Written by Andy Kubica
This review contains SPOILERS for the 2006 film. Please be warned!
Local rich, Cro-Magnon brute, Grant Grant (yes, that’s his onscreen moniker), investigates the appearance of a downed meteorite just outside his town. He is in the forest committing adultery on his beautiful, naïve, young wife Starla when he is pierced in the chest by the inhabitant of the vessel, a spiny, bulbous pulsating mass of goo. There is no “Thing”, “Predator” or “Blob” here. The penetration goes to Grant’s cranium where his body now becomes “host” to an otherworldly parasite. Meanwhile, Starla becomes concerned Grant hasn’t shown up to meet her at the local town hangout and consoles herself with recently promoted sheriff and childhood friend Bill who still is holding a torch for her.
Grant, now consumed with gathering leaves and mutilating small animals in the basement of his home, returns to the domicile of his concubine in an attempt to inject her with his tendrils. She resists, but ultimately succumbs to his strength and determination to further his cause. Once Starla and Grant are reunited, she can’t help but notice his infection has begun a transformation in Grant physically and mentally. She becomes concerned for his well-being as Grant attacks her wanting another victim. Luckily, Policeman Bill arrives just in time to save her for the moment, but Grant flees.
Bill forms a small posse to pursue Grant and discovers Grant’s lover, Brenda, impregnated like a human larval sac, stuffed away in a deserted barn in agonizing pain and famished for the taste of meat. Unfortunately, Brenda explodes as she “gives birth” to thousands of small maggot-like slithering critters who envelop several posse participants eventually turning them into flesh-eating zombies. The critters make their way to the home of a family where they do what they do. They terrorise and infest the home leaving only a single female teenage survivor to band together with Bill and Starla to attempt a final showdown with the now grotesque-looking Grant who returns home to try and complete his mission of world domination.
Writer/Director James Gunn finds a way with Slither to capture the tone of this type of genre film including the ability to cross genres of horror, comedy and science fiction perfectly. His screenplay is funny, horrible and has the characters doing things and making one liners that have you constantly laughing and cringing at the same time. Previously, Gunn had written Tromeo and Juliet for Troma studios founder Lloyd Kaufman as well as Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake and was itching to direct his own creature feature. Tone is the toughest factor in making a film like this. Do you go too goofy or too gory? Do the actors play it straight or do they just go for laughs? Slither is able to do it all simultaneously making it a thoroughly enjoyable film.
Michael Rooker (who also appears in Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy), genre native Nathan Fillion and the always enjoyable Elizabeth Banks play off each other quite well here and are able to strike that balance in their performances where you believe them, empathize with them and want to see them prevail. Why does Michael Rooker always play sleazebag roles? From Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to his role on The Walking Dead, he seems to always play unlikable characters, but maybe that’s because he does it so well.
Even though it is partially a comedy, there is plenty of gore on display as well, another element which makes this film unique. The Brenda barn scene is quite revolting when she explodes and litters the ground with all her “children”. At one point Grant snaps his tail and cuts a man in half and within the family home, the teenage girl bathes and ends up with a creature in her mouth trying to take control of her soul. These moments provide pure horror delight as we get to see all the fun practical effects and CGI goodness. Some of the CGI is now a bit dated and looks out of place slightly as the creatures don’t fit within their environment a few times. There is also a scene with a bloody mutated dog where the practical effects creature was poorly designed and/or manipulated, making it hard to feel any danger from it.
It’s funny how James Gunn has sort of paralleled the career of Sam Raimi a bit in going from genre horror to now directing superhero movies. You can see in watching the Guardians of the Galaxy films he is able to do the same sort of melding the action/superhero genre while throwing in an awesome retro soundtrack and adding a lot of humour as well. Here’s hoping his new version of The Suicide Squad is many steps above the previous attempt. I guess we shall see.
Highly recommended: 4 out of 5 stars