Tuesday, November 14, 2006

SLITHER

Here’s what I liked about James Gunn’s directorial debut, SLITHER (2006): It wasn’t a remake of a 70’s horror film. The majority of the cast members were over 21 years old. It was rated R. It was fast-paced, funny, gory, and even grossed me out a few times.

When a meteor crashes to Earth near a small, rural community, releasing a swarm of fast-moving slug-like creatures which can enter and take over human hosts, Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion, SERENITY) and his Barney Fife-esque deputies must stop the alien parasites from taking over the world.

Borrowing heavily from such films as THE THING, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and especially, the underrated 80’s gem, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, writer-director James Gunn (screenwriter of the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake and the SCOOBY DOO movies), has managed to pull together a fright flick that works extremely well, despite it’s lack of originality. The cast is top-notch, with great, darkly humorous performances by Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, and especially, genre vet Michael Rooker (HENRY-PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER) in a particularly challenging role. Worth mentioning are the special effects, which are particularly well done, nicely combining on-set animatronics and prosthetic make-ups with deftly executed CGI.

Gunn manages to keep the pace brisk, wringing some genuine suspense out of the escalating alien slug invasion, and mining some choice black comedy nuggets from his characters and situations. And if the jokes are occasionally a bit too broad or lowbrow, we must remember that Mr. Gunn got his start at Troma, working with Lloyd Kaufman on such cinematic wonders as TROMEO AND JULIET. (A clip from Troma’s TOXIC AVENGER is briefly glimpsed on a TV screen in one scene. It’s a nice touch.)

Universal has done a fine job on the DVD, too. The film is given a startlingly sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a booming Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. The plentiful extras include several deleted scenes (including Lloyd Kaufman’s cut cameo), some extended scenes, a hilarious gag reel, the "Who’s Bill Pardy" featurette, a video set tour with Nathan Fillion, a "Making Of" documentary, a high-spirited audio commentary with Gunn and Fillion… and a few surprises.

It may not be a great flick, but even with its faults, it’s probably the best new horror film I’ve seen this year. Check it out.

BUY: Slither (Widescreen Edition)