These are not your average everyday garden pests!
Slither is more of a horror-comedy which relies on gross out gags, and inappropriate humor, rather than a straight out fright-fest. It has its moments, but they’re usually enabled by some disgusting moment or cringey element rather then tension being created by the film.
The trailer sets Slither up with a tongue-in-cheek opening. It lists a number of the greatest horror films ever, like Rosemary’s Baby, The Thing, and A Nightmare on Elm Street and say they were made for sissies! Some giant slug creatures are attacking a small town and the sheriff and other towns folk are fighting back. It’s from the people that brought us the recent Dawn of the Dead reboot. And it looks interesting!
Presented below is the trailer for the film.
In Wheelsy, South Carolina, a strange meteorite crashes into the back woods.The next day Starla Grant (Elizabeth Banks) is teaching Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest to her high school class. She is collected at the end of the day by her rich, a-hole of a husband Grant Grant (Michael Rooker). That night Grant wants to have sex with Starla but she rebuffs him. He goes out to a karaoke bar and ends up picking-up Brenda (Brenda James), a woman that has always been enamored with him. They wander into the woods, but Grant decides he’s still partial to Starla and starts to leave. That’s when they discover a strange slug-like creature that fires a dart into Grant’s chest.
Grant begins acting weird by buying a lot of raw meat to consume, and building a nest of leaves in his basement. He also attacks and kills a neighborhood dog. He had promised Starla that they would attend “Deer Cheer,” the local kick-off party for deer season, but when she can’t find him she goes alone. At the party she runs into Police Chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), a man who has been holding a torch for her since high school. Grant goes to see Brenda again, attacking her with two tendrils that emerge from his stomach. They pump some…things into her in a strange sex scene, of sorts.
Grant, who has now becoming grotesquely deformed, attacks Starla after she returns home and discovers his abattoir of dead animals in the basement. She calls the police, and when Bill shows up with his officers, Grant flees. Three days later the mayor, Jack Macready (Gregg Henry), is eager to start deer season, hoping the officers can stop local animal mutilations and find Grant soon. Bill realizes where Grant will attack next so he, his officers, a couple local hunters, mayor Jack, and Starla stake out a farm.
Grant, or what used to be him, slithers out of the woods. He is now a giant, deformed slug monster with tentacles who barely resembles the man he used to be. He attacks the posse slicing one of the hunters in half from crotch to head with a whip of his tentacle. They chase him into the woods and find an old barn which they hear cries coming from. Inside they discover the comically-bloated form of Brenda, who is distended into a 15-foot ball. She complains she’s hungry just before she ruptures and hundreds of hand-sized slugs pour from her body.
Bill runs back towards his car to call in a report, while Starla and Jack (the only remaining posse) try to keep the slugs from climbing into their mouths and killing them. At the nearby farm, teenager Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier) heads to take a bath, unaware that the slugs have infected her parents and two younger sisters. One slug enters her mouth partially and she experiences a psychic projection of the creature’s life and homeworld. She manages to escape the house and is saved by Bill, who also picks up Starla and Jack emerging from the woods. Those “infected” by the slugs appear to die, but come back to life as zombies that are part of a hive-mind with Grant’s memories and desires.
Driving back to the police station the car crashes. Starla is grabbed by some of the slug-zombies, Jack is infected, and Bill and Kylie escape into the police station looking for a grenade to stop Grant. At their house, Grant has dressed Starla up nice and pretty, as he still has the desire to treat her nicely. The infected people meld into his body, forming a larger, fleshy mass. Bill and Kylie show up to put an end to Grant. Mayor Jack begs for Bill to kill him, so he does, and then accidentally drops the grenade into the pool. Starla stabs Grant with a makeshift knife as the creature lashes out at Bill stabbing him with one of the two baby-making tentacles. Bill attaches the other tentacle to a propane tank, and Starla shoots the Grant-monster causing it to explode. All the infected cease to function, as Bill, Starla, and Kylie walk to the neighboring town for help. In a post credit scene, a cat investigates a piece of the monster and is attacked by a small dart-like protuberance.
“What are we gonna do now?
Probably turn into a couple of these f’d-up things.
That’s kinda negative.
Well, it’s been that sorta day.” – Kylie and Bill
Slither is a fun horror-comedy in the vein of other movies like Return of the Living Dead or the film it most resembles, Night of the Creeps. This was the first film directed by James Gunn, who is probably best known today as the director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films, and DC’s The Suicide Squad. He was a writer for the two live-action Scooby-Doo films from 2002 and 2004, plus the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. Slither features some of the same humorous horror that was evident in those earlier films as well as Gunn’s penchant for interesting characters. He even has a small cameo in the film as a teacher speaking to Elizabeth Banks’ character.
As mentioned above, the similarities between Slither and Night of the Creeps are more than passing (so much so, that i dropped the later as a possible entry in this months marathon). They both are comedic horror films about alien slugs that turn people into zombies. But Slither is also much more, as it incorporates elements from other 1980s horror films just as easily. There are overt and passing references to The Blob, The Brood, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jaws, The Toxic Avenger, Slugs, The Evil Dead and many more. In fact, sometimes the film seems like it’s more bogged down with cleverly referencing some previous film instead of creating something fresh. It sets up the style for a James Gunn film, but appears to be afraid to break new ground and create something of its own. Of course in creating the pastiche of homages to previous films and stories, it does create a unique and memorable film that entertains, especially if you are a fan of the films it refers to and get the in-jokes.
Slither makes use of some incredible horror effects that will really stick with you. After seeing the film, who can forget the gigantically (and comically) distended Brenda, or the zombie-deer that attacks Bill in the police station? The film goes a long ways down the road to body-horror using tentacles, melding bodies, and half-formed people-monsters. Again, it borrows from films that have come before like John Carpenter’s The Thing and the odd body-horror film Society. It does manage to play some of these moments off as scary. There are jump-scares like many horror films have, but many of the moments produce revulsion in the audience, which is where much of the horror comes from. The two moments that have a bit more tension and suspense are the shower scene with Starla–when the audience is unsure if Grant will attack her, and the tub scene with Kylie as the slug swims toward the unsuspecting girl.
Many of these surreal and gross moments lend themselves to nervous laughter. There’s a kind of gallows humor in the writing of the film that seeps into the narrative. It may be due to having cast Nathan Fillion in the lead. He’s an actor known for his wry sense of humor, as he showed in the TV series Firefly and its feature film Serenity. Many moments of levity, and tension release, are courtesy of dialogue that he has to say. Still much of the humor of the situations are dark. Fillion’s deadpan handling of line’s such as “oh, that’s… awesome,” when being told that both tentacles need to be inserted into him in order to become a host. It’s the same sort of black humor that shows up in Gunn’s follow-up film, Super.
Of course the other actors contribute as well. Gregg Henry is fantastic as the acerbic and foul-mouthed Mayor. Elizabeth Banks is vulnerable as Grant’s wife, but much like her speech to her class at the beginning of the film, she survives because she is best suited to her environment–and living! And Michael Rooker started a collaboration of appearing in every James Gunn film, usually dying in some horrible or fantastic way. Slither is a fun film, but maybe not the best horror film. It definitely relies on knowledge and intimacy with previous films in order to get the full level of enjoyment from it. But if gallows humor and gross body horror with references to other classic films is what you enjoy, Slither is right up your alley!
- There are many references to other films, including a lot of the names of characters, including: Mayor Jack Macready (named after Jack Burton and RJ Macready from John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China and The Thing respectively), a farm that was attacked belonged to the Castavet family (referring to the older couple in Rosemary’s Baby), and the name of the school is Earl Bassett Community School (which is a reference to a character from Tremors, another film about killer worms).
- There are also several passing references to Jaws. Deputy Margaret’s surname, as it appears on her jacket, is Hooper–after the Richard Dreyfuss character. The Mayor is also eager to get the monster issue sorted and start deer hunting season, much like the Mayor of Jaws wants to re-open the beaches for the 4th of July.
- This movie also shows the penchant James Gunn has for using classic rock source music in odd juxtaposition with his imagery. Here he uses Air Supply’s “Every Woman in the World” to creepy effect with slug-Grant beckoning to his wife Starla. This is more famously seen in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies with their supply of 70s music played against the far reaches of space.
Having grown up on comics, television and film, “Jovial” Jay feels destined to host podcasts and write blogs related to the union of these nerdy pursuits. Among his other pursuits he administrates and edits stories at the two largest Star Wars fan sites on the ‘net (Rebelscum.com, TheForce.net), and co-hosts the Jedi Journals podcast over at the ForceCast network.