Dir: James Gunn, US, 2006, 95 mins
Cast: Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, Nathan Fillion
Review by Carol Allen
I am not a great expert on the horror film as a genre. But like many cinemagoers, I do enjoy a good fright. It does however seem ages since I've been made to jump out of my skin. Apart from the odd exception,
most horror films I've seen in the last few years have been really dreary, with a standard story line featuring a group of uninteresting and unlikeable characters being picked off by some monster, and frequently trying to make their effect by being merely gross. So I was fearful of Slither being of the same ilk and I was not looking forward to it. How wrong I was!
Writer/director James Gunn cites as his mentors directors such as George Romero, for whom he wrote the 2004 "re-imagined" Dawn of the Dead, David Cronenberg and John Carpenter. Mr Gunn has learned well from his masters. Slither is a very well-made horror film.
The story is set in a small South Carolina town, which is remarkable for having the largest collection of unattractive-looking people - apart from the hero and heroine - that I've ever seen in a movie.
Residents of South Carolina may not be pleased that it confirms their negative hillbilly image! They are, however, believable human beings, particularly Michael Rooker as Grant, an oafish and very rich local businessman, with a beautiful young wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks), on whom he dotes.
The story gets going when Grant's body is taken over by a slimy, oozy parasite that has arrived by meteor from outer space.
It penetrates his body with a yucky tentacle and sets him onto infecting the rest of the human race. Grant's gradual transformation from man to eclectically carnivorous monster blob is very convincing and, even under mountains of prosthetics, Rooker preserves the man's humanity in a rather touching way.
While the special effects are scary and shocking - as when local slapper Brenda (Brenda James) endures the grossest pregnancy by the creature, then gives birth to thousands of slug-like "things" who set off with wriggly glee to worm their way into the human race - Gunn relies more on narrative skill than goo.
His story delivers all the shocks, and makes you jump and laugh in all the right places .
There are some very funny lines and he uses humour in just the right way for a horror film to release the tension. It has a good story line and interesting characters, is well-paced and keeps to its own interior logic, by which I mean, once you accept the initial premise, the whole thing makes sense.
The ones who take on the task of fighting the monster are Grant's wife Starla, who despite having obviously married him for his money, feels both sympathy and revulsion for his predicament, and her long-time admirer, the local police chief (Fillion). Also lending a hand with the good fight is local teenager Kylie (Tanja Saulnier), who has aparticularly Freudian encounter with one of the slugs, who really are your worst nightmare.
While not high art, Slither is very good popular entertainment and more than a cut - or a slither - above the average.
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