Slither
R1 - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (26th November 2006).
The Film

For some odd reason "Slither" was a box office bomb, during it's entire run in the United States it earned a disappointing $12.2 million at the box office. Despite the fact the film rated well among critics, the Rotten Tomatoes rating was a high 83%, the film featured some cool practical effects, a darkly humorous script, all set to appeal to the younger demographic looking for a good time and also catering to the older horror fan with homages to classic films, which should be a fan boys wet dream! So what happened? Perhaps it was the studios decision to release the film in April instead of October, usually horror films open in October to cash in on the Halloween movie going crowd, maybe Universal dropped the ball in the overall marketing campaign for the film, or perhaps it was that there were no known stars in the film (I realize that most successful horror films don't actually have any established stars in them at time of release, but I really couldn't think of another reason why this film failed). Whatever the reason "Slither" deserved better, because this film is such a pleasure to watch for an old horror fan boy such as myself. The script is fun, the film is well cast, the effects are gross and the overall tone is dark with a razor wit and a crack of the whip.
After an argument with his wife, Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) gets drunk and nearly cheats on his wife, while in the woods he stumbles upon a strange organism which had landed from space. The organism spits up goo at Grant which causes him to contract a bazaar illness that begins to take over his body. Suddenly he has developed a hunger for meat, pets, livestock and eventually people go missing. While his wife, Starla (Elizabeth Banks) begins to suspect something based on Grants unusual behaviour.
Grant body changes into a disgusting creature that goes on a rampage infecting people with an alien plague by thousands of slug-like creatures transforming them into zombies and it's up to Starla and a local sheriff, Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) to stop him.
One of the great things about this film aside from its witty script and delivery is that it pays respect to classic horror films, this is truly a film made by horror fans for horror fans with homages to "Night of the Creeps" (1986) which provided the inspiration for the alien parasite slug, "The Blob" (1958) sees our alien creature come from space plus other shout outs to "Shivers" (1975), "The Thing" (1982), "Tremors" 1990), "The Fly" (1986), "Rosemary's Baby" (1968), "Predator" (1987) and "The Toxic Avenger" (1985) among others and that keen fans of the genre will likely spot.
The film's effects were also done the old school way, with practical rather than CGI creature design, lending a mostly realistic but also home grown feel to the film, although the effects were over the top and gruesome they looked organic and not as fake as CGI appears in most cases. I tip my hat to filmmakers that still use traditional methods of effects rather than immediately opting for the easy CG route.
Additionally the film exhibited a sense of fun and adventure which made it all the more enjoyable to watch, it had a unique and refreshing blend of humour added to it's gross out horror moments, something that is difficult to achieve, yet filmmaker James Gunn manages this feat in his first feature film.
The film does have its flaws, the characters are somewhat hollow and represent popular stereotypes of southern country folks, in other words takes pot shots at rednecks. The sheriff, played by Fillion was the only character that actually had any weight in this cast, fleshing out a rounded, interesting and often funny performance which made him the clear character to root for. Additionally the film's plot is paper thin, which has been used more times in more films than Uwe Boll has made bad judgements in almost everything he's ever done.
Despite these flaws "Slither" is a fully competent film which has some well executed action-horror scenes that provide the viewer with enough fun filled moments to see you through the run time, additionally it provides an extra level of fun for the horror geeks out there.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this anamorphic transfer is excellent, the image is sharp and displays a fine amount of detail, color saturation is flawless with skin tones taking a natural look. I noticed some compression issue during the darker scenes mainly the night time exteriors, otherwise black levels were deep and shadow detail remained consistent. Despite minor compression artefacts this was a rather solid effort from Universal.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included on this film, all of which are Dolby Digital 5.1, we have one in English, one in French and one in Spanish. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack and I was a surprised by this paint-by-numbers surround track. While the dialogue was clear, music rendered well and minor effect sounds dispersed through the space I found it rather flat and lacked depth. As far as surround tracks go this is a straightforward affair with little to amaze the viewer but nothing major to warrant an all out disappointment.

Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Universal have released this film with an audio commentary, a series of featurettes, some deleted scenes, extended scenes plus a gag reel. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary by writer/director James Gunn and actor Nathan Fillion. Gunn enthusiastically talks about 80's horror that influenced him in making "Slither" and the process of putting the script together, selling it to the financiers and getting the film made. Fillion chimes in occasionally commenting on his favorite shots and scenes and also acts as a catalyst for getting Gunn to talk more about various aspects of the production such as the cast, the special effects, the shot composition, locations etc, as he reveals behind-the-scenes trivia. There is some obligatory back patting for just about every cast member and occasionally a key crew member that just did an amazing job.

"The Sick Minds And Slimy Days Of Slither" is a featurette which runs for 10 minutes 3 seconds, in this clip we are provided with an all access pass into the making of the film as the cast and crew talk about bringing the 'creepy' element back into horror, 80's influences and the style of horror films. The participants also comment on getting the right people involved, setting the shots working with the director and about he has an understanding and love for the genre. This is the standard EPK style clip, if you listened to the commentary there is no need to even watch this as most of the information is covered in that track, if you're not into commentaries then consider this the abridged-for-people-with-short-attention-spans courtesy clip.

Next up is the "Slithery Set Tour With Nathan Fillion" a featurette which runs for 4 minutes 43 seconds, in this brief clip Fillion takes around the set as the production shoots several scenes in this occasionally funny clip that reveals very little about the production other than the fact that it was an enjoyable film to work on.

"Visual Effects: Step By Step" is a featurette that runs for 5 minutes 2 seconds and is a comparison reel of footage showing the various stages a shot goes through until it reaches the final version seen in the film, each special effect stage is explored in this clip set to music. While it's interesting to see the progression of a shot, this clip really could have benefited by having a visual effects artist commentary play over the footage instead of music.

"Bringing Slither's Creatures To Life" is the effects featurette which runs for 18 minutes 4 seconds, this takes a closer look at the prosthetic effects in the film and melding both the practical effects with CGI effects and having them work in tandem to sell the gory and disgusting creatures in this production. The clip focuses on the slug creatures, the giant exploding Brenda and the Grant house monster. This is by far the best and most interesting featurette on the disc.

Next is the "Gorehound Grill: Brewin' The Blood" a featurette which runs for 3 minutes 34 seconds as special effects crew member Kurt Jackson shows us how to make fake blood.

A series of 8 deleted scenes follows and includes optional audio commentary by director James Gunn as he puts these scenes in context and explains why they were ultimately cut from the final film. The scenes included are:

- "Mrs. McCammon's House" which runs for 3 minutes 2 seconds, the Chief is called out to Mrs. McCammon's house where they find a deer trapped inside the home.
- "Grant At Work" runs for 1 minute 1 second, Grant spills chili all over himself and yells at his secretary to help clean up the mess.
- "Grant/Starla Dinner Scene #1" runs for 44 seconds, Grant is concerned about the way other men look at Starla.
- "The Meat Filing Scene" runs for 1 minute 28 seconds, after he's become infected Grant collects all the meat in the house and files it away in a file cabinet.
- "Grant Takes Dog Away" runs for 1 minute 6 seconds, Grant lures the dog into a false sense of security and then runs off with it, later some school kids talk about the missing dogs.
- "Grant/Starla Dinner Scene #2" runs for 54 seconds, Starla is concerned that Grant hasn't been eating his greens.
- "Outside 'Deer Cheer' Lodge" runs for 44 seconds, the Chief makes fun of a couple of drunk hunters.
- "Starla Zones Out In Classroom" runs for 54 seconds, Starla is distracted by a caterpillar crawling up a plant.

Following that are 4 extended scenes also with optional audio commentary by director James Gunn, Gunn explains the reasons why these scenes were shortened, the scenes included are:

- "The Butcher Shop" which runs for 1 minute 44 seconds, Grant goes shopping for meat and his order increases in size as the scene progresses.
- "Bill And Starla On Lodge Balcony" runs for 2 minutes 9 seconds, while at the Deer Cheer the Chief and Starla share a moment on the balcony overlooking the town, we get some additional dialogue from both.
- "Grant At Brenda's House" runs for 1 minute 36 seconds, Grant pays Brenda a visit and gets her to take off her shirt.
- "Bill And Kylie Outside Police Station" runs for 1 minute 44 seconds, Bill tries to convince Kylie to help him.

"The King Of Cult: Lloyd Kaufman's Video Diary" featurette is next and runs for 8 minutes 59 seconds. Troma President Kaufman was invited to play a cameo role as a sad drunk in the film, This his video diary of his day on the set as he takes his shaky handicam around the lot from his trailer to the set.

Following that is "Who Is Bill Pardy?" a featurette that runs for 5 minutes 20 seconds, these are essentially outtakes of Fillion in character delivering the line "I'm Bill Pardy" in what seems to have become a running in-joke among the cast and crew. The cast and crew comment on who Fillion is and how much of an asshole he is (in a sarcastic manner).

A gag reel follows and runs for 8 minutes 12 seconds, this includes the usually array of footage that includes lines flubs, missed cues, props not working properly or breaking, the cast bursting out into laughter during a take among other things, none of it is particularly humorous and it's not worth repeated viewing.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of start-up bonus trailers that can be skipped, these previews are for:

- "Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5" which runs for 46 seconds.
- "American Dreamz" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" which runs for 33 seconds.

Although there are a lot of extras featured in this disc, the featurettes leave a lot to be desired, while some are worth a look the majority are simply fluff, the stand out extra was the commentary and it was interesting to see the deleted and extended scenes, their inclusion was welcomed.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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