Movie Review: Slither

(2006)
Directed by James Gunn
Starring Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, Tania Saulnier, Don Thompson, Brenda James

Back before James Gunn was a huge player in Hollywood, not too long after his days of working for Lloyd Kaufmann and Troma, and shortly after he had written the remake for Dawn of the Dead (2004), he wanted to make a good old fashioned monster movie, like the ones he grew up on in the ‘80s. And he did just that. I went to see Slither in the theater when it came out and just loved it. Unfortunately, not too many other people did go see it and it bombed at the theater, telling Hollywood that nobody wants to see these kinds of films. How wrong they were. The real shame is that just because it didn’t draw in the crowds, it stopped producers taking chances on similar type films.

The story is pretty simple, with a meteor landing in the woods near a small southern town. Michael Rooker plays Grant, who happens to be stumbling through those same woods that same night and comes across this rock. Before you know it, he is stuck by this needle-like thing that comes out of the meteor. Over the next few days, Grant starts to change into something quite different. At first it is slow and subtle, which he tries to pass off to his wife, played by Elizabeth Banks, as a little “bug bite”. Before long, he’s stockpiling large quantities of meat in his basement, eventually becoming something like we’ve never seen before. This is when the fans of ‘80s monsters will have a great time. Each time we see Rooker, his character has mutated into something more and more outrageous. It has been way too long since we’ve seen a creature so original than the one he eventually turns into. Then of course, you add in the little slug creatures that get inside of you and turn you into a sort-of connected zombie creature, and you have even more fun!

Another reason this film is as good as it is, is due to the amazing cast that Gunn gathered up to be in this non-stop monster romp. Nathan Fillion is Bill Pardy, the sheriff that is trying to figure out what has invaded his little town and how to stop it. He’s always had a thing for Banks’ character since they were kids, even though she’s now married to Rooker. Major credit to Banks as well, since even though she doesn’t have to get inside any of the gooey makeup, she does have to get really up close and personal with Rooker when he is. Gregg Henry, who plays the mayor, is one of the funniest characters in the film, and has some of the best lines. Simply a riot. All the characters here, from the deputies to the young girl who barely escapes a slug attack while taking a bath, they are well developed and likeable which then draws you even more into the story.

This film could not have been made by someone that didn’t just love the horror films from that era, with all the little nods to the genre, this is coming from a true fan. There are names taken from different films, such as the mayor named McCready, after Kurt Russell’s character in John Carpenter’s The Thing. You’ll see other names being used throughout the film, on different shops and stuff, such as the “Henenlotter’s Saddle Lodge” to even a cameo of Gunn’s old boss, Lloyd Kaufman. A nice and simple nod to the genre he (and us) loves.

It was amazing to see a gooey monster movie, with so many practical effects that make this film worth seeing just for those alone! There are some CGI effects, but they are used very effectively in combination with live effects and work well together. It is astounding what Michael Rooker went through for this role, at times being entirely encased in makeup where you can only really see part of his face. But he still gives such a fun performance.

Gunn also does something that is so hard to do in the horror genre and that is to make is funny as well as scary. Many try, and many fail, but Gunn has made a really funny comedy, all mixed in with a gory and gooey alien invasion flick, filled with special effects that will make every horror fan smile.

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