With everyone so busy either remaking (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes) or remoulding (The Descent, Wolf Creek) those bold, bludgeoning horror movies of the ’70s, writer-director James Gunn has spied a gap – nay, a chasm – in the market: the comedy-horrors of the early ’80s. And so he’s birthed Slither – a loving tribute to The Evil Dead, Basket Case and Re-Animator… by way of ’50s sci-fi, Cronenbergian body horror and Screaming Mad George’s (Society) liquid prosthetics.
The premise is hokum, 100 percent proof, as Michael Rooker’s body swells and blisters and ruptures before settling into the form of a 20ft squid. Dipping his writhing tentacles into local lass Brenda (Brenda James), she then proceeds to turn into a barn-sized beachball before giving explosive birth to a thousand claret slugs. Let the epidemic begin…
A graduate of B-movie studio Troma Entertainment, Gunn is best known for writing Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead remake and both Scooby-Doo movies. Here making his directorial debut, he’s clearly having a riot, slathering Slither’s monsters with 300 gallons of methylcellulose slime and using a thermal gel usually associated with the adult industry to create a batch of oddly sexual parasites. His insatiable hunger for stretchy-skin effects even led to a temporary depletion of America’s national supply of silicone.
The characters, too, are gratifyingly OTT, with Nathan Serenity Fillion’s wry sheriff and Gregg Henry’s potty-mouthed mayor trading insults and wide-eyed looks of horror as they’re confronted by beastoids of all shapes and sizes. (The Thing’s famous “You gotta be fucking kidding” line would fit at pretty much any juncture, but we’ll settle for one old-timer’s remark upon spotting the mutant squid: “Looks like summin’ that fell off my dick in the war.”)
Great fun, then, but be warned that all the nodding and winking eventually grows tired, and that Gunn fails in his 11th hour attempt to make Rooker’s creature a tragic figure à la Frankenstein’s monster. Bracket your movie with inverted commas and you can’t expect viewers to care as well as laugh.