A dumb, fun little near-parody of the horror genre, Slither is an easily recommendable summer movie. Director James Gunn knows the genre, and proves it by naming everything in the town, from the characters to the storefronts, after people responsible for some of the greats in this field. Every dollar of the meager budget is well spent.
Slither nearly completes the unofficial "rule book" for horror films. The following genre staples apply:
- Alien life form
- Small town isolated from the rest of the country
- Zombies… lots of zombies
- Ample gore
- Small town sheriff
- Hot female love interest
- Cows, dead and alive
- Burning projectile vomit
- Gruesome make up
- Completely vicious monster
- Sequel set up after the credits
With a little radiation and some building crushing, Slither would be one of the only films to run the list clean. It manages the rest well, with a wildly funny tongue-in-cheek style, while keeping with the film's mean streak. The balance is perfect, staying with the horror element as long as possible to build the punch lines.
Nathan Fillion leads a small cast with a touch of wit and plenty of ego. Dialogue sells the characters, and states exactly what the audience is thinking. The alien's insatiable appetite for meat of any kind leads to some true gross-out moments, and the characters respond directly in conjunction with the viewer. You can almost imagine smelling the rotten meat, the close-ups are so ridiculous.
Slither does need a kick in the beginning. It languishes on the two main characters, a husband and wife couple played by Elizabeth Banks and Michael Rooker. Rooker undergoes a slow transformation after contact with the alien, and while it does build the suspense, the audience for a horror movie knows where this will end up. Keeping them waiting is only delaying what they came to see.
Make-up deserves an award here, especially given the $15 million budget. There is very little CG used, as most of the effects are practical. Rooker's final form alone, which had to take hours to fully apply, deserves any and all credit it receives. It's completely believable, gruesome, and sells the alien threat.