I genuinely believe that if more movies were like Slither, James Gunn’s glorious pastiche of 50’s monster movies given a hilarious blast of punk rock attitude, the world would be a much better place. While hardly being a groundbreaking work of horror/sci-fi, it’s endearingly sweet collision of grotesquely extreme body-horror and jet black, redneck humour plays like David Cronenberg tried to direct an episode of King Of The Hill and marks the directorial debut of Gunn following his screenwriter days which gave us such experiences as Tromeo And Juliet, Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead remake and the first two Scooby Doo movies. Of course, this put him on the road to mega-movies such as Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Suicide Squad sequel which exposed mass audiences to his particular brand of irreverent humor like a brain controlling space worm just oozed into your face…
Welcome to Wheelsy, South Carolina where wealthy resident Grant Grant and his much younger wife Starla, are having troubles in their marriage and the self-important, jealous husband storms off one night to find solace in the arms of another. Upon finding a willing participant in the form of Brenda (the residents of Wheelsy are hardly an upmarket kind of folk), Grant heads off into the woods to get busy but instead is penetrated himself by a strange blob-like thing that’s hitched a ride via a meteorite that shoots a weird barbed like dart into his chest. The next morning Grant literally wakes up a new man and is infused by a malevolent alien intelligence that wants to consume mankind with it’s repulsive life-cycle and spawn thousands of squeaking, worm-like parasites that force their way into your mouth and make you into an acid-spitting, zombie-esque slaves to a squishy alien hive mind. As the town residents rabidly succumb to this disgusting invasion tactic and Grant slowly mutates into something resembling a syphilitic wad of pre-chewed bubblegum (“It’s just a bee sting…”), put-upon town Sherriff Bill Pardy, Starla, orphaned teen Kylie and foul mouthed mayor MacReady strive to try and stop this slimy orgry of extra terrestrial conquest and save the world from a being that’s absorbing the townsfolk into it’s mass but is still obsessed with it’s who it’s host’s wife is hanging out with…
Owing a hell of a lot to those two other horror epics featuring dick-shaped brain slugs – Cronenberg’s Shivers and Fred Decker’s Night Of The Creeps – Gunn makes a familiar premise his own by infusing the town of Wheelsy with a small town South Park-style of ignorance (the residents are kinda slack-jawed morons) and then treating them all hideously for our amusement. Remember, there’s not many movies that feature Nathan Fillion fist fighting a zombie deer so you’ve got to scoop films like this up when they happen.
Channeling Gunn’s entertainingly cruel script are a group of actors that have regularly shown up in his future projects, but above all you really have to feel for Michael Rooker who’s literally entombed alive within excruciating looking prosthetics (that’s what a friendship with James Gunn gets you…) but he makes quite the impressive Lovecraftian beast that one grizzled, old character describes as looking like “Something that fell off my dick during the war!”. The film is also a perfect vehicle for Nathan Fillion’s particular line in dufus heroics as his Sherriff Pardy is a lovable leading man in the Bruce Campbell vein – i.e absorbing vast amounts of punishment while delivering pitch perfect one liners at the flesh warping shenanigans, fabulously underselling the sight of Grant’s huge drooling blob of a final form into which the rest of the possessed townsfolk are lining up to get absorbed by with a disbelieving – “Now that is some fucked up shit…”.
Elizabeth Banks plays Starla, the object of Grant’s abusive affections, with that likable presence that’s he style and proves to be quite adept at the slaying of parasite-controlled neighbours to the point where Gregg Henry’s dipshit mayor has to exclaim “Bitch is hardcore…”. There’s even a cameo from The Office’s Jenna Fischer (Gunn’s wife at the time) who plays a ditzy police dispatcher.
Anyone familiar with James Gunn’s work will be well versed in his particular brand in UN-PC humor that masks genuine sweetness but where Slither really scores in where it merges it’s sarcastic personality while referencing it’s extremely gross and absurd uproarious scenes of gruesome body horror.
“Somethin’s wrong with me!” Wails a woman stuffed so full of brain-worms she’s ballooned to monolithic size before she bursts like a ghastly pinata; “What we gonna do now, Bill?” gasps a horrified deputy upon first laying eyes on Grant’s slug-like form, “Cuffs won’t even fit on him!”. The script is positively loaded with these slime, soaked zingers and nicely offsets the fact that the life cycle of Grant’s alien affliction is legitimately creepy as he impregnates a victim with a pair of phallic, Cronenbergian tentacles which gives them an uncontrollable lust for meat as they incubate the worms that make them swell to unbelievable size. Upon popping like a screaming paper bag the worms go out and infect people who Grant summons back to assimilate with him to increase his tentacles mass… fucked up shit, indeed, but it also means that’s it’s balance of the hilarious and the horrible is pretty spot on.
If I’m being brutally honest, despite it’s dedication to bloody belly laughs, Slither can’t really be accused of being particularly original and despite being pretty damn sweet, it’s also suprisingly short (not even 100 minutes) but it’s a welcome return to the ludicrous glories to 80’s b-movies that is packed with plenty of yuks of both kinds.
Incredibly likeable, endearingly repulsive and generally a lot of fun, Slither really didn’t get the attention it deserved upon it’s initial release but has since found it’s rightful place among it’s peers as a deeply weird cult flick from a director that has since gone to Hollywood superstardom.
Let it worm it’s way into your brain, today!