Gross-out horror comedy is my guilty pleasure. Among the best are Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, and James Gunn’s Slither. Essentially a pastiche of the zombie and alien-invasion genres, Slither features a 50’s sci-fi plot with gross-out gore making for an effective, even if familiar, horror film.
This tongue-in-cheek horror flick shows off first-time director Gunn’s skill for blending comedy and horror. Slither recalls Tremors, only with much more gore: its the best kind of B-movie, one whose laughs are just as effective and intentional as it imaginative gross-out-effects. More importantly, Gunn probes the genre’s cliches without ever mocking them. Slither is a labor of love made by a horror aficionado who knows his shit, and along the way, he subsumes an onslaught of cinematic references to genre conventions, from John Carpenter’sThing to Troma cult favourite The Toxic Avenger (spot Lloyd Kaufman’s cameo).
Slither doesn’t aspire to be anything complex or high-brow; instead, it is knowingly in touch with its audience. The special effects are a healthy blend of old-school prosthetics and CGI. The slug attacks might not be terrifying but are utterly gruesome, and the effects appear slick but not too polished, staying in spirit to its B-movie roots, and the bathtub scene lives up to its featured status in the film’s trailer and poster art.
Slither succeeds at gleefully grossing us out. The film’s aliens enter their victims through their orifices and turn them into flesh eaters who grow so morbidly obese that they literally explode. What is this movie about? In a nutshell, Slither is about clueless rednecks vs flesh-eating zombies brainwashed by slimy acid spewing extraterrestrial multi-tentacle mutant slugs. And no other movie will ever as gleefully exploit Air Supply’s 1980 hit “Every Woman in the World” for darkly comic purposes.
What really helps distinguish a good horror-comedy work is great performances, sharp comic timing, and a willingness to admit to the silliness of the genre. The cast, which includes Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks and Michael Rooker, helps Gunn’s offbeat but amusing dialogue work. In addition to nailing the tone, Gunn gives us a pair of surprisingly likable protagonists. Bill and Starla aren’t really three-dimensional characters, but we can’t help but love them. All in all, a very fine genre film, and one that deserves higher praise. Regardless if Slither is your cup of tea or not, the film is so skillfully executed, you have to admire it.