S: Slither (2006)

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This is going to be a tough one to write. There’s a number of reasons for that. The most pragmatic is that my keyboard is screwing up (I do indeed pound the hell out of my keyboards).

Less pragmatic is that writer/director James Gunn was fired off Marvel movies for tweets he made in his youth (Too bad you weren’t running for a Supreme Court slot, huh, James). And dammit, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. That does put some of the things in this movie in a unfavorable light.

Downright personal is the fact that I’m really tired of this subgenre. Watching Cute Little Buggers on basically a dare was a big mistake.

So.

A meteor falls near a sleepy little deer season-lovin’ town. In short order we will meet local policeman Bill (Nathan Fillion), competent but easy-going, and his longtime crush Starla (Elizabeth Banks), who is unfortunately married to the possessive Grant (Michael Rooker). After Starla’s not in the mood that night, Grant heads out in a huff to get drunk and runs into Brenda (Brenda James), an old acquaintance who professes her hots for him. They head out to the woods, but Grant gets cold feet and breaks off with Brenda – just in time to find that meteor, and a trail of slime leading from it, to a sluglike creature that wastes no time in infecting Grant.

Movies like this live and die on bringing something new to the party, and in this case it’s that the slugs inhabiting Grant (and later a lot more of the cast) burrow up to the brain and are capable of acting like their host for a time. So Infected Grant has Starla thinking he’s become a nicer guy, giving him enough time to meet back up with Brenda and turn her into a human slug incubator. By this time Grant is starting to exhibit some physical changes, murderous tendencies, and it’s not long before Bill is leading an armed posse to find this creature that used to be Grant and the missing Brenda. Too late, as it turns out, as she explodes in a shower of slugs and suddenly actual uninfected humans in the town are outnumbered.

“There’s somethin’ wrong with me.”

The slugs also have a hive mind – now thoroughly entangled with Grant’s mind, so every slug-zombie in town is hunting for Starla, because Grant wants her back. Add to this mix a teenage girl, Kylie (Tanya Saulnier), who got a slug halfway down her throat and half a Vulcan mindmeld before she managed to pull it out and killed it with a curling iron, so there’s someone on the team who knows how the slugs operate. After that, you just need a halfway novel way to kill the main creature and stop the invasion, and Slither does that.

Nathan Fillion could do stuff like this in his sleep, but thankfully the man’s always awake and giving 110%. Elizabeth Banks has an odd role to play here, and I’m not sure the script did her any real favors, but by God she’s game. And anybody who watched this movie that didn’t realize that Michael Rooker is a far more versatile actor than folks had credited, they were not paying attention.

So why didn’t I like the flick? We’ve been here before, back when I watched I Married a Witch. Is it fatigue? Just in a bad mood that night? Is it because – just to bring back that Supreme Court reference – there’s a scene where Gregg Henry (playing the worst mayor ever) has a temper tantrum after most of the cast is turned into zombies because there is no Mr. Pibb and I watched this the day after Kavanaugh’s famous meltdown?

Most likely the fatigue – as I said, I’ve seen a lot of these movies. But this one is well-made, and aims to be an alien-invasion movie for fans of alien-invasion movies, with plentiful easter eggs in the background and an eye toward entertaining. You can still feel Gunn’s days with Troma hanging on here and there, the source of those troubling Tweets (which were really kinda expected when he was working for Edgelord Central), but overall, it’s a good, entertaining flick with a solid fanbase. It doesn’t require my appreciation, and that fine.

Except for that “oh no the monster’s not quite dead yet” post-credit scene. That can go straight to hell.

2 Comments

  1. I saw this when it was released (was it on Easter of all days?) and really enjoyed it. When I re-watched it a few years back I had a similar reaction to you this time around (though I still rated it 3 1/2 stars…???). I found the misanthropy under the surface (or sometimes not that under the surface) in Gunn’s films turned me off this time.

  2. I’m about 1/8 surprised there was not a single referenced to Slugs here, but I probably just reminded you of it and I’ll now exit stage left before I get a slug of my very own delivered in one of two ways (via post or Frank Booth in Blue Velvet “love letter” style).


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