Starring Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry
Directed by James Gunn
Distributed by Scream Factory
It has been a real pleasure watching the career trajectory of James Gunn. Although I didn’t know it at the time I’ve been a fan of his work since 1996, when the VHS of Tromeo and Juliet was in heavy rotation on my VCR (he wrote the film). Nearly ten years later, he pulled off a seemingly impossible feat by writing a solid script for Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake. And obviously he is currently globally celebrated for his work with Marvel. Backtracking a decade, Gunn made his directorial debut in 2006 with Slither, a dark horror comedy about mind-controlling slugs from another world descending upon a small town. Filled with quick wit and gross-out gags, the film feels like a natural extension from Gunn’s lower-budgeted work with Troma. Lloyd Kaufman even makes a cameo. After years of waiting and wanting, Scream Factory has finally anted up and delivered the Blu-ray release fans – and Gunn – have been asking for.
On an otherwise quiet night in the South, a meteorite crashes in the forest just outside of Wheelsy, South Carolina. Late the next night, local auto dealer and self-made millionaire Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) is walking through the woods with Brenda (Brenda James), a local bar slut, after fighting with his wife, Starla (Elizabeth Banks). Grant provides a sense of security for Starla, but her true lust seems to lie with local police officer Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), though the two have never evolved past playful flirting. Just as Grant and Brenda begin to get down, he spies the meteorite and goes in for a closer look. His curiosity is rewarded with a sharp barb projected into his chest, which burrows inside and causes an immediate change in his demeanor. Although he still (for now) looks like Grant and is able to mimic his normal speech and actions, his sole intent is to impregnate a kidnapped Brenda with his alien love seed – and doing so requires meat. Meat. Meat. Meat.
As Grant’s love slugs develop within Brenda’s ever-expanding womb, her alien baby daddy continues his evolution into something squid-like – and very pissed off. The cops make a play to stop Grantsquid and when the officers give chase they are led directly to an about-to-burst Brenda, who literally explodes with tiny offspring. Now the entire town is under siege as thousands of slimy slugs crawl through the streets, intent on climbing inside people’s mouths and taking over their brains, forming a collective consciousness. Bill and his remaining squad try to subdue to zombified residents of Wheelsy, but the true battle lies with Grant, leader of the hive-mind, who is still trying his hardest to win back the affections of Starla – even though he looks like a demon squid monster from hell.
Balance is everything in a horror-comedy and Gunn strikes the perfect pitch between the two. Blending together elements of greater films by Carpenter, Cronenberg, and, apparently unintentionally, Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps (1986) – Gunn says he never saw the film prior to making this – Slither manages to finesse all of those influences cohesively while still remaining a patented Gunn production. Fillion brings the loveably goofy everyman charm to his role, while Gunn regular Gregg Henry punctuates his supporting scenes with fiery wit and foul declarations. And the humor works. It flows organically from the actors; none of it feels contrived or forced… an issue I had with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). Alongside those laughs are moments of true terror not because of tension but, rather, sheer grossness. The evolution of Grantsquid is an undeniable thing of grotesque beauty, like a reject from the underrated Freaked (1993). But then there are moments such as when Brenda gives birth, or when a character turns zombie and makes the difficult decision to eat part of a dead person. And then there’s the cop who gets split in half by Grantsquid. Gunn doles out the horror in gooey bursts, each complete with a strong visceral impact.
Not everything about the film is a winner, though. The subplot with Kylie (Tania Saulnier) is nothing but needless exposition. While the slimy slugs are able to work their way into most mouths with relative ease, Kylie stops her mandible menace thanks to a fresh set of sharp fingernails. With the creature half in her mouth, its telepathic link to the others is activated and suddenly she is flooded with the gift of Essential Story Knowledge. All of her dialogue from this point forward is filling in the other survivors (read: viewers) on what this slug-thing is, its plans, hobbies, passions, etc. None of this is necessarily information anyone needs, however, and it just bogs an otherwise strong script down.
Slither bombed hard when it hit theaters. I remember watching it in a half-full auditorium and it just wasn’t getting the laughs. Truthfully, the first time I saw it some of the tone struck me as odd and I just couldn’t connect, but subsequent viewings have only improved my view and it’s now right up there with some of the most enjoyable horror-comedies ever made. And that’s no hyperbole, either. Gunn’s film caters to a crowd that loves savage sarcasm, practical FX, and ‘80s nostalgia – everything within my own wheelhouse.
Although no new scan information has been provided, the 1.85:1 1080p image is a real beauty. Clarity and fine detail are particularly impressive, making the tiniest of details crystal clear, although shadow delineation is a little weak and the image gets buried on occasion. Bold color saturation is uniform throughout. Film grain appears organic and smooth. The moments of bad CGI work still look poor, though thankfully they are few. Overall this is a pleasing image that is leaps and bounds above the old DVD of yore.
An English DTS-HD MA track has been supplied in both 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound configurations. Though the multi-channel track allows for greater separation of effect and dialogue, most of the activity is relegated to the center and front-end speakers. Rears only come into play with minimal atmosphere and quick bursts of action. Tyler Bates’ score is brash but moody, perfectly complementing the on-screen activity. Subtitles are available in English.
There are two audio commentary tracks included – first, a new recording featuring James Gunn, Nathan Fillion, and Michael Rooker; the second, a legacy track with Gunn and Fillion.
“The Genesis of SLITHER – An Interview with Writer/Director James Gunn” – Gunn always gives a great interview and his retrospective look at the film here is filled with interesting anecdotes and trivia.
“The Other MacReady – An Interview with Actor Gregg Henry” – This is a brief but worthwhile interview with one of the film’s highlight performers.
“Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary by James Gunn” – These are not available to be watched separately, with nearly all adding additional character development.
“Visual Effects: Step by Step” – See how shots evolve from a blank plate to a fully-realized CGI creation.
“Slithery Set Tour with Actor Nathan Fillion” – The actor grabs a camera around, chatting with several cast & crew members.
“Who is Bill Pardy?” is a reel of outtakes and gags featuring Fillion’s character.
“The Sick Minds and Slimy Days of Slither” – This is an EPK covering the making of the film, featuring interviews with some of the cast & crew.
“Brewing the Blood” – Special effects assistant Kurt Jackson shows viewers how to make their very own cinema blood at home.
“Bringing Slither’s Creatures to Life” – Actors and special effects artists from the film discuss the extensive prosthetic work and creepy crawlies designed for the film.
“Lloyd Kaufman’s Video Diary” – See Kaufman’s fly-on-the-wall perspective during a day on set.
A gag reel and the film’s theatrical trailer are also included.
- NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director James Gunn And Actors Nathan Fillion And Michael Rooker
- NEW The Genesis Of SLITHER – An Interview With Writer/Director James Gunn
- NEW The Other MacReady – An Interview With Actor Gregg Henry
- Audio Commentary With James Gunn And Nathan Fillion (From 2006)
- Deleted And Extended Scenes With Optional Commentary By James Gunn
- Visual Effects: Step By Step
- Slithery Set Tour With Actor Nathan Fillion
- The Sick Minds And Slimy Days Of SLITHER
- Brewing The Blood – How To Make Blood
- Bringing SLITHER’s Creatures To Life
- Lloyd Kaufman’s Video Diary
- Gag Reel
- Who Is Bill Pardy? Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
- Optional English SDH subtitles
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