER.
NOT A BIG ONE, BUT, YOU KNOW, STILL.] One
girl manages to rescue herself from slug infection by dragging
the slug out of her mouth using her long, long, manicured nails;
while the slug was in her mouth, she apparently had a psychic
connection with it, and came to understand what it was and how
it worked. This is fine; plenty of movies do stuff like
this. It seems a little unbelievable and contrived, however,
without being funny. I feel like it would have been less annoying
to have just had them blunder around haplessly, make some guesses
that don't work, but eventually, miraculously, kill the monster.
That kind of plot line also would seem more in keeping with
the film's overall emphasis on realistic, uninspired, even stupid
or ugly people; to force such characters to figure the situation
out and deal with it would be more interesting, and satisfying,
than giving them a psychic hotline to a solution. I would like
to note, however, that this is a really minor annoyance, and
it's mainly included here as I need to say something
negative in a review, generally. Lest the review consist of
me saying "Nathan Fillion's HAWT and this movie ROX" over and
There're plenty of clever, funny moments. A dowdy, overweight
woman singing The Crying Game karaoke, absolutely serious
and deadpan. When Grant hears that the local slut has had a
crush on him for decades, Grant comments, "You couldn't have
been more than 10 or 11 [when the crush started]," to which
she responds, "Hell, I was game." The sheriff's office labels
the rampaging monster "The Squid," and then marks his shenanigans
on their map with little sparkly octopus stickers. All this
is to say that the movie has a slightly off sense of humor,
and I thought it was great.
Andrew: Any movie where a bunch of zombies become a
metaphor for a mismatched marriage clearly has its heart in
the right place: about to be eaten by a ravenous alien worm
machine. Any last words, Laura?
Laura: Nathan Fillion's HAWT and this movie ROX.
Andrew: Hmm . . . quite.
Laura's Rating: 9/10
Andrew's Rating: 9/10