A Netflix Finds Review
B-movie horror films have always been popular, so long as I've been watching movies that is. When I was younger Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers were the kings of horror. They possessed unique attributes and while the intelligence behind their plots was limited, they were undoubtedly fun and over the top. This died in the 90s for some time. That's not to condemn the 90s, many great horror director's got their start in the 90s like Guillermo Del Toro and Robert Rodriguez. But as the 2000's rolled on in, an unsavory movement came into play - the mass production of low grade C-movie horror films. We've all seen them on the recently added list on Netflix. They have awful special effects. No point. No plot. Not even great nudity if that's your thing. Just stupidity.
What so many of these horror cesspools are lacking is a sense of energy. A good portion of the time there's no motivation behind these films, just a gore fest with zero substance. And even if it lacks substance, the Friday the 13th franchise thrived because of the super-charged Jason, who's intensity alone was enough to keep you watching. Hell, it felt like we were growing up with Jason, he was like that neighborhood kid who had a crappy family and smelled like cabbage but we all loved him anyway.
With that in mind, it's comforting to know that films like Slither are still made. Set in a small backwards town where the residents go about their day to day activities with little to no thought put into it, Slither blends many of the stereotypes that have landed other films of the genre box office success. This isn't a bad thing at all. Where most of the films in the genre fail these days, Slither capitalizes, highlights, and executes these endearing aspects with witty achievement. Elizabeth Banks takes the lead here, as Starla Grant. Married to the bullish Grant Grant played to perfection by the always entertaining Michael Rooker, Starla struggles with the realization that her husband may or may not be impregnated with an alien life form.
From there, Grant transforms into a slug basically, and begins infecting the townspeople in his plan to take over Earth. Now that he's one with the slug, they bond unnaturally and share memories and feelings. To begin this process he penetrates (literally, not sexually) Brenda, a floozie he was planning to bang at the start of the film before coming to his senses and then stumbling upon the alien's meteor. Brenda has the unfortunate task of housing over a hundred of Grant's slug babies. Brenda's fate in the movie is probably the most memorable aspect of it for me. Trailers and posters will state that the well publicized bathtub scene is the most pivotal point of the movie, but Director James Gunn perfectly sums up his view of modern horror with Brenda's bloated demise.
What follows is 50% Romero style zombie horror as the slugs enter any open mouthed yokel in town and turn them into drones for Grant; and 50% 1950's style monster movie cheese - harkening back to The Blob and even a bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the number of uninfected dwindles down to less than 5. Fast and slimy, the slugs have this oral fixation, needing to only go through the mouth for it's victims, unless you're Grant or Brenda of course.
The plot sounds like one of those crappy post-9/11 gore-fests that have single handily ruined the genre. But instead, Slither manages to indulge in a more productive avenue - hilarious, over the top, cheese. Cheese makes most meals better, but here the cheese is piled high with outlandish and grotesque monster make up and effects. Rooker's transformation from the chrome-domed moron he plays so well, to the brutal yet affectionate mutated slug, is absurd and creative. Gunn clearly shows his influences as he pays homage to the kings of the late 70s and 80s - John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and the genius behind The Toxic Avenger, Lloyd Kaufman - with spectacular results.
Slither is meant to repulse most definitely, and it did, with a pitiful box office performance upon it's release, and barely any revenue from DVD sales. But it's cult status as one of the few horror films from the last 10 years to truly imbue the spirit of the genre competently. That's not to say it holds a candle to any of the works by Carpenter or Cronenberg. But what Slither has managed to do is give a pulse-pounding adventure horror film that is hilarious and over the top. It's effects are not ground breaking but they are perfect for the film. A well rounded cast that while still having the typically annoying Banks, is over shadowed by the scene chewing Rooker who dedicates himself to this role. He didn't win any Oscars, but his desire to become a giant Slug and have his face melted and compressed with each new infected body took guts. Not many self-respecting actors can make that leap into grotesque horror but Rooker is a character actor, and this is one of his most memorable roles.
It did not rewrite the genre, but it makes for an enjoyable watch, for those who can stomach it. Slither is all at once a tribute, and a look to the future of horror. Instead of relying on torture porn or hand held camera retreads, it blends comedy and horror deftly, with no room for the pitfalls you find in most from the genre. It's never boring, and never too much. It hits it's mark with every leaping slug and exploding head.
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence and gore, and language.
Runtime: 95 mins.
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Cast: Don Thompson; Nathan Fillion; Gregg Henry; Elizabeth Banks; Dustin Milligan
Tagline: Slug it out.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Lyme disease. You touch some deer feces, and then you... eat a sandwich without washin' your hands. You got your lyme disease!"
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Official Site: www.universalstudiosentertainment.com/slither
Theatrical Release Date: March 31, 2006
Link to Netflix: Slither (2006)
Synopsis: In the small burg of Wheelsy, housecats are turning into hellcats and townsfolk are morphing into zombies, prompting Sheriff Bill Pardy and the concerned wife of one of the town's richest citizens to uncover the dark forces at work.