Has the horror genre been so long devoid of a little wackiness that it will hungrily lap up anything with a few laughs thrown in to string the audience along? Most over-the-top gore fests get the crowd chirping with nervous chuckling, but Slither manages some genuine laughs. Bear in mind, in this case that’s a bad thing; most of the time I found myself laughing at the film instead of with it.
An alien entity with purely evil intentions of global domination crash lands on earth in the kind of place where Larry the Cable Guy probably grew up. Wheelsy is a back-hills town that lives for deer season and celebrates it the way most places ring in the New Year. The alien initiates its reign of terror by infesting the first human it encounters, one Grant Grant (yes, same first name as last).
The invasion spreads when Grant (Michael Rooker) impregnates a local woman with the alien’s seed. She proceeds to feast on whatever local wildlife she can get her hands on (predominantly local pet puppies) and swells up like Violet chowing down on Wonka gum. The size of a short bus, she finally explodes, spewing forth thousands of little slug-like creatures which crawl into people’s minds via their screaming mouths and turn them into zombies psychically controlled by the Grant monster. It’s up to local sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) and Grant’s disenfranchised bride Starla (Elizabeth Banks) to bring the monster down before he can take over the world with his worms.
Slither’s writer and director James Gunn, is best known to horror fans as the man who rewrote George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. It would seem James was perhaps jealous of the success enjoyed by riotous Shaun of the Dead and decided to try his hand at penning his own comedic take on the zombie flick. Nowhere near as smart or entertaining, Slither goes for the predictable gags, usually mocking the stereotypical redneck characters or spoofing stock horror moments.
The one area where the movie gets it right is visual effects. While all that artistic effort is lost on a movie mind numbing enough to qualify as an over the counter sleeping aid, at least you’re given the opportunity to appreciate what a truly inspired disembowelment looks like. Tack on the creepily animated slugs convincingly ramming themselves down everyone’s throats and the zombified humans hocking acid loogies a la Jurassic Park’s spitter dinosaur, and you’ve got special effects worthy of a StarCraft Zerg cinematic.
Visuals aren’t the only things wasted on the movie. Nathan Fillion finds himself retooling his Capt. Malcolm Reynolds character, this time with a genuine redneck posse and a Crown Vic instead of a Firefly. Having endeared himself to the sci-fi community, Fillion is now on target to gain a following with the hardcore horror fans. Too bad he’s not landing the kind of roles that would showcase his comedic talent to more mainstream audiences.
Slither is definitely a departure from the kinds of horror movies that have dominated the genre lately. The fact that it refuses to take itself too seriously is a moderately refreshing step, but it can’t make up for the fact that most everything else about the movie is downright disappointing.