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Overall Rating
3.91

Awesome: 15.79%
Worth A Look61.84%
Average: 19.74%
Pretty Bad: 2.63%
Total Crap: 0%

7 reviews, 34 user ratings


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Slither
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Too much irony-rich blood for its own good"
3 stars

The thing about those ridiculously campy 1950's monster movies that makes them so hilariously entertaining to watch today is that they weren’t trying to be funny. Sure, they had preposterous plots, cheesy dialogue and performances that contained more wood than the sets, but the people made them, more often than not, approached them as though they really had something special on their hands and the humor came from the vast disconnect between their ambitions and the reality of the final product. Take a film like “The Horror of Party Beach,” an infamous 1964 Z-grade classic in which radioactive material dumped into the ocean leaks and inspires a race a mutated fish-men who wreak havoc on the local beach bunnies. It is utterly ridiculous but since everyone is playing it straight–even during the scene in which the creatures invade a slumber party–the result is a film that may be garbage on most serious aesthetic levels but which is so entertaining on some dumb, fundamental level that you can’t help but have fun watching it. (If you don’t believe me, pick up the DVD of it that came out this week and see for yourself.) Now if the film had decided to tell the same story in an intentionally campy manner, would it have been have as entertaining? No, because campiness only works when it sneaks up on you unawares–if you are constantly being reminded that something is supposed to be joke, it quickly becomes tiresome and you are left with the spectacle of a bunch of smug people showing how superior they are by letting us know that they know how that mutated fish-men movies are silly.

This would seem to be an obvious lesson for any budding film student but it seems that there is always someone out there willing to take the risk by making a self-consciously campy horror extravaganza that spends more time making fun of the kind of story that it is telling than it does in actually telling the story. Once in a great while, someone will figure out the proper balance between the humor and the horror and the result will be a gem along the lines of “Tremors,” “Eight-Legged Freaks” or the immortal “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”–all genially goofball films that tried to make a film that would still hold up as a decent genre exercise if you were to strip away all the mockery. Most of the time, though, you wind up with something like “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra,” a film in which everyone involved spends so much time reminding you that they are making a spoof that they don’t have the time or energy for anything else. Although it tries hard to avoid this trap, the new horror-comedy “Slither” is far closer to “Cadavra” than it is to “Tremors”–it is so insistent on letting you know that it is a goof that it feels as if writer-director James Gunn is constantly poking you in the ribs to remind you to laugh instead of taking a more straightforward approach and letting the humor emerge on its own.

As the film opens, a meteorite crash-lands in the woods outside an isolated, redneck-heavy small Southern town–the kind of place where the opening of deer season is considered a holiday–and cracks open to reveal a loathsome, larval-like creature. Local bigwig Grant Grant (Michael Rooker), after having an argument with his young trophy wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) and spending the evening in a bar with town slattern Brenda (Brenda James), stumbles upon the thing while walking home and unwisely decides to poke at it with a stick. As any fan of 1950's horror can tell you, this is never a good idea (remember the old codger who came upon the Blob?) and the thing shoots out a couple of disgusting slug-like creatures that burrow into Grant’s belly and take over his brain. Because going from a giant larvae to Michael Rooker is at best a lateral move, Starla doesn’t quite notice that Grant is somehow different–he appears to be a better lover but has also developed an unsightly rash (“It’s just a bee sting!”) and a fondness for raw meat–and doesn’t even bother to investigate what is behind the mysteriously locked basement door.

If you have seen the likes of “Night of the Creeps,” “They Came From Within,” “It Conquered the World” or any of the “Invasion of the Body Snatches” films–or even if you haven’t–you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Grant eventually mutates into a half-squid/half-human creature and uses Brenda to messily unleash thousands of vicious slugs so that they can leap into the mouths of the townspeople (if they are lucky) and turn them into flesh-eating zombies that will overrun and destroy Earth in a shower of blood, slime and cheap special effects. Making the last stand for humanity are Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), the acerbic police chief still carrying a torch for Starla, resourceful teener Kylie (Tania Saulnier), the town’s drunken mayor (Gregg Henry) and Starla, who still harbors a certain love for her husband even after she gets a load of what is in the basement. To accomplish this, our heroes undergo an endless series of weirdness that includes an attack by a zombie deer, exploding heads a-plenty and perhaps the most bizarre use of Air Supply’s “Every Woman in the World” that you are likely to encounter in this lifetime.

Although the ads for “Slither” trumpet James Gunn as being the writer of the 2004 “Dawn of the Dead” remake, the past credits that are more relevant to any discussion of this particular film are his efforts for the immortal Troma Films studio, including “Tromeo & Juliet” and “Terror Firmer.” (I will assume that if you have read this far into the review, you probably have a working knowledge of Troma and need no further explanation of their output.) With “Slither,” Gunn has essentially given us the world’s first $20-million-dollar Troma movie–it is gory (though never in way that threatens the “R” rating), chock-full of in-jokes (none of which I intend to spoil here) and resolutely goofy from start to finish, even when heads are being blown off at close range. (The only thing lacking is the gratuitous nudity–here, we get a scene in which a hottie taking a bath single-handedly battles one of the slugs without ever once revealing any part of what might be called the bathing-suit area.) However, much like in most Troma films, the silliness gets tiresome after a while–Gunn is so busy reminding us of how wacky everything is that it becomes impossible to develop any sort of rooting interest in any of the characters. Of course, if the humor had simply been funnier, it might have gone down a little easier but Gunn too often resorts to either a.) having Fillion say something dry and acerbic, b.) having one of the rednecks say something in a colorful hillbilly patois or c.) having someone or something explode in a shower of blood and slime.

On the other hand, there are the occasional moments in this wildly uneven and awkwardly paced film where Gunn does strike upon something genuinely amusing and winds up scoring some big laughs. A couple of the shocking sight gags make an impact, especially the one in which one of the deputies slowly comes apart at the seams after an encounter with the fully mutated Grant. Elizabeth Banks, who has been in a lot of movies recently and who has been good in all of them (you may recall her as the hot-to-trot bookstore clerk in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), is very funny as Starla and keeps her from simply becoming another screaming bubble-head. Best of all is Michael Rooker as the unfortunate Grant–he scores big laughs just by the way he utters the single word “Meat!” but somehow manages to find an unexpected layer of pathos to play even while being buried under tons of gruesome makeup. Sure, he may be a monster bent on destroying the world but deep down (make that way deep down), he really just wants to be loved.

Although I can’t really work my way around to recommending “Slither”–it is simply not funny enough, not scary enough and too awkwardly paced to ever quite work on its own–it doesn’t really matter because this is one of those movies that is essentially review-proof. Just by looking at the newspaper ads–featuring the slugs approaching the bathing girl–you have most likely decided that it is either disgusting trash that you wouldn’t spend a dime on seeing or disgusting trash that you are going to rush out and see the first chance you get. If you are part of the former group, please mentally subtract a star from my review. If you are part of the latter, feel free to add one.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13976&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/31/06 16:15:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/05/13 David Hollingsworth A B-movie classic with actual style 5 stars
9/29/12 roscoe 1st hour is fairly good and humorous, but then the movie is rushed one the town is infected 3 stars
11/07/10 millersxing Are you gonna finish that possum? 4 stars
2/15/10 art IF THIS IS your CUP OF TEA!? 3 stars
12/29/09 Chad Dillon Cooper Throwback to 50's monster movies. 4 stars
7/20/08 Shaun Wallner Great Horror film!! Kept me on the edge of my seat 4 stars
5/26/08 mr.mike Has its moments however its been done better and takes a while to get going. 3 stars
6/11/07 Pork and Beans Pretty good first half, terribly generic second half 2 stars
3/27/07 MP Bartley Awkwardly developed, but mostly gruesome fun. 4 stars
3/21/07 David Pollastrini very creepy 4 stars
1/02/07 Jim Not as funny or as scary as I'd hoped -- several notches under Shaun of the Dead. 3 stars
12/02/06 Indrid Cold Not as fun as I expected, but still not bad. Sorry Firefly fans, but Fillion kinda sucks. 4 stars
11/25/06 Melissa Tokarczyk Funny and campy! 4 stars
11/07/06 Vince Good stuff, higly recommended if you like the genre. 4 stars
10/31/06 ES Night of the creeps meets puppet-masters, jokes fall flat and hardly a fright 3 stars
10/11/06 pete.chesworth Highly watchable fun with great special effects 4 stars
6/08/06 Patti a pretty good movie, I would sugest it to others. 3 stars
5/24/06 Littlepurch Absolutely gross but very enjoyable and occasionally hilarious. 4 stars
5/09/06 y2mckay Tongue-in-cheek horror at it's finest. Fillion and Henry steal the movie. 4 stars
5/06/06 alice Very entertaining ! 4 stars
4/23/06 Mase Fun, diverting, B movie horror comedy. We need more people with a passion for this genre. 4 stars
4/18/06 Dave An okay film, but I've seen better films and also a lot worse. 3 stars
4/18/06 Mark Louis Baumgart Parody of all things Cronenberg & Night/Creeps, a great big sloppy bucket of B movie fun. 5 stars
4/18/06 Gray that is some fucked up shit 4 stars
4/16/06 Ole Man Bourbon One of the creepiest love scenes ever. Felt like I was being raped by the leading man. 4 stars
4/15/06 Steven Lewis A build up to a great second half with homage to the 80s gore and more. 5 stars
4/08/06 BrianWilly Hilarious fun. 5 stars
4/06/06 Troy M. Grzych Didn't this movie come out in the 80's..."Night of the Creeps". Rent it!! 3 stars
4/05/06 Crispin How did no one notice the graruitous nipple in the tub scene? 5 stars
4/04/06 jcjs laughed 2 stars
4/04/06 thejames entertaining, and pretty damn funny. 4 stars
4/02/06 malcolm a+ ... for a b movie, a lot of fun 3 stars
4/01/06 lee A big budget Troma movie. 5 stars
4/01/06 KingNeutron Stay till the end of the credits - and hope for an even better sequel! 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  31-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 24-Oct-2006

UK
  31-Mar-2006

Australia
  18-May-2006



[trailer] Trailer


Directed by
  James Gunn

Written by
  James Gunn

Cast
  Nathan Fillion
  Elizabeth Banks
  Michael Rooker
  Gregg Henry
  Tania Saulnier
  Brenda James



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