Rated R, 96 min. Directed by James Gunn. Starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry, Tanya Saulnier.
James Gunn knows what makes horror fans howl – both in delighted repulsion and, just as important, with the sublime in-crowd, fanboy glee that only comes when the director in question clearly loves poking the collective gag reflex just as much as gorehounds dig the real deal – squishy, brain-bursting, outer-space slugs and all. Anyone can make a bad horror comedy, but Gunn, the screenwriter of the vastly underrated remake of George A. Romero’s seminal gutbuster-cum-social critique Dawn of the Dead, is not only an honest and heartfelt fan of horror films but also one heck of a writer: Gag all you need to while taking in this smart, ghastly, and often disarmingly hilarious homage to everything from Romero’s herky-jerky undead to Stuart Gordon’s moister moments in Re-Animator and From Beyond (not to mention Brian Yuzna’s adroit skewering of Republican family values in the little-seen 1989 nightmare-cum-satire Society), but by the time the final credits roll, damned if you’re not downright upbeat about the whole alien invasion situation on screen. It sure beats reality at this particular moment, as finer genre offerings so often do. When alien grubworms invade a sleepy backwater burg in the great state of – where else? – Texas, it’s up to former Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer luminary Rooker (as a guy who obviously never saw The Blob) to play host to the squirmy out-of-towners (literally). Rooker has terrific fun with the role of the doomed husband who just wants to be loved by his wife (Banks) even after he begins to resemble H.P. Lovecraft’s inner child. Slither has a breezy, unforced, and entirely welcome sense of humor, which only makes all those lovingly rendered shotgun blasts to the heads of the newly deceased locals all the more horrific. Gunn penned the screenplay as well, and it’s a gooey, kooky, and altogether ooky blast from start to finish, crisply shot and wittier than anything his former Troma Films boss Lloyd Kaufman’s done in years. Of course, Slither isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve a yen for gallons of grue and a smart, sassy story to boot, you couldn’t do better than Gunn’s hellishly fun horror show.
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