There are two kinds of horror movies that are worth watching. The first of course is the classic jump from your seat stain your drawers scream-a-thon. The second is the camped out, laugh yourself silly, and end up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, cheese fest. It’s the rare film that really manages to scare. Rarer still the film it makes us laugh on purpose, such as George Romero’s Creepshow.
Slither makes the ambitious attempted to do both. Slither is the film directorial debut of James Gunn, who you may remember as the writer of Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead, as well as the Scooby-Doo movies and a host of other films. Gunn is a total devote a 80’s horror films and made what clearly comes across as a homage to his heroes.
Unfortunately despite an impressive cast including Nathan Fillion of the Josh Whedon Firefly series and its film cousin Serenity, Elizabeth Banks from Scrubs and 40-year-old virgin, Michael Rooker, Jenna Fischer, and more. Slither simply doesn’t reach the lofty heights to which it aspires.
It starts with the “space alien crash lands on Earth and leaves a nasty present” gimmick. The gimmick, in this case, turned out to be the first of 5 progressions of monster the look for all the world like a translucent pulsing globules vagina that spits out a quivering dart which bears more than a passing resemblance to Audrey two from Little Shop of Horrors. Our victim, played by Michael Rooker, is a flustered former Marine type turned frustrated forty-hour week hubby. After he’s nailed in the woods by our critter he develops an insatiable appetite for all things flesh starting with the meat market, moving to the pet population, and finally ending up with, you guessed it, people. Yes, it seems mister Gunn has a bit of a flesh-eating zombie fetish.
From there we go from what is told as an almost languidly paced examination of a man’s descent into monster hood, to a sort of attempted cross between arachnophobia and alien. I won’t spoil the surprise, but for those of you who’ve never seen Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex”, think giant disembodied breast that talks. Said breast then gives birth to critter number four. A gazillion little red slug like things that zip all over the place at high speed trying to get down the gullet of any live thing in sight creating yet more zombies for our heroes, all the name actors except Rooker, to avoid kill or comment on.
Sounds like goofy fun right? The problem is the film’s paced so slowly in the beginning while it meanders around Rookers marital troubles with local dish teacher Liz banks, and takes more than 40 minutes for the real mayhem to begin. By then we’re looking at our watches.
Another problem is that the scares never really scare. On the shriek-o-meter this film can only really manage to shout “eh”. That’s because, as the main monster, Rooker is never really all that menacing. He’s sympathetic, and remains in love with his wife. Furthermore, every other manifestation of monster is either just gross, or in the case of mother tit, just silly. The slugs look more like giant mutated red sperm, which let’s face it, aint all that menacing unless you’re wearing Armani. Worse still they squeek like mice. Squeeking sperm?
This is not to say that the film a total train wreck by any stretch. The actors, especially Nathan Fillion as Sheriff Bill Pardy and the aforementioned Liz Banks, have terrific chemistry, and really all go for their roles. The most fun being Gregg Henry late of Gilmore Girls, and United 93 is Mayor R.J. MacReady. Does that name sound familiar Carpenter fans? Henry has a spazz out moment in the back of the sheriff’s car that shows just how much fun everyone’s having.
The DVD features the film as released, plus extras which are so-so. Of the deleted scenes only the meat market file is a real keeper. The affects sequence with John Gajdecki will teach you things about the adult to industry as well as our sperm slugs that you may find interesting or disgusting depending on your proclivities, and the gore hound grill with patent and blood recipe is mildly amusing and informative. The rest unfortunately is snooze-ville.
A word to the producers about gag reels, gag reels do not work if their planned or produced this isn’t America’s Funniest Home Videos they need to be impromptu unintended and un-staged so please forget the sound effects.
Sadly despite all the good work great production values and obvious love thrown in, Slither never really scares and never really makes us laugh our butts off and we wanted to. It’s not terrible it’s just not as good as it, or we, wanted it to be.
That’s it, I’m Nick Hoffman, see you next time.