Every once in a while a movie comes out that is so innovative to the horror genre that fans everywhere can’t help but stand up and take notice. Whether it’s a new plot device, a new method of adding gore, or a new director who is so demented his vision redefines the genre. Slither is none of those things. Instead it makes its story by taking what has been done a hundred times before and having fun with it. We’ve seen aliens attack from outer space. We’ve seen humans taken over by those aliens, and we’ve seen zombies. There is nothing new about any of it. Instead Slither’s innovation comes from how outlandish director James Gunn allows the film to go with those ideas.
It’s a quiet day in Wheelsy, a small town getting ready to celebrate the start of deer season. Kids go to school, married couples fulfill their matrimonial duties, and the town mayor curses like a sailor. Yes, everything is normal in Wheelsy until a meteor lands with something inside it. That something infects Grant Grant (Michael Rooker playing a creep so nice he was named Grant twice) who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and the alien invasion begins. Grant begins to mutate, impregnates the woman he was getting ready to cheat on his wife with, with alien seed, and the town suddenly finds itself overrun with alien slugs that attempt to take over human bodies, turning them into a huge alien consciousness. It’s up to the town sheriff, played by Nathan Fillion of Serenity fame, Grant’s wife Starla played by the gorgeous Elizabeth Banks, the crude mayor, and a teenage girl who managed to fend off a slug attack that got far enough that she understands what’s motivating that hive mentality, to stop the slithering attack.
James Gunn stages the alien attack much like the sci-fi thrillers of the 1950s like It Came From Outer Space or Invasion of the Body Snatchers, only with a gruesome twist that allows him to go all out on the gore factor. It’s a classic sci-fi plot as handled by a studio like Troma Pictures; appropriate since Lloyd Kaufman (president of Troma) appears in a cameo along with several other noticeable names in the end credits. It’s as if the creative minds behind other films like Slither wanted to pay tribute to their own genre by appearing in this film.
And that’s what Slither does best – it pays tribute to other B-thriller flicks by building on their foundation and having fun with it. There is nothing in Slither that is played for seriousness. If you think a hive-minded land-squid like alien mutant still trying to turn on his wife by playing their song (Air Supply) is supposed to be serious then you’re watching the wrong film. This is a case where you have to take the director’s intent in mind when you watch a film: what was he trying to do with the film – what was he trying to achieve. You wouldn’t criticize Schindler’s List for not making you laugh – it’s not that kind of a movie. As such I think it’s also inappropriate to criticize Slither for being a pretty silly film. Anyone who couldn’t tell from the trailer that Slither was going to be an almost farcical take on gore-infested, alien-invasion flicks has no business watching this movie, because it’s almost guaranteed they won’t like it.
That’s not to say Slither is a perfect film. It’s cheesy with low budget effects that stand out from time to time, although truthfully those just add to the film’s B-movie charm. I take a little issue with the amount of cursing in the film, which seemed forced at times to add colorful metaphors in as frequently as possible. It’s almost as if Gunn wasn’t confident the film would get the R-rating off the gore so he added in as much profanity as possible to ensure it. While it adds some nice bits for Gregg Henry, who plays the foul-mouthed town mayor, it seems inappropriate for Nathan Fillion’s actually-responsible sheriff. Fillion is more than capable of getting by on his southern charm without the language.
As for me, I like Slither. I find it difficult to criticize a movie for refusing to take itself too seriously. I doubt Elizabeth Banks stood on set in her nightgown surrounded by alien infected bodies listening to air supply and took things seriously, so why should I. Instead I choose to revel in the movie’s outlandish approach to B sci-fi movies of the past. If you can do that then this movie is for you, but if you can’t tell from the trailer alone that you’re going to like it, you should probably skip this movie.
The DVD release for Slither brings almost everything you’d expect from a movie like this… except for an Unrated/Director’s cut release. Is it possible that we got nearly everything we could possibly get from the theatrical release? While we don’t get a new edit of the film, the disc does include deleted and extended scenes, they just aren’t inserted back into the film. I have to wonder if this means a double-dip version of the movie is in Universal’s future.
Like the movie itself, Nathan Fillion is at the heart of the DVDs best moments. Whether it’s the commentary with director James Gunn and Fillion, or his light hearted set tour, Fillion shows that he actually has all the charisma and humor he shows in his films. I’ve been a big fan of Fillion since I saw him on “Firefly” (earlier Fillion fans may have gotten on board with “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place”) , although his co-workers show they don’t hold him with as high regard in the “super secret” documentary, “Who is Bill Pardy?” Not surprisingly, Fillion is also a highlight in the gag reel, although his co-stars manage to hold their own against him in blooper counts, particularly Elizabeth Banks.
For true genre fans there are quite a few short featurettes aimed at their particular tastes, from the “Gorehound Grill” (cooking up blood), to featurettes on making the creatures of the movie and the puppet masters behind them. There is also a short set-diary by aforementioned genre legend Lloyd Kaufman, showing what his days on the set were like.
Slither is one of those movies I can imagine tossing in the player when I want some light-hearted entertainment mixed with alcohol. It’s a lot of fun, and the bonus features are worth watching at least once, with a couple of them worth repeating occasionally. If Troma films entertain you and you loved Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead flicks, this is one DVD worth picking up.