Written by: The Divemistress
When Mina was creating "back up" copies of the Rogers Video horror section, she asked if she could give me a copy of Slither to "store" "off-site". I was happy to oblige. Years went by before I actually had a look at the DVD she gave me. It was in French. I thought I could do it, could sit through the dub, but Nathan Fillion really needs to be heard speaking his own language.
Wheelsy is your typical country town. Not too much happens, everyone knows each other, and the biology teacher is smoking hot. On the eve of open dear season a meteor crashes in the woods and something small and slimy crawls out. The following night, the alien claims its first victim and four days later, police chief Nathan Fillion is organizing a small posse to head into the woods to look for a missing woman and a mutated Michael Rooker who's been killing pets and farm animals. The missing woman, it turns out, is in no fit shape to be moved from her cell and Michael Rooker's mutation is more terrible than anyone imagined. Things go from bad to worse when Wheelsy is overrun with Michael Rooker's spawn--large slugs that enter your mouth and take over your brain.
When I saw this movie in theatres my first impression was, "hilarious but there's something about it I can't quite put my finger on". Now that I've finally seen it again, I think I've figured out what it was that had me so baffled. It's the structure. The day after Michael Rooker's encounter in the woods, he's overcome by his new alien urges and he must find a way to balance his love for his wife with his love for destruction. But we never get a chance to watch Michael Rooker mutilate farm animals as he deals with his growing estrangement from Elizabeth Banks because the film fast forwards three days and the police are now hunting a "human squid".
The transition shifts the film's focus from Michael Rooker to his offspring, and it kind of throws you because you don't see it coming. What you think is a movie about a man, his mutation, and his wife, is actually a movie about a town overrun with alien zombies. Fortunately, the film maintains its humour throughout and it's a lot of fun to watch.
I've said it twice now, that Slither is funny. It's also really gross. And that's a good thing. Horror wants to shock the audience, startle people, and make them cringe. Slither does all that but whereas most movies will use scare tactics like staging and music to frighten the viewer, this film uses monstrous effects. A combination of physical and digital effects brings Michael Rooker's hideous and continuous mutation to life. The fallout is equally disgusting as Michael Rooker is intent on spawning as many offspring as possible before growing large enough to physically take over Wheelsy.
I mentioned Nathan Fillion at the start of this article and now it's time for that pay-off. When the film moves away from Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion takes over as he fights the offpsring. He plays police chief Bill Pardy and he's been carrying a torch for Elizabeth Banks since they were kids. Now that her husband has turned into a squid he might have a chance to win her, but he must first survive an onslaught of brain slugs. The slugs move fast, though, and Nathan Fillion looses nearly everyone to the alien invaders.
If Slither's plot sounds familiar, it's because you've kinda already seen this movie. Made in '86, Night of the Creeps is a horror-comedy about Tom Atkins battling alien brain slugs. Although the film initially flew under everyone's radar, the home video market breathed second life into the movie and it's now a cult favourite. Weirdly, no one saw Slither, either. I'm not suggesting you pick one over the other, because although both films draw from the same slug-infested well, they head off in different directions. Where Creeps turns inward to explore the alien mutation, Slither looks at the physical manifestation of the changes that are taking place. And while Creeps has a brooding and suicidal Tom Atkins, Slither's got a heartsick and wise-cracking Nathan Fillion.
Plus this euphemism for lesbian: "she packs a box lunch".