Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with our main man Vern who has seen SLITHER and wants to tell you about it. Give him your ear… uh… I mean, give him your eye. Enjoy!
I guess horror movies are like anything else, they go in cycles. We’ve had this whole drought where it seemed like there was nothing but sissy PG-13 studio horror, and lots of horror fans whining. Now the harsher R-rated horror movies are starting to trickle back in, and a whole other set of people get their chance to whine. (It turns out that our society is just now going down the shitter because there’s a movie where mutant cannibals are mean to a baby. Even though it’s a remake of a 30 year old movie about mutant cannibals being mean to a baby.) Anyway, now with SLITHER we get back another old buddy we haven’t seen in so long we almost forgot about him: the funny horror movie.
Horror and comedy are a tough mix. There are different ways to balance it. I like the serious horror but on those rare occasions when they got the perfect balance, it’s a sight to behold. To me AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is the top of the line. It’s very funny but the laughs come from serious horror situations. To me it’s more of a horror movie than a comedy. Perfect. Another good one is RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, but I think they tip it too much with all that punk rock shit. “Does this look like a fuckin COSTUME?” Still great, but too goofy to take seriously. But the opening scene, up until the credits, is a perfect balance. I think EVIL DEAD 2 has it just right too, although most people seem to think it’s more comedy and less horror than I think it is.
I guess the most significant recent attempt at comedy and horror is SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but I gotta be honest. This ain’t gonna win me any friends around here, but I don’t think that one counts. Sure it’s funny and worth watching. But even if the zombies look legit, the characters and what they do and say are sitcom through and through. It works as comedy but not as horror. It’s a tribute or a parody but not the real thing.
This one is the reverse of AMERICAN WEREWOLF: it works as both but it definitely leans alot harder on the laffs. The only good comparison I can think of is TREMORS, but alot more disgusting. The story itself is clearly influenced by THE THING, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and others. Some people said NIGHT OF THE CREEPS but I ain’t gonna lie, I never seen it. So I’ll just make a guess and say no, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS was not an influence in any way. Anyway, it’s basically a mix of existing elements but I thought they were put together in a clever and entertaining way, and also refreshing since you don’t see too many movies like this these days.
It’s gonna be better for you to see it without knowing what exactly is gonna happen, but here’s the gist of it. Michael Rooker (HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER [part 1 only]) plays the dude who, in a classic THE BLOB type scenario, gets too curious about the slimy thing that crawled out of a meteor. Next thing you know an outer space worm thing has penetrated his brain and he begins a slow transformation to freaky alien overlord that will continue all the way through to the end of the movie. The biggest twist is that as he turns into a more and more disgusting monster, he remains stuck on his wife (Elizabeth Banks, who played some character only you guys would remember in the SPIDER-MAN trilogy). At first he tries to work it out and just hide his condition from her. Later it’s clear it’s not gonna work but he still pines for her. Maybe the cleverest joke in the movie is when he’s spawned an army of zombies but they all share a brain, so instead of saying “Brains!” like in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD they mostly whine “Starla!”
When I say it’s influenced by THE THING, I don’t mean it has any of the sense of dread that makes that thing so great. But it’s rare to see a movie really follow in that tradition of crazy, over the top special effects mayhem. So this one definitely deserves some credit. I mean I’m talkin tentacles left and right, giant blobs, piles of wiggly slugs, bladders and slime. And it’s a good balance of rubber and computers. You don’t get much of a chance to get bored of the creatures because this alien’s reproduction process spans the whole movie, and manages to involve a constantly mutating Rooker, lots of slugs, zombies, killer animals, and more. Something for everyone.
There’s even a nice part where you get a glimpse of the aliens doing their thing on some strange species on another planet. I always wished they would make an ALIEN movie on the planet where those space jockey dudes live. No humans, just a WALKING WITH DINOSAURS type nature doctumentary. That ain’t gonna happen so maybe I should start wishing for a SLITHER 2 on the planet of the whatever the fuck these things are.
By the way, if you’re wondering what happened to the apartment building and the pervert spying on Sharon Stone with security cameras, you’re thinking of SLIVER. This is similar though.
Where the TREMORS part comes in is the characters, who are goofy and have lots of funny lines and quirks. The hero is the chief of police played by Nathan Fillion (DRACULA 2000, etc.) and I was happy to also see Gregg Henry (Mal from PAYBACK) as the mayor, who constantly calls people “cocksucker.” I wonder if Gregg Henry enjoys exclusively playing prick roles? Or does he just take the jobs he can get? Does he always long to play a nice, polite fellow, instead of weirdos in Brian DePalma movies? Anyway, the story is mostly that crazy shit happens and then they all react to it. My favorite part is when they first spot Rooker running across a field waving a goofy tentacle off the top of his head. I like how the director shoots it from a distance so you can sort of put yourself in the character’s shoes, watching this weird ass shit go down across the field.
The writer slash director is James Gunn, who got his start with TROMEO AND JULIET and throws a couple nods to Troma in here. There oughta be some kind of Most Improved ribbon or lapel pin for this dude. Because first of all, almost nobody goes from Troma to serious mainstream success. I know the guy who directed ROCKY did a movie with Lloyd Kaufman, but that was before Troma so it doesn’t count. Anyway, forget Troma, this is the guy who wrote SCOOBY DOO 1-2, that’s a stigma you gotta work hard to overcome. Okay, so I haven’t seen those movies. But I don’t expect anybody is gonna tell me my assumption is wrong.
So after writing the surprisingly unsucky DAWN OF THE DEAD remake and now directing this one, I think he has earned his stripes, or at least one stripe. Maybe he has earned his two fairly thin stripes. Or one fat one. He earned something, anyway. I’m willing to give the guy a chance. SLITHER is no classic but it’s a fun time at the movies. People who like a fun time at the movies will have a fun time at it, in my opinion. Also there’s a part with a deer monster.
p.s. Merrick, you bag-wearing freak, don’t cut off my links this time. It’s part of the package. People like clicking on links.
p.p.s. Also you gotta keep the postscripts on, that’s how we do things around here bud. With postscripts.
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/22904