Main cast: Elizabeth Banks (Starla Grant), Nathan Fillion (Bill Pardy), Michael Rooker (Grant Grant), Tania Saulnier (Kylie Strutemyer), Gregg Henry (Jack MacReady), Don Thompson (Wally), Brenda James (Brenda Gutierrez), Jennifer Copping (Margaret), Jenna Fischer (Shelby Cunningham), and Haig Sutherland (Trevor)
Director: James Gunn
Slither came out when I was taking a break from updating the website, so it eventually slipped through the cracks of my to-review list. A lot of things had happened since then. Director James Gunn went big with the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, then he got fired when his edgy-for-sake-of-being-edgy tweets about introducing his baby batter to underage boys came to light, only to be rehired when Disney figured that the social media mob was safely distracted by some other manufactured outrage, and he was also hired to do the sequel to Suicide Squad. He’s as obnoxiously dedicated to signaling about how virtuous he is, very similar to his progenitor Joss Whedon but without the adultery and the serial predating of women who want to be cast in his films.
Oh, and while he didn’t give his brother a role in this movie like he would do in his future outings, the cast here mostly comprises the clique of his favorite people to work with.
So, how is this movie?
Well, here’s the thing. It’s certainly watchable, but this movie about alien slugs finding their way into people (and other living creatures) through their mouths and turning their hosts into mindless zombie-like things… well, that’s something very disturbingly similar to the plot of Night of the Creeps. Nathan Fillion’s Sheriff Bill Pardy, sadly, is more of a quip monster preoccupied with making sarcastic remarks than being a cool bad-ass like Tom Atkins’s character in the other movie. Michael Rooker is simultaneously repulsive yet sympathetic as the man who is clearly incompatible with his wife Starla – who married him for money and acts like a cold fish in bed towards him, yet this movie expects me to sympathize with her – but once he is infected and become the king of the hive-mind of the alien slugs, he lost all semblance of characterization and becomes another generic big bad monster. Starla has a few token “I am a strong woman!” roles, but she is more of a baggage needing rescue for the most part. Kylie Strutemyer is a character that exists so that she can get naked in a bath for James Gunn to reenact that infamous scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street, only with a far less frightening phallic slug instead of Freddy’s claws.
Hence, while this movie is moderately entertaining, it is rather hard for me to fully recommend it, because the movie “pays homage” to so many, often far better classic horror films that came before it, that James Gunn’s script feels more like a lazy cut and paste at times. Where and how does one draw the line? The best scenes are, er, reminiscent of better movies, for the want of a better way to put things, so I have a hard time determining the merit of the parts of this movie that weren’t inspired by those other movies.
The effects in Slither are… well, let me just be nice and say they are more humorous than frightening. Maybe this is intentional – between the quip storm that renders every major character into a caricature of some horror film archetype and these cartoon-like effects, this movie tilts more towards comedy than horror. Well, good for these people if that were the case, but to once again compare this movie to Night of the Creeps, that other movie managed to do both horror and comedy with equal effectiveness, with characters that have a little bit depth being a nice bonus. In comparison, this one is a somewhat earnest but far less effective tribute film.