With James Gunn having written the screenplay for the Dawn of the Dead remake, it’s fitting that his directorial debut is this pseudo-zombie film. A well-crafted, well-acted yarn, Slither comfortably straddles the line between comedy and horror, frequently dips its toe into either side and does justice to both.
The sleepy town of Wheelsy, South Carolina is awakened by the arrival of a crash-landing meteorite. After having his extramarital, alfresco frolicking rudely interrupted by said meteorite, Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) investigates. Upon finding the meteorite, Grant discovers that there was an extraterrestrial parasite encased within that promptly infects him.
The infected Grant uses his frolicking friend Brenda (Brenda James) as a birthing vessel for hundreds of slug-like offspring. Once birthed, the slugs set upon the slumbering populace of Wheelsy and turn them into shambling zombies, each sharing a collective consciousness with Grant. Left to combat this growing alien menace are Police Chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), his inept deputies, the town mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry), local teen Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier) and Grant’s wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks).
There’s a fine balance here between horror and comedy. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but James Gunn perfects it. In Slither he has crafted a competent horror film and injected it with dry, infectious humour. A bold strategy that works because the horror elements are genuinely tense and suspenseful, albeit with an affectionate nod towards its genre influences. Meanwhile the comedy comes from the mostly deadpan characters. Building the bulk of the comedy elements around the conspicuous charisma of cult hero Nathan Fillion was a masterstroke. The often overlooked actor shines as Bill Pardy, and his interactions with the rest of the cast, Gregg Henry in particular, get the biggest laughs.
A hugely entertaining film from start to finish, Slither positively oozes with charm and gore in satisfying amounts. One for fans of horrors or comedies, and a definite must-see for fans of both.