Slither (2006)

*. An asteroid approaches Earth. We know it’s carrying bad news. We may think of the spaceship that appears at the beginning of John Carpenter’s The Thing, or again in Predator. For those with longer memories, the alien spores releasing and then drifting to Earth at the beginning of Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) may come to mind. I wonder what the first movie was to begin with such a shot. Something from the ’50s I suspect.
*. James Gunn, who wrote and directed Slither, might be someone to ask. He conceived of Slithers as a tribute to the horror movies of the ’70s and ’80s, and the featurette on the making of the movie begins with a roll call of various inspirations: The Fly, Tremors, Gremlins, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Brood, An American Werewolf in London, The Evil Dead, Critters, The Toxic Avenger, The Thing, Alien, and Halloween.
*. One title that doesn’t get dropped is Night of the Creeps (1986). This might raise an eyebrow, as Slither‘s debt to Night of the Creeps, which was noticed and remarked upon right away, is pretty pronounced. Both films are about slugs from space that enter their victims’ mouths and turn them into zombies. I’m not saying this film is just a rip-off, but not mentioning Night of the Creeps as a source seems a bit passively defensive.
*. Now here is where all this becomes relevant. Is Slither meant as homage, or parody? It’s obviously a horror-comedy, but that’s what most of the movies Gunn was inspired by were too (including Night of the Creeps). And they were parodies that were in some cases over twenty years old when Gunn made Slither. So I guess it’s an homage-parody of various homage-parodies. Which leads to the question of whether it brings anything new to the table.

*. The answer to that is: not much. Slither is an entertaining little movie, but it doesn’t work very well as a comedy or as a horror film. Being so in debt to so many other pictures, every part of the story is predictable. Indeed, it’s made even more predictable for the way it taps into the then-reigning zombie apocalypse genre.
*. Also, the fact that so many other films are shoehorned into the plot makes the story messy at times. A good example is when Kylie gets throated by one of the slugs and receives some kind of species memory. I take it this is borrowed from a similar scene in Quatermass and the Pit, which is an interesting footnote but doesn’t really provide us with any necessary information here and probably just confuses things.
*. The whole shared consciousness idea (the slugs constituting “a conscious disease”) isn’t made use of in any interesting way, and doesn’t seem to have been adhered to all that closely. Some of the possessed townsfolk become Grant, but others appear to hold on to their own identity.
*. The slugs are CGI when shown moving around in large formations, which actually makes them less threatening. A lot of effects, however, are done in camera with prosthetics, and those are always fun, especially when they’re given such an obvious sexual twist. The phallic innards threatening tentacle sex that come out of Grant’s gut reminded me of the horny hotdogs in Sausage Party, while Kylie is clearly choking on a rubber dildo. As for Gale’s bedroom at the end, it made me think of the diseased imaginings of Serpieri’s Druuna comics, which were kinky enough to begin with.
*. But even here it all looks a little too familiar. The bodies sticking together in a fleshy conglomerate clearly recalls The Thing, while Grant’s face is an almost carbon copy of the melted phiz of Dr. Pretorius in From Beyond. Again, twenty years later shouldn’t Gunn have come up with something just a bit new?
*. Nathan Fillion is very good in this kind of role, and I’d say the same for Michael Rooker, but they both seem wasted. I think the fundamental problem with Slither is that the script just isn’t clever enough to carry things along. There are no memorable moments or lines but just a handful of gory highlights. If you’re a fan of such stuff you will have seen all this before, years ago, and if you’re not a fan I don’t think it’s worth the bother.

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