Starring: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry, Tania Saulnier
Director: James Gunn
Ask any B-movie enthusiast what film they’re most looking forward to seeing this year and you’re bound to hear a lot of jabber about a certain Samuel L. Jackson thriller called “Snakes on Plane.” But while fanboys swoon for CGI snakes and snappy, expletive-laced dialogue, writer/director James Gunn’s horror-comedy “Slither” sneaks its way into theaters with enough old-school style to knock “SoaP” supporters right off their soapbox. Featuring a cast teeming with talented up-and-comers (Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks) and veteran character actors like Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry, as well as a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek script that’s funny when it wants to be, and scary when it needs to be, “Slither” is a cult classic in the making.
I’m not sure if anybody’s ever addressed the fact that most of these films seem to always take place in small, rural towns, but Gunn doesn’t seem to mind. He, too, sets his story in Bumfuck, Nowhere - this time during deer season. At the center of the story is our happy couple, Grant Grant (Rooker) and his wife Starla (Banks), but, because Starla never seems to be “in the mood” anymore, Grant goes for a nighttime stroll through the woods. It’s here that he discovers an alien slug slinking along, and after curiously prodding it with a tree branch, is pierced by the slug’s hidden stinger, slowly turning him into a nasty monster. Grant then infects his neighbor Brenda (Brenda James), who in turn gives birth to a litter of slimy slugs who would like nothing more than to hop into your mouth and zombify you. And yes, in case you were wondering, this human womb is the same “blown up” woman from the trailer.
As more townies turn, Grant continues to evolve into a nasty squid-like monster with a soft spot for Air Supply. The only survivors left are Starla, police chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), a teenage girl (Tania Saulnier), and the town mayor (Gregg Henry) – whose rant about Mr. Pibb is by far the funniest piece of dialogue in the entire film. It’s up to them to stop the alien invasion, and honestly, none of them are really up to it. Giant slugs try to overtake your body, designated breeders want to eat you, and all of the other zombies have a green, acid spit (not unlike the dinosaur from “Jurassic Park”) that causes deformations. This is a job for a hero, and unfortunately, Bill is the unlikeliest hero that you’ll ever meet. What he doesn’t know is that this is actually really good news. The hero of the story never dies, so he’s got something to look forward to, right?
The five leading actors all do a superb job with their respective roles, but Fillion and Henry are the real standouts. While Nathan Fillion continues to prove he’s leading man material (the next Harrison Ford, anyone?), Gregg Henry manages to steal every scene he’s in. Newcomer Saulnier and rising star Banks also offer some nice eye candy throughout, as does Gunn’s wife (“The Office” co-star Jenna Fischer in a cameo role), but sadly, none of them get naked as might have been expected. On one level, it’s a real shame, but on another, it just means that the film is smart enough to not have to rely on gratuitous sex and violence to sell tickets.
In all honesty, “Slither” was a major disappointment waiting to happen, but it never once failed to keep the audience entertained with some combination of comedy, action and horror. Any fan of classic B-movie creature features like “The Fly” and “The Blob” will absolutely love the gross-out scares, while its humorous side is more akin to films like “Gremlins.” It also shows traces of “The Evil Dead,” “Dawn of the Dead,” and “Aliens,” not to mention the low-budget Troma films from which Gunn first got his start, but when it comes to a genre such as this, the more the merrier. “Slither” is sick and twisted, slimy and gory, and yeah, it’s also quite funny. I loved it, and so will you.
The disc art may suck, but Universal’s DVD release of “Slither” most certainly does not. Loaded with hours of bonus material, including an excellent audio commentary with director James Gunn and actor Nathan Fillion (via satellite), the single-disc release effort is a must-buy for fans of the film. Leading the pack of extras are twelve deleted/extended scenes (with optional commentary), all of which could have easily made the cut, while the rest of the disc features a behind-the-scenes look at production (“The Sick Minds and Slimy Days of Slither”), visual effects (“Step By Step”), and creature effects (“Bringing Slither’s Creatures to Life”), not to mention an on-set tour with Nathan Fillion, a quick recipe for movie blood, and a hilarious, eight-minute gag reel.