01/05/2006. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
Writer-director James Gunn's slimy showcase Slither is indeed the epitome of hokey B-movie horror hedonism, says Frank. Instinctively, Gunn incorporates the necessary ingredients that triggers a wry and spry gross-out session: comedic chaos, stilted dialogue, both cheesy and inventive special effects, a convincing and over-indulgent ooze display, gleefully stereotypical yokels, and guilty pleasure blood-curling banality.
Slither (2006) Universal Pictures
All in all, Slither is a sensationalistic sci-fi spoof that has sheer fun in spoofing everything from those unintentionally hilarious Golden Age 50's creature feature serials to the relentlessly schlock-driven alien/zombie flicks of the eighties.
Somehow, Gunn's charming guts-spilling narrative escapes all criticism that becomes these rambunctious and stomach-turning ditties. This is probably because Slither manages to competently wink at itself with an ideal sense of cunning absurdity and self-deprecating abandonment. Universally gallant in its twisted wittiness and mutated merriment, Slither is a gory gagfest that works on your visual sensibilities.
Granted it's quite a daunting task to actually capture the cheap-minded allure of the low-budgeted insanity that Gunn's slaphappy skin-crawler wants to copycat from the reckless inspiration of nostalgic frivolous fright fables. Nevertheless, Slither enthusiastically does a cheeky job in presenting the outrageousness and outlandish motivations of these energetic flesh-throbbing flicks of yesteryear.
The hair-raising utopia of Slither takes place in a small South Carolina hick hamlet. When some meteor shower deposits an alien-like slug in the outskirts of the wooded town, the stage is set for something unusual to inevitably happen. Namely, the ominous critter pierces itself into showboating philanderer Grant (Michael Rooker) thus using his plagued body as a travelling agent. Because of Grant's horny antics, he "knocks up" one of the local women where upon she gives birth to a hideous flock of abundant baby slugs. Soon, these squirmy cretins would look to infiltrate the town's vulnerable population.
While these slithering varmints hinder the area with their protrusive presence, there are a handful of lucky stiffs that elude the creepy crawlers. Among the few to see that the humanity of the town is spared further damage by the episodic zombie-like frenzy is police chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion from Serendipity). Others include Starla (Elizabeth Banks)-Grant's neglected hot-looking young wife and Pardy's romantic crush from days gone by, sleazy mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry), and teen bathtub babe Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier). Together, these forces much join in unison to conquer the impish invaders and ensure the preservation of their dusty mountain haven.
Much like its contemporary cousins Tremors and Eight Legged Freaks, Slither has the uncanny knack for force-feeding the audience a combination of carved carcasses, calculating and commanding menaces and an array of colourfully harried personalities along for the perverse joyride. The tongue-in-cheek vulgarity and raucous redneck ridiculing all go hand-in-hand to lend Slither its go-for-broke lowbrow lunacy. Gunn knows how to manipulate his caustic/comical fear-mongering chiller with the right amount of surging silliness and cynicism that makes this splattering spectacle a sadistically spirited creep show to behold.
Slither is certainly a breath of fresh air in that it is ambitious enough to invigorate the outer space parasite picture genre that are usually played for laughable increments of empty-minded shock value. The important element in Gunn's warped and wacky on-screen world is that he never lets the viewers off the hook with promises of sophisticated eye-popping grandeur.
The filmmaking is simplistic, choppy, sublime and predictably uneven. Yet one cannot help noticing how cheerfully irreverent and inviting that Slither appears to be in its rollicking mode.
For the most part, Slither is never pretentious in its erratic preposterous skin-the cheese ball factor of excessive human/inhuman behaviour is both creatively cavalier and downright self-destructive in all its animated ribaldry. For all the admiration of the gooey goings-on that transpire in Gunn's rampaging romp, we can finally appreciate the necessity for embracing a demonstrative deadpan horror show that blends observational sensationalism with rousing popcorn-oriented panache.
© Frank Ochieng 2006