A small town is taken over by a horde of alien worms that are
infecting the townsfolk and turning them into mutant zombies.
Written and Directed by James Gunn
Starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker,
Gregg Henry, Tania Saulnier, Jennifer Copping,
Don Thompson, Brenda James, Jenna Fischer
The late 90's and early 2000's was a time when those artists growing up on 80's horror started making their own movies. Slither is one of those movies. Making a name for himself by writing the first Shakespearean adaptation for Troma in 1996, Tromeo & Juliet, James Gunn wrote and directed Slither, packing it with homages and nods to the movies he loved. After writing the remake to Dawn of the Dead, he wanted to make something that harkened back to the films of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and other stalwarts of the video store days.
It can be seen as amateurish and cheap naming characters and places after other movies and directors. Gunn finds a great balance with this and created a fun, gooey, gory creature feature that's still a good time 15 years later. Things that have become staples of his style in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are on full display here. The characters, even going through a bat-shit crazy alien invasion, are well written and you care about what's happening to them. There is a full-on beauty and the beast style love story packaged inside a monster movie, there's something for everyone! He also uses music really effectively like he has in the Marvel movies everyone else knows him from.
As I mentioned before, it is a fine line to tread when you wear your influences on your sleeve like this movie does and Gunn makes it a treat for horror fans because he is one. There are winks and nods (some subtle, others quite overt) to 80's classics and they're in it right from the opening scenes. The Thing and Night of the Creeps are the most obvious vibes I got from my first time seeing this in the theater. The meteorite crashing into Earth is exactly the beginning of Gunn's favorite Carpenter flick with the spaceship being switched out for a meteorite. There's also Cronenberg flicks like Shivers and The Fly that are felt in this movie as well. Gunn himself even said that the design of the slug-like creatures was inspired by Shivers.
It's no surprise that Gunn has become the director he is today because everything he is known for is in Slither. On the surface you have a balls out weird monster movie that's gross and funny as hell. When you dig a little deeper, you have a movie with heart and engaging characters that makes this a film I never tire of. If I ever had the chance to convince someone to make a horror movie, I can only hope I could make something like this film. It is a horror fan making a movie for horror fans.
Slither is one of James Gunn's early works, before he propelled to superstardom with Guardians of the Galaxy. But in this film, as well as Gunn's other film Super, you can see a lot of what made Guardians so popular. The snarky dialogue, the well-developed characters, and the dark situation made wacky by Gunn's direction. Slither is a fantastic creature feature about a small town being taken over by a horde of alien worms led by a singular mind that destroys worlds. But when it possesses the hilariously named Grant Grant (Rooker), the hive mind becomes infested with human emotion, and that makes it far more dangerous.
Our hero is Bill Pardy (Fillion), the sheriff of Wheelsy, SC. When Grant becomes infected with the hive mind and morphs into a freakish squid-like glob of flesh, its up to Bill and Grant's wife Starla (Banks) to find a way to destroy these things and save the town. My personal favorite character was Mayor Jack MacReady (Henry), who had some of the best one-liners I've ever heard, and is constantly saying outrageous shit, often in front of children. Plus, I love the constant string of horror movie references hidden throughout the movie. Case in point, Mayor MacReady, named after R.J. MacReady from The Thing.
Slither was a box office failure, but it's been reclaimed as a cult horror comedy. It speaks to James Gunn's talents as a writer and director. He makes the rampant gore and violent death hilarious. It's no wonder Marvel hired him. You combine Slither and Super, and you've basically got a prototype of Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a film that any horror fan will appreciate, and it's funny as hell.