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Once upon a time, there was a separation in certain film genres. A horror film had one purpose while a comedy had an entirely different purpose. Horror films were highly condusive to spawning sequels. In time elements of horror began to be infused on a regular basis. Screaming in terror and hysterical laughter are in many ways two sides of the same coin. In 1933 the film Frankenstein opened with a nice elderly man politely warning the audience that what they are about to see may shock them. Now an audience is just as like to laugh as to scream at the same scenes. Much of the laughter may just be a jaded audience who has seen it all before; the laughs not quite what the producers had in mine. At last a film embraces the combination of horror and comedy. While not the first to do this ‘Slither’ offers thrills, chills, and guffaws all with slick and purposeful talent. The horror/comedy now recognized as a distinct genre that typically falls short of cinematic excellence but while the critical community may rate the members of this category rather lowly the studios continue to produce them for a simple reason, the audience enjoys them and gladly buy tickets and discs. A movie like ‘Slither’ didn’t need to do well at the box office by the modest budget can be recouped with a tidy profit with home video sales and licensing to cable and streaming services.

In the small town of Wheelsy, South Carolina, Grant (Michael Rooker) is the proverbial big fish in a small pond. As the wealthiest man in the city, he is accustomed to getting what he wants. This includes marriage to his trophy wife, the most beautiful woman in the city, Starla (Elizabeth Banks). With things cooling in the bedroom Grant goes out to the local bar and flirts with Brenda Gutierrez (Brenda James). Grant’s advances are well met, and the couple seeks a little clandestine time in the woods. Before th situation could progress further, they come across a recently fallen meteorite. As they look on in that way that only characters in a horror flick would do, something breaks out of the stone and enters Grant. When Grant returns home, Starla notices some odd changes. He has an unusual appetite for very rare red meat and has taken to sleeping in the basement away from Starla. While Starla is somewhat relived to have the bedroom to herself, she does think that Grant is not himself. The strange occurrences begin to extend beyond the Grant home as pets, livestock and finally, people start to disappear. The changes in Grant’s behavior start to manifest as he transforms into a horrible creature. Shortly after this, Brenda realizes that she is about to spawn a multitude of little slim creatures. The little slugs get out, and when they kill a person, the victim rises from the dead in an indestructible zombie like creature. The zombies are in a hive mind controlled by the main creature formerly known as Grant. The survivors of the town look to their sheriff, Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), for leadership. The main problem with this plan of action is Pardy is about one step above Barney Fife. It’s not like any of the other of the group are much in the way of leadership material. The major, Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry), is a fowl mouth dolt while the only one with a little survivor instincts seems to be a teenage girl, Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier). Somehow this rag-tag crew pieces together the importance of the Grant creature and goes about trying to kill it.

It is completely okay if a movie is cheesy as long as the flick embraces it. This film does so with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Writer-director James Gunn has the perfect resume for this brand of cinema. Not only did he write for Troma, the ultimate is cheesy flicks, but he penned the sequel to Scooby Do and wrote the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead.' This shows the range this man has. He can go silly or seriously with the same ability. He also was responsible for a classic little spoof of superheroes called ‘The Specialists’, which does for that genre what this film does for the horror-comedy. Gunn also has an excellent pedigree, his brother Sean is a regular on the ‘Gilmore Girls’ and his wife Jenna Fischer, who appears here, is the American version of the Office. The thing that works here is Gunn doesn’t write for the ages, he writes for others like himself, fans. He lets us in on the joke and takes this flick to new heights by making us laugh with him, not at him. The pacing is typical of any number of ‘B’ horror flicks, the damsel in distress goes were we all know she shouldn’t, the dangers come out at the precise right moment, and the resolution comes on time. The difference here is everybody; even the cast and crew are in on it. We all laugh at most horror flicks now; we might as well enjoy one you are supposed to laugh. We all know a cute girl will wind up in a bathtub, but here you get a little twist on the theme.

This is an excellent cast which propels this film above many of its ilk. Nathan Fillion may not look like a typical comedian with his rugged good looks, but there is no doubt that he is funny. I first came across him on a little sit com called ‘Two Guys and a Girl.' His ability for underplaying a joke helped make that series a favorite of mine. You might also know him from the cult classic, Firefly. His character here cut from the same mold as Mal on Firefly, so Fillion has no problem at all fleshing out the role. The best little one liners on Firefly were his, and his delivery was impeccable, just as it is here. In this film, he plays the bumbling sheriff to the hilt. Elizabeth Banks is on the mark with her portrayal of the trophy wife, Starla. She allows the audience just the right touch of empathy with this character. Every horror flick needs a pretty girl that has a brain and here we have Tania Saulnier. She sells her role with commitment but never loses sight of the more comic elements of the script.

Universal Studio scores another solid hit with the DVD release of this film. There are full screen and widescreen versions, but you will want to see every little detail so stick with the aspect ratio the director intended. The video is close to perfect. The color palette is natural without bleeding and contrast problems that plague may film with many dark scenes. The Dolby 5.1 audio gives a full surround feel without any strange effects or drop outs. There is an audio commentary featuring Gunn and Fillion that made me laugh almost as much as the film. They work well together as the poking fun at the production and tell their little inside jokes to the viewers. Of course, there are the important deleted and extended scenes, and it is easy to see why they ended up on the editor’s floor. The blooper reel demonstrates the fun that the cast had in making this film. Fillion takes the audience on a comical tour of the set. Another featurette shows the making of the creatures while another features the ‘sick’ minds of the creators. This is far above the rest of the pack when it comes to combining horror and comedy. You can watch it again and again and still get into it.

Posted 10/26/06            03/17/2017

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