Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Slither (2006)

Nathan Fillion
Elizabeth Banks
Michael Rooker
Gregg Henry
Tania Saulnier
Directed by James Gunn
When any film opens with a shot of a meteor streaking towards Earth, you know there’s trouble afoot. It’s not very often that these desolate space stones will be bringing glad tidings of great joy. Death and destruction is just around the corner, folks. How much of mankind is going to be wiped out depends on if you’re a Stephen Spielberg movie where the budget is going to be equal to the national debt, or if you’re making a film called Slither where the director has to squeeze whatever he can out of an accountant who is looking over his shoulder every step of the way. What this all means of course that instead of landing in downtown Los Angeles or even Cleveland, your meteor is going to crash land in Albemarle, North Carolina just as the town folks are gearing up for their Tuesday night gathering to call in their votes for the latest hometown hero on American Idol. In this case the town’s name is Wheelsy.  But you get the idea.

If you’ve seen the trailer for Slither and even if you haven’t, you’ll know that this movie has slugs in it. You’ll know that because when you buy your DVD or rent it, you’ll be looking at a full color portrait of them on the cover not to mention my fine photo shop on the above movie marquee. But these particular slugs don’t just pop out of the meteor and begin sliming their way across the countryside. And that’s a good thing, because as it turns out, in Slither you get a whole lot more than you bargained for.

One of the most beautiful women in Wheelsy is Stella (Elizabeth Banks). She’s the kind of schoolteacher whom the pimple-faced boys sit and gawk at while they draw nude pictures of her.  The girls spend most of their class time napping.
Besides being Stella the sexy schoolteacher, she is also Stella the wife of Grant Grant (Michael Rooker). Think of Grant as someone who has the looks and simple-mindedness of Bull from Night Court, but not the endearing charm. He is however, wealthy, which goes a long way to explaining how Stella became Mrs. Grant Grant. But with the good, you get the bad, and Grant is no Casanova when it comes to lovemaking.
When his advances are spurned by Stella one time too often, he goes out to find solace at the local pub where sexy Brenda (Brenda James) is more than eager to soothe the savage beast. Eventually they find themselves out in the woods, and of course, and it goes without saying that they encounter what’s left of the aforementioned meteor and the inhabitant of the meteor wastes no time in making a new man out of Grant. Literally.

Grant does return home to Stella, becomes a temporary dawn patrol type Casanova, and then moves on to other more pressing needs including a trip to the Food King. It isn’t long before Slither hurdles us from one maniacal bit of mayhem to the next. And just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any weirder, director James Gunn throws in another part of the kitchen sink just for good measure. Despite all the gore and bloodletting, Gunn never lets the film lose its diabolical sense of humor. And yes the gore is gruesome to the max, but it is played broadly and so over the top that you’ll be chuckling more often than cowering down in fear.

Besides Grant, Stella, and Brenda, there is also Police Chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion). He’s not exactly Sherlock Holmes and is maybe just a step above Barney Fife. He’s been carrying the torch for Stella for a long time and would like nothing more than to be her knight in shining armor.
Then there is loud-mouth mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry). He’s the mayor, dammit, and he makes no bones about it in his first appearance on the screen that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film. Watching Mayor Jack is in itself worth the price of your admission ticket. You can also add spunky teenager Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier) into the mix. Her family is getting ready for Family Fun Day as if they are some  countrified version of the Griswolds just as tragedy strikes.  But just like everything else is in this film, that too is later played way over the top.

For a film that was obviously made on a shoestring budget, you can’t really tell it. It has the charms of a low budget film, but the special effects never suffer because of it. They seem to have just the right blend of CGI, tossed in with some good old special effects of the man-made kind. It’ll make you wish it was the seventies and eighties all over again.

What you get with Slither is a lot of gore, sprinkled with a helping of goofiness and layered with a ton of surprises. Director James Gunn seems to know when enough is enough, when too much is sometimes even better, and that when you add in some snappy dialogue along the way you’ll be just as entertained as you would be with the biggest of the 100 million dollar budget extravaganzas. As if that weren’t enough, Gunn doesn’t tack on one of those tacky sequel setting endings either and that alone raises any film a grade level by my way of thinking. For an hour and a half I had one heckuva good time, and when I have that much fun at any film, I have no choice but to give you my grade which for Slither is a creepy slithering B.


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