I was looking to end this October strong. I forced my way through the horrendous Puppet Masters earlier, as well as one by Jess Franco so that my last week would only have hits. Well, maybe not legit “hits,” but films that either should’ve been hits, or could’ve been hits had they played the theaters instead of the SyFy network.
Tonight’s film, Slither,explains why there hasn’t been much apparent action out of my beloved Troma camp since their Tromeo and Juliet – Terror Firmer run in the late ’90s. It appears that part of Troma’s drop off the collective cultural radar stemmed from losing significant portions of their 2nd wave of talent. Slither being James Gunn’s first feature as a director; after having written both Troma’s Tromeo and Juliet AND the big-budget blockbuster Scooby Doo.
He’s also listed as a co-writer to Lloyd Kaufman’s 2nd book, Make Your Own Damn Movie!. Which is funny, considering Gunn hadn’t made his own damn movie at that time, but would soon be leaving Troma so that he could. A situation I’m sure couldn’t have bothered Lloyd too much; considering how much Slither has in common with its low(er) brethren.
It should come as no surprise that Slither’s script is top-notch. The story is centered in some anonymous small-town, but rather than have the protagonists be outsiders (as in, say, I Know What You Did Last Summer), instead everyone is small-town. It’s somewhat shocking to see a film without a severe cultural bias to it.
The story centers around a husband, Grant (Michael Rooker), and his wife Starla, (Elizabeth Banks). After having his advances refused, Grant meets up a young admirer in a karaoke bar and leads her off into the woods. Where they stumble across a meteorite housing an alien worm. Grant gets infected, and the rest of the story concerns the devastation this invader causes.
Grant infects Brenda (Brenda James), who sits in a barn and eats until she’s as big as the structure housing her. Then, predictably, she explodes the alien worms all over the investigating police force; thereby infecting them before spreading out into the countryside.
Another neat feature of Slither is how compliant the aforementioned police force is. These aren’t the cops from Killer Klowns from Outer Space who ignore crazy calls all night before sending someone out to investigate. No, once the police see Grant and his mutated tentacle arm, they load up with the city’s arsenal, and start hunting. Starla either has or had something for sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) too, but there’s absolutely no sexual tension expressed; which seems like a wasted opportunity as by the time Bill appears Grant is a tentacle-covered mass of flesh.
The detail here is fantastic too. When Kylie (Tania Saulnier) is attacked while lounging in her bath tub, she almost swallows the alien worm. While Kylie struggles to remove the parasite, we’re treated to glimpses of the alien’s natural life on their homeward up through Grant’s infection. You know a movie’s good if it can steal something from Underworld: Evolution and actually make it awesome.
Slither exists as if Troma had rebooted Night of the Living Dead using Dead Alive’s production values. Not a bad point of praise even if Grant’s final mutative form looks more akin to a centaur from Fall-Out than an actual zombie.