Slither Blu-ray: James Gunn’s splatter comedy comes to Blu-ray from Scream Factory
Watching James Gunn’s Slither for the first time since its premiere in 2006, I found myself enjoying it much, much more. Initially, I felt the same way about the movie as I did Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps, which I always found to be simply an arch pastiche of its influences (complete with characters named Romero, Craven and Cronenberg) without any identity of its own (apologies to all the ardent NOTC fans out there). Similarly, Slither — from its bathtub/slug/female victim poster on down — felt like a quote of David Cronenberg’s Shivers by way of John Carpenter’s The Thing (and a dose of Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage) mashed up with a jokey, scatological Troma-fied white trash narrative. And 11 years later, after spinning Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release, I still think that. But the ensuing decade has seen Gunn come in to his own as a filmmaker, with his two Guardians of the Galaxy films perfecting his unique, pop-culture-laden language and here, in Slither, we can see the blueprint of that language.
Slither stars future Gunn regular Michael Rooker as Grant Grant, a well-to-do redneck from a backwoods Southern town who, after being sexually rebuffed by his smoking hot schoolteacher wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks who is, as always, stunning), ends up at a local sh*t-kicker bar and in the arms of another woman. The pair end up stumbling through the woods, where they find an egg-like meteorite, whose vaginal opening spews a parasitic dark into Grant’s chest and slowly, surely turns him into a meat-eating alien zombie sperm bank. First, he impregnates his would-be lover with phallic slug-like tentacles and then he goes after his wife. But when hunky Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) steps in to defend her, he and the town soon realize that Grant has become a monster, a tentacled beast that looks like a cross between From Beyond‘s Dr. Pretorious and Isabelle Adjani’s lover in Possession and has global destruction intentions like Ego in Guardians 2. And when Grant’s slithering spawn are finally birthed, things get really gross.
Gunn wears his influences on his sleeve in Slither, with a feed store named MacReady’s (Kurt Russell’s character in The Thing) and am ammo spot called Max Wren’s (James Woods in Videodrome) and he borrows entire sequences from other films, including that infamous Barbara Steele tub scene from Shivers and even stretches of the already homage-drenched Night of the Creeps, not to mention huge portions of trash classic Attack of the Giant Leeches and an FX climax out of Brian Yuzna’s Society. Gunn even borrows from his Dawn of the Dead remake script and there are even elements of his future The Belko Experiment screenplay in here too. But Gunn ties Slither all together with his signature sense of humor, snappy dialogue, witty turns of phrase and slang and a devotion to riffing on pop culture and re-purposing AM-radio pop music. It’s all great, revolting fun, splattered with mild sleaze, crazed prosthetic FX and amusing and effective CGI tweaks.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray is loaded with fun features, including a new Gunn commentary and a super-long, frank chat with the writer/director, who somewhat arrogantly states that his time spent with Troma (his first “big” movie was Tromeo and Juliet) was more beneficial to them than it was for him and, I guess, long term he’s right. But still, it seems as if Gunn is somewhat embarrassed about his grotty past in the Kaufman-verse. Still, it’s a great interview, where Gunn is on the table acknowledging his debts to Cronenberg and Carpenter, his love of actor Michael Rooker, his fantastic cast, how he hates being a screenwriter and prefers writing and directing (a jab at Zack Snyder’s work on Dawn of the Dead perhaps?). There’s also a great story about how Gunn’s insistence to screen the film for critics pretty much “gave” him a career as it was, at the time, the best reviewed horror film in 10 years.
It’s great to have Gunn, now a superstar, on board to support this essential springboard to his career. He’s “one of us” and deserves every inch of his success.