Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #579
Also known as Horribilis
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: March 31, 2006
Box Office: $12,800,000
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: James Gunn
Producers: Paul Brooks, Eric Newman, Thomas Bliss
Screenplay: James Gunn
Special Effects: Dan Rebert, Todd Masters
Visual Effects: Jeffrey Kleiser, Jon Campfens, John Gajdecki, Paul Nightingale, Tim Stevenson, Tom Turnbull
Cinematography: Gregory Middleton
Score: Tyler Bates
Editing: John Axelrad
Studios: Gold Circle Films, Strike Entertainment
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Stars: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Tania Saulnier, Don Thompson, Haig Sutherland, Jennifer Copping, Brenda James, Lorena Gale, Jenna Fischer, Lloyd Kaufman
Suggested Audio Jukebox
 Simon Steadman “Sad World”
 Hank Thompson “I Find You Cheatin’ On Me”
 The Yahoos “Baby I Love You”
 Crystal Gayle “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love”
I like to think myself prepared for the unlikely event of a full-scale alien invasion. You see, being a self-confessed horror nut has its benefits, one of which being prior warning. Thanks to Halloween I never wasted my Samhain babysitting brats, it’s because of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that I was one of the first in my area to purchase a shiny(ish) new(ish) TomTom, and The Return of The Living Dead taught me never to break the seal on any mysteriously discarded barrels labelled ☠TRIOXIN☠. I scratch horror’s back and it willingly returns the favor (with razor-sharp finger gloves I might add). You’re damn right we’ve become close, horror and I, and I’d like to think it would have said back in a fix. So when word breaks that the flaming meteorite hurtling towards earth at an alarming rate ain’t to be trusted, it’s old news to me. I’d already pinched a peg on my nose by the time outer space shat out the Critters, had a handkerchief at the ready when it sneezed forth The Blob, and knocked back two antacids long before Kane’s acid indigestion escalated into a full-blown food fight.
For the record, Airplane taught me never to sit next to Robert Hays on a long haul flight, but that’s another story for another day entirely. Can’t have horror getting all jealous now can we? Heaven forbid I piss it off as I could do without metamorphosing into a gargantuan greeb; or whatever else it has lined up for us next. As for extraterrestrials, well I say bring it you top-heavy bitches as I’m ready for ya. One thing is for sure, they’re crafty little buggerers, and I’m currently two decades overdue on a blood test courtesy of Palmer’s little “wobbler” on that FUCKING COUCH! But I’ve seen what kind of photon blasts they’re packing and mankind seems just too precious a commodity to squander. Long story short, in addition to scratching horror’s back, I now also have to watch seven billion backs too or else find a new planet to gradually corrode. Why I oughta! And one day I just might you rapscallions.
Anyhoots, while those alien bastards are continually thwarted in their attempts to take over our planet, they still just keep on coming. When James Gunn’s Slither wriggled onto the scene in 2006, hopes were high for a decent box-office return and a potential franchise. However, the reception it received was anything but hospitable. It wasn’t that critics hated the movie, indeed their response was generally positive, more than comparisons were drawn by fans of Fred Dekker’s schlocky 1986 bad taste sensation Night of The Creeps and Gunn was promptly accused of plagiarism. As a result, many of the film’s target audience boycotted screenings and it failed to recoup its $15 million outlay. I never did understand the whole “copycat” argument, when you consider that Dekker’s film still hadn’t been provided with the DVD treatment in 2006, you would think fans would be crying out for more of the same rather than showing disdain. We horror aficionados can be a pernickety bunch at times.
For the record, while Night of The Creeps is undoubtedly an influence, anyone familiar with David Cronenberg’s 1975 body horror Shivers will also be able to spot the parallels and it’s not like Gunn was trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes as he fully intended to pay homage to the movies that adorned his childhood and the references are there for all to see. We have Henenlotter’s Saddle Lodge, RJ McCready’s Funeral Home, and mention of a certain Randy Flagg who Stephen King nuts will recognize from a number of his works, The Stand in particular. In addition, The Toxic Avenger crops up on a TV set and Lloyd Kaufman also gets his head in as a clear tribute to Troma Entertainment where Gunn’s career got off and running. It’s a tongue-in-cheek touch and that’s just fine and dandy as Slither just happens to be a tongue-in-cheek movie, making for a match pretty much hand-crafted in horror heaven.
Anyone culpable of frittering 95 minutes searching high and low for the faintest slither of originality are only mugging themselves off here as they’ll be missing out on a damn fun monster movie if they do. The plot is of the postage stamp variety and do you know why that is? Because that’s all it bloody well needs to be. A meteorite comes hurtling towards earth looking for trouble and docks in the sleepy town of Wheelsy, South Carolina, where it wastes no time in introducing itself to the locals in its own parasitic manner. While ingestion consists of the usual “any hole’s a goal” deal, these particular brain burrowing leeches are nothing if not courteous to their hosts. As well as throwing all manner flailing tendrils and chest dentures into the mix, they are more than happy for their prey to hold onto their consciousness and those Sweet Home Alabama memories.
This is wretched news for the curiously named human typo Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) and even shoddier for his hotter than hubbie all-American good girl wife Starla Grant (Elizabeth Banks) as her darling’s philandering ways lead him directly into an alien timeshare and it’s a far cry from pretty. Unbeknownst to Starla, papa’s got a brand new bag of tentacles and has developed a rather insatiable appetite for fresh meat to boot. Naturally feeling woebegone over his inebriated infidelity, Grant applies his very best “I didn’t do it” face and deadbolts himself into the cellar to chow down in peace on some never quite made it to roadkill. However, eventually those primal urges get too much and he can no resist flinging out some feelers. The Grants are steamrolling towards what couples affectionately refer to as a “rocky patch” and the blissfully unaware residents of Wheelsy are about to teach some parasitic aliens how to docie doe. Can I get a yeehaw?
It’s all under control though as quick-witted police chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) isn’t about to let the good folk of Wheelsy come a cropper and, considering he still holds onto that lifelong torch for Starla, I’d say his interest in her spouse’s “slight” abnormalities is pretty much vested. Mildly unethical town mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) also wishes to be kept abreast of events so he can assure the survival of his own ass, while never been kissed by a bloodsucker teen angel Kylie (Tania Saulnier) prepares her vagina for the kind of bath time shenanigans that rubber duckies refuse to take part in. Meanwhile, hapless Starla is not overly enamored with the new sexual position that Grant has picked up to take his tally to two. Doggy style’s got company folks and there are gonna be some scuffed surfaces in the lady palace to contend with after this particular two-and-a-half minute marathon has dipped for its photo finish.
Of course, Fillion is pivotal to proceedings and it matters not that he was the final member cast as he just packs his very best Malcolm Reynolds into his kit bag and that’s nothing if not eternally welcome. Anyone familiar with Joss Whedon’s glorious martyr for sci-fi TV series Firefly or its lean and keen silver screen counterpart Serenity will know only too well what to pray for and it’s just like good ole Cap’n Mal never left his ship as Bill Pardy possesses the very same can-do attitude (if he can just load these pesky bullets without fumbling) tempered with self-effacing that made him such a cult favorite. He possesses two objectives – save the world and get the girl – and events seem hell-bent on conspiring against him, as we should have no less than crossed our fingers for.
While everyone else is ultimately just along for the ride (the way Mal liked it), there’s plenty of personality elsewhere on the platter. Banks is spot-on as our damsel not always in distress, the ever-wonderful Rooker splendidly slimy in more ways than a dozen as her octopus to bear, and Brian De Palma alumnus Henry gloriously inappropriate as the man least likely to make it to state senate. The chemistry is there, other fringe-members as amiable as they are entirely expendable, and it flat refuses to relinquish its grip until its damn well pulled us in for that snog.
Horror and comedy is a dicey cocktail for Keeper, and I’ll freely admit I harbored doubts about Slither prior to insertion. Thankfully said suspicions proved unfounded as I guzzled down every last astringent drop and licked my lips right up to the obligatory playful Creeps nodding post-credits sequel pitch. Humor is a given and Gunn evidently picked up much in B-Movie Academy as he strikes a decent balance throughout, while never once veering towards outright parody.
As for the somewhat unfortunate Brenda James, well she can be swollen with pride for maintaining her least angular game face as she learns what Grant meant when suggesting that “roll in the hay”. Even Jerry Springer’s producers couldn’t afford a crane capable of air-lifting this bloated blimp to the studio. Instances such as this are all just part of the hoedown here and frequently pre-load our leading man’s chamber with deadpan armor-piercers.
While Slither is far from perfect, approached from the correct entry point, I’m hard pushed to find a fault that doesn’t amount to split ends. It is precisely what it is and nothing more, a gamesome B-movie with small town values, moderate goals, and one helluva twinkle in its eye. Gunn has since gone from strength-to-strength and, in 2014, deservedly graduated to the majors with Guardians of the Galaxy. This cheery little southern-fried delight serves as a reminder of why he received that gig in the first place and, to any Night of The Creeps fanboys still declining to acknowledge its existence, time to unclench those jaws as a parasite is a parasite at the end of the day and I don’t see any 30-year anniversary remakes on the skyline. Buck up knuckleheads or I’m sending Rooker after ya.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Dan Rebert and Todd Masters can pat themselves on the back for their ground-up practical creations, while the use of CGI seldom becomes distracting, and is understandable given the vast splash zone. Thrills replace chills but the emphasis is primarily on spills and Slither serves the splatter up to the tune of a fair few quarts of savory schlock. Indeed, it would appear that Gunn may well have absorbed something I like to refer to as “Essence of Yuzna” as he tests the elasticity of our species to ☠DANGER☠, or until that weasel pops, whichever comes first. If nip-slips are your thing then you may wish to tap up Mr. Skin as I swear blind that he spotted it too. What is it about bath water that makes it so damn impenetrable? No wonder Norman Bates soaks his shower heads in mother’s malt vinegar daily.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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