Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Written by Tío Esqueleto
Some months ago, when Slither was first brought to my attention, it was via a quick blurb synopsis, accompanied by a small, special effects headshot of what has become known as the Rookerslug. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it looks remarkably like a cross between Belial from Basketcase, anything From Beyond, and a struggling William Hurt at the end of Altered States. Heaven, to some of us. My initial thought was straight to video, but kudos to the "concrete", or "practical", special effects. No CGI. I later found out it was, in fact, soon to be a theatrical release.
Instantly, as with any film that sparks an interest, the very first (and most important) question is "Who's directing?" A trip to the IMDb, and a few VERY disappointing clicks later, I had my answer: James Gunn, a virtual no-name who, to his discredit, had penned three of what I would consider to be, personally, the most frustrating and insulting adaptations in the last 10 years: The Scooby-Doo films, and the Dawn of the Dead remake.
OUCH!! Scooby Doo is something I still hold very close to my heart, and couldn't believe that when it finally had it's chance (potential! - potential! - potential!), was hugely mishandled. Dawn of the Dead - REMAKE? Just plain blasphemy. Fanboy lament...cry cry cry...blah blah
blah..yeah, I know.
So, just when I was about to toss Slither over to "maybe someday through Netflix" status, I scrolled down a bit more, expecting to further my disgust for Gunn, when I came across this little nugget. James Gunn had directed Tromeo and Juliette, along with soiling his hands on a number of various Troma productions. He is Troma family, so to speak. Now I'm not the world's biggest Troma fan. In fact, with the exception of The Toxic Avenger, I find most of it pretty unwatchable. Respectable, but unwatchable. One thing you cannot take away from Troma, is that Troma has heart. So, it was a combination of that Troma "heart", the photo of the Rookerslug (and its obvious nods within its respected genre), and the fact that he tends to pretty much stay within the horror archetype, that I decided to give Mr. Gunn the benefit of the doubt.
I figured if this guy, with a true love, and a background in the most offensive of horror titles, is given a budget and an 'R' rating on a killer slugs from outer space movie, we could be in for horror gold, or at least one hell of a good time. Given the recent state of the horror film, a few gems aside, what's to lose? And, from there, it all fell into place. No big stars, an 'R' rating but with the Universal Pictures imprint, and the eventual arrival of what has got to be in the running for the best one-sheet of the year, the Slither bathtub poster. It was finally time to see what Mr. Gunn and, ultimately, Slither was all about...
Slither is your classic drive-in monster movie about a parasite from outer space, bent on taking over whatever planet it lands on next. In this case, a jelly-like, slithering, space vagina, born from a meteor that has recently crash landed in the woods of a small farming town, Anywhere, USA, where the recent start of deer-hunting season, appears to be all that is on anybody's mind.
The creature eventually finds a human host in an unsuspecting Michael Rooker, a loving husband who stumbles across it while taking a nighttime stroll to clear his head after a tift with the wife. It then proceeds, via its new Rooker shell, to mate with a local and begins its world domination, one parasitic slug at a time.
Slither is gross, suspenseful, and at times genuinely scary. It hails back to a time in horror movies that we haven't seen in quite some time. A time where a lot of directors are now claiming to go, but usually fall short. Drive-in, grindhouse, splatter, 42nd street, whatever you want to call it, Slither beckons back to the good old days when nothing was taboo. When kids (yes kids) were just as prone to an on-screen demise, as their grown-up counterparts (usually a
telltale sign that the studio system was in no way involved).
All of these things ring true with Slither but, more than anything, Slither is fun. FUN! - FUN! - FUN! The comedy in it is superb. It is equally as funny as it is gross, scary, or "wrong", if not more. Everybody in it does such a phenomenal job. One-liners and bad dialogue are quite possibly the biggest downfall for most genre movies. I learned long ago to excuse this shortcoming, as it just seemed to come with the territory. One-liners, especially.
Even Hellboy, while I know it is his shtick, and I was more than happy to oblige them, was tiring at times, especially to somebody who didn't know the character. With Slither you actually hang on for the next great line. The dialogue overall is one of the greatest assets to this movie. I found it a lot like Stephen King when he writes Podunk's and idgets. He does it quite well. Very realistic, yet very colorful. Slither's dialogue falls somewhere between this colorful King-speak, and the finer filth of the great John Waters.
The mayor in this film, played by Gregg Henry, being the prime example of this Midwestern, yet overtly Southern fried local flavor. Gunn doesn't skip on the references, either. If you know what you're looking for, this picture has more references than if Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, and Kevin Williamson, engaged in a threeway behind the video store, while Eli Roth watched. Jam packed! The aforementioned Mayor character, Jack Macready, is a nod to Kurt Russel's character in The Thing. One of many references that include The Blob, The Brood, and Videodrome, just to name a few. There is a serious Cronenberg undertone running throughout. Pregnancy woes, slime, one's body rebelling against oneself. I wasn't surprised to find that Gunn is a rampant Cronenberg fan. It certainly shows here.
My only very minor Slither complaint would be the CGI slugs, but there are more than enough wonderful concrete/practical SFX, that what little CGI there is is more than bearable. In fact, most of the CGI is really quite good.
They just do not make them like this anymore, my friends. This is what they mean by a 'B' movie. Most people confuse 'B' movies with really shitty attempts at 'A' movies. Not this one. It was a 'B' movie from its inception. No stars, nobody big backing it, no budget but surprisingly well made, and Rated R, it is a CAPITAL B+++ (A), a fucking riot!
Does it excuse Mr. Gunn from his past travesties? No, but it is a great start down the road to redemption.