Alien invasion horror comedy
Trivia There is a mention of neighbors named "the Castevets". The Castevets were Rosemary's neighbors in Rosemary's Baby.
As a in-reference to past genre movies, the Mayor and his store is named R.J. MacReady, the same name as Kurt Russell's character in John Carpenter's The Thing and the local high school featured is named after Earl Bassett, the lead character in the movie Tremors played by Fred Ward.
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17th Sep 09
Small town gets invaded by an alien that turns Michael Rooker into a squid man thing. Then all hell breaks loose, but in a good way.
Until the night in question, Wheelsy was just your ordinary, average, middle-American town, where nothing much really happens. Sure, recently they'd just had a new Sheriff appointed in the shape of Firefly's Nathan Fillion, but as the sheriff sat snoozing in his car while his deputy lazily measured the air speed velocity of a small bird with their speed gun, it's obvious just how little actually happens there. Shame they weren't looking in the rear view mirror at the time, or they would've seen that meteorite crash just behind them, and the shape of Wheelsy change forever.
Across town, local school teacher Starla (Elizabeth Banks) just isn't in the mood for love but her businessman husband Grant Grant (played with scene stealing panache by Michael Rooker) really is. But when Grant realises he's not going to win tonight he gets the hump and heads in to town for a beer, where he soon stumbles into Brenda, a local bit of trailer trash who used to have a crush on Grant when they were younger. One drink leads to another and they soon find themselves stumbling back to her place through the wood, until Grant spots a big slimy thing on the floor, which he leans over to investigate. Two tentacles down the throat later and Grant will never be the same again either.
From here on in things get worse and worse for Grant and the town of Wheelsy in general. His obsession with meat becomes overwhelming, but most of it is for Brenda who is now hanging in his barn, is fat as a house and is getting bigger by the minute. Meanwhile Grant is heading round the countryside, eating cattle live and gradually turning into a big squid creature, an unlikely event not lost on the local cops, who take to highlighting his movements on a big map using squid shaped fridge magnets. Predicting his next move they try to corner him in a local farm using his wife Starla as bait, but new Sheriff Bill Hardy (Fillion) is none too happy about that, having always harboured a crush on Starla since high school. Meanwhile, Brenda is getting bigger and bigger. Will the sheriff and his team catch Grant in time? Will Brenda stop getting bigger? Will the girl in the bathtub escape all those wiggly worm creatures? And will the mayor stop swearing? Well, you'll just have to wait and see.
Slither is written by and is the debut directorial project of one James Gunn, whose name has been floating around horror forums for the past couple of years after he wrote the screenplay for 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake, off the back of the success of penning the first two Scooby-Doo movies. Can you remember the outcry at the time? Sacrilege, we all cried, how could he sully the name of Romero’s beloved classic? Surely it’s going to be shit, how dare he? But can you remember the hushed silence when the Dawn remake came out and shocked us all by being really rather good, if not the best western zombie flick in decades? It appeared My Gunn knew his stuff after all, which makes perfect sense when you delve a little deeper and find out that he actually learnt his trade back as part of the Troma production team in New York, something that’s quite apparent when you watch Slither. I mean, who else could gross us out as much, if not someone from Kaufman’s original fraternity? No wonder Slither is so much fun.
And that’s the real bottom line here; Slither is a sandblast of a movie, starting off slow and mildly amusing and ending in a crescendo or gags and gross-outs, like all good horror movie’s should. Michael Rooker excels as Grant Grant, the town’s local egotist, who accepts his transformation into half squid, half alien in a wholly amusing fashion, with his character in this movie being a straight cross of his title role character in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and C.J’s girlfriend’s dad in Kevin Smith’s underrated classic Mallrats (do you remember the scene where Jason Lee sticks he finger up his ass then offers Rooker a chocolate covered pretzel with it? Priceless...) Banks too has fun with Starla, going from mild-mannered ditzy school teacher to zombie killing survivor in a few short scenes, prompting Gregg Henry’s hilariously foul-mouthed mayor to shout “Bitch is hardcore!” And he’s not the only one to get a decent amount of expletives in this flick, Fillion plays a much less demanding character than his Firefly alter-ego, and can be regularly heard muttering lines like “Well now that is some fucked up shit!” and “My easy-going nature is gettin' sorely fuckin' tested,” without even breaking into a sweat.
In fact, the only real negative comment that can be made against Slither, especially in its capacity as a gross-out gore comedy flick, is its originality. The movie does share a lot of ideas in common with other alien-invasion slug flicks, and many a horror fan his hit the internet forums with cries of ‘Rip-off!’ rolling off the tongue. Well, this I suppose is all about point of view. Slither knowingly nods its head to The Deadly Swarm, Night of the Creeps, Tremors, Society, Night of the Living Dead and Cronenberg’s Shivers quite obviously, but if you were a more cynical type of horror critic you could, yes, say the film borrows quite liberally from those titles too. But ask yourself this, does every zombie movie rip off Romero? Does every slasher flick with a POV shot rip off Halloween? And is every post-apocalyptic road movie a Mad Max 2 rip-off? Your answer’s probably going to be ‘Yeah, kinda, but they’re still ace anyway’ which is how I feel about Slither too. Homage or rip-off, it’s still a riot right through to the final sicko gross out finale, so if you can leave your cynical head at the door this is an absolutely fantastic way to while away a couple of hours. Shame they didn’t reserve space for a cameo from Tom Atkins though.
Versions Available on DVD all over the place. The UK and US releases are practically identical too, with the same special features even if they do have different names.
1st Nov 04 Above all though, it is the relationship between John and Laura Baxter which is the film’s central focus throughout, and the gradual disintegration of their relationship amidst a haze of grief.