Slither is an exuberant horror-comedy that marks the directing debut of James Gunn, writer of the nicely reimagined Dawn of the Dead remake.
While the pacing doesn't match the hit zombie fest starring Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames, Gunn's latest gory escapade could be a mutant of such films like Tremors or The Thing. There is plenty for genre fans to sink their teeth into, considering the fortified rednecks up against killer slugs and flesh-eating zombies.
Gunn's latest scripting (not far removed from his Dead writing) sets the action in small-town Wheelsy, where the opening of hunting season is given holiday status. Rich businessman Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) has done well having obtained trophy wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks of Heights, Spider-Man 2). Yet, her solid "moral center" concerning Grant has faded away.
So, the sullen Grant finds a receptive, slutty Brenda (Brenda James) in a seedy tavern. A stroll they take in the woods has shocking repercussions when they encounter a newly-landed meteorite.
Safe to say, metamorphoses of these two has Gunn exacting an evolving menace that gives great consternation to the other main characters, wry police chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion of Serenity) and foul-mouthed mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry of Payback). Pardy happens to be Starla's former high school beau who'll join her to stop this squid-like bloodthirsty creature, his former rival, and the infected. Tania Saulnier adds to the raucous, broad humor as a spunky pulchritudinous teen, Kylie, out to avenge her "slugged" clan.
The deviation from Gunn's wild take on George A. Romero's celebrated "Dead" pics has to do with the mind melding to Grant, as Rooker dons more prosthetics and goo, becoming a more fearsome behemoth. The mix of practical effects and state-of-the-art CGI maintains the B-movie horror film presence, not pressing itself as an over-the-top shocking human comedy.
Fillion and Henry turn out to be engaging characters as a love triangle emerges among Grant, Starla, and Bill. The former balances his share of cheeky interludes with the kind of reason as things really go amok. Henry (sometimes looking oddly like an older Owen Wilson) is quite funny in making MacReady's blowhard larger-than-life. Rooker is up to the physically challenging part as the top-heavy loathsome beast is hardly a throwaway special effect. Even Banks gets the humorous elements of Starla down as she immerses herself into a Fay Wray mentality.