Slither is a film that I probably should have watched years ago. It’s an early James Gunn work that he both directed and wrote, which also stars Nathan Fillion. It is horror-comedy that clearly has my sense of humor all over it, but for some reason I’ve just not taken the time to watch. I’m glad that I finally did!
Slither won’t work for everyone, but it did for me!
Bill Pardy (Fillion) was recently promoted to Chief of police in the small town of Wheelsy, which would normally be a pretty boring job. However, these alien slugs that have crashed into the outskirts of town are really about to become a pain in the neck. Starla (Elizabeth Banks) finds herself at the center of the strange creature’s plot to take over the town, and then the rest of the world. Bill and Starla’s history only looks to complicate matters as her husband, Grant (Michael Rooker), seems to be the first host to these traveling slugs from outer space.
Gunn’s signature comedic stylings that I’m most familiar with from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 & 2 are definitely present here. Fillion is the right man to deliver the Chief’s often exasperated lines, as he is confronted with one unexplainable thing after another. He never completely loses his cool, and Fillion is perfect in this type of role. At one point, after things get really crazy, a creature spits this green ooze at him, and he has to halt his running in order to avoid it getting on him. The look that Fillion delivers to the creature speaks volumes of his personality as he looks more offended than anything else. It’s moments like this one that make this film so much fun to watch.
Gunn attributes Cronenberg’s films, Shivers and the Brood, as influences for the story of Slither. While I’m not familiar with either of those particular Cronenberg entries, the body of horror in Gunn’s film definitely pays homage to Cronenberg’s style. The creature designs, especially of the lead slug, are equal parts terrifying and disgusting, with just a pinch of silly. The over-the-top goop of the slugs make you want to look away, but the performances are so laugh-inducing that you can’t take your eyes off the screen. Rooker gets to showcase his crazy side – and yet, through his eyes, he gives you a person that you feel sorry for despite some of the things we know he’s done. It’s quite a performance to get you to feel empathy for a monster.
One element that really shined to me was a play on the trope of the male rescuing the damsel. Both Starla and Kylie (Tania Saulnier) are portrayed to be a strong and independent woman. While Starla has allowed herself to be taken care of, her backstory speaks of a different person who got lost along the way. That independent woman slowly returns as things get crazier. Kylie is a young girl who manages to fight through several attacks, and never totally loses her cool. She’s strong, and Bill picks up on her toughness right away.
I personally don’t feel that James Gunn deserved to be fired from Guardians of the Galaxy. The tweets he wrote were distasteful, but they were from a different person than he has become. However, though some of the twisted humor definitely appears in Slither, traces of the man he is today shines through the characters in his script. I enjoyed Slither very much, and if you like a solid horror comedy, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The film earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.