May 25th, 2006 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Written and Directed by James Gunn

Starring Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, Tania Saulnier

Slither is the sort of film that would have gone straight to video during the 80s and 90s if not for the cultural influence wielded by the world’s most famous film geek, Quentin Tarantino.

How? Before Reservoir Dogs appeared on the scene, video shops didn’t have ‘cult’ sections. Ancient, yellowed copies of Foxy Brown, Fist of Fury and Bloodsucking Freaks withered in the fluorescent light, unknown and unappreciated except for an underground army of film geeks — one of whom spent his formative years working in a Los Angeles video store long before Reservoir Dogs.

Now that cult is so cool, we’re in the midst of many a cinematic renaissance. One is that horror — almost totally absent from the big screen throughout the 1990s, is huge business again. So’s martial arts — including the kind of ultra-violent Hong Kong style Tarantino referenced in Kill Bill. Films like Badasssss! Are gaining critical kudos and there’s enormous interest in everything from anime to the films of Russ Meyer.

The most notorious exploitation movies — from I Spit on Your Grave to The Toxic Avenger ? used to be routinely banned or shunted to video. Now, thanks to Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) and Eli Roth (Hostel), they’re in theatres playing alongside Ice Age 2.

In Slither, a B movie full of flesh eating zombies, slimy slugs and sickening deformations gets the backing of a major studio (Universal) where 10 or 15 years ago it would have come from the halls of Troma or Golden Harvest and sank straight to the dusty horror section of a million video shops.

And Slither wears it’s B movie status happily on its sleeve. We’re treated to the sight of a meteor rocketing towards Earth, interspersed with two cops in Hicksville, USA on a quiet night, waiting for speeding drivers in a town too quiet to have any. One of them is Nathan Fillion, fresh from his role as Captain Mal Reynolds in Serenity.

Meanwhile, beautiful young wife Starla (Banks) rebuffs the advances of her husband Grant (Rooker), so he goes out to a bar in a temper where he meets a childhood crush. They go out into the woods where nature almost takes its course, but instead come across the fallen space rock and the slimy slug-thing it’s disgorged. Promptly firing a slithering beetle into the stomach of the unfortunate Grant, the creature sets in motion a classic horror chain of events as Grant starts to change into something hideous, and he’s not the only one.

While Starla assists Bill (Fillion) and his men — including the excitable and profane town mayor (Henry) — in tracking down the thing that’s become Grant, all hell breaks loose in the form of a plague of slugs that look like chillies made of raspberry jelly. They descend on the town, leaping into the mouths of the unwary and turning them into zombies.

It turns out to be up to Bill, Starla and local teen Kylie (Saulnier) to save the day amid the chaos and blood, and while you can guess most of what’s transpiring (or will), this is the cinematic equivalent of a bad road accident — you can’t help looking in case there’s any blood.

Typical to this sort of schlock, neither the plot nor the science behind the plagues and creatures make much sense. But they’re there to disgust you, not outline a biological thesis.

And disgust you they will. It’s full of sequences that’ll make you howl with revulsion and laughter (a man sliced in half with his guts spilling as he falls apart, a woman about to kiss the revolting monster who used to be her husband, various stabbings and shootings), but if you go to see Slither for any other reason, you need to make your decisions a little more carefully at the box office.

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