Director    James Gunn
Starring    Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker,
4 stars


11th July 2006

Horror films don't scare me in the same way as they used to. It just feels like Hollywood is running low on ideas; if it's not a back-slapping, ironic-as-you-like slasher movie it's a US remake of an Eastern classic or a 12A pussy flick that wouldn't scare the pants off my incontinent grandmother. Movies like Wolf Creek and Hostel are a perhaps a step in the right direction, but I don't scare easily; hell, the other day, I saw a spider in my bath so big I could actually make out a West Ham tattoo on one of its forearms. No, if you really want to be a successful horror flick, you have to loosen my sphincter and tickle my funnybone to boot. Slither doesn't disappoint in either area; it's a squirm-worthy shlock horror from a former Troma graduate and it's more fun than a bag full of naked ladies.

The town of Wheelsy is the very definition of backwater; folks are quiet and unassuming, the close-knit community all know each other's affairs and the most excitement police chief Bill Pardy (Fillion) can look forward to is guessing the velocity of the overhead birdlife with a speed gun. Unfortunately, it's towns like this that make perfect invasion fodder, and when a small meteorite lands in the Wheelsy woods, its inhabitant wastes no time in infecting the locals, starting with rich town asshole Grant Grant (Rooker). These extra terrestrials aren't in the business of making friends; they're slugs from outer space and they want to climb down your throat and impregnate your belly, xenomorph-style. Although Grant is slowly becoming an alien squid monster, he still has feelings for his trophy wife Starla (Banks) and with every new body he infects, he becomes one step closer to getting her back.

Sounds awesome, huh? How can you not love the concept of lovesick killer penile slugs from the darkest depths of the galaxy? That's about as deep as it gets to be honest, and it's a better picture for it; there's no pretension of high art at all, Slither just gets on with the business of being a big stupid horror comedy. Part of the charm is that all of the characters involved seem to be in on the joke: "What the fuck was that?" remarks Pardy, Macready-style, as Grant's tentacle-sporting beastie scuttles away from an early encounter. "It looks like something that fell of my dick in the war," counters his partner. Fillion in particular looks like he's having a blast, proving the charm he displayed in Serenity wasn't just down to the words of Joss Whedon; sardonic to the last and with his eyebrow ever-raised, he's the perfect lowbrow hero for this kind of vehicle. Elizabeth Banks (the nympho who frigs herself off with a shower in The 40-Year Old Virgin) makes for a dainty little love interest, and even beneath three tonnes of make-up, Michael Rooker still manages to exude menace from every pore.

A film like Slither could so easily have slipped to sub-Guttenberg shelving levels at your local video store, but it succeeds because it's fully aware it's sublimely ridiculous. The CGI is thankfully used sparingly and Grant, in his final stage of mutation, is a sight to behold; bulging forth with flesh, tentacles and zombie townfolk all melting into him, it's almost enough to make you puke in your popcorn - director James Gunn clearly learnt a lot from his time at Troma. Slither's influences are obvious from the get-go - early Cronenberg in particular - and you could say it's more than a little similar to The Thing, but that would be doing it an injustice; its tongue-in-cheek approach and sheer knockabout rowdiness means it operates on another level from your conventional horror movie and it's certainly more funny and considerably more gross than anything John Carpenter could come up with these days.

It's by no means a faultless movie, Christ no; apart from Fillion, the Wheelsy police force are practically faceless (often literally) and if you're really going to get picky, you could perhaps suggest that an 18 rating would suit it down to the ground, affording it more guts, gore and the like. But try as you might, Slither is impossible to pick apart - it's a horror comedy that deserves its place on a plinth up there with the likes of Evil Dead 2 and Re-Animator, kicking sand in the face of the recent pretenders to the throne. Hell, the teaser trailer even had the balls to step up to some of the best movies the genre has to offer: "The Shining. The Exorcist. The Ring. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Blair Witch Project. They all have one thing in common. They. Were. For. PUSSIES." You can't help but admire bravado like that and after an hour and a half of killer slugs, space monsters and bloodthirsty zombies, you'll be in 100% agreement.

More:  Horror  Comedy  Monster
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