Horror movies would be lost without small peaceful American rural towns.
Think about it, how many horror movies are set in Nowhere’s-ville? You know, just past Remote Town, past the abandoned mine and just left of the massive dark forest with no mobile reception.
These small towns are the staple of the generic horror film with their tiny communities full of stereotypes, who all know each other; their isolated locations far away from any real cities or help; and their bumbling sheriff’s and police forces, too stupid to stop the impending plague of zombie dwarves/killer butterflies/mutated pebbles – but with enough guns to liberate a small principality.
Slither is set in such a location with all of the above clichés rearing their wonderful formulaic heads, as rural tycoon (it means he’s rich in hay) Grant Grant is infected by an evil alien. This in turn mutates him into a hideous creature bent on destroying the entire human race using parasitic worms that zombifiy the townsfolk, giving them a hive mind controlled by Grant. Only a tiny band of survivors lead by the local sheriff (Firefly and Serenity’s Nathan Fillion) stand against the extraterrestrial threat, to save the town and the world.
The use of all these over-done conventions and horror movie staples are no coincidence, as Slither sellotape’s its B-movie influences straight to its disgusting transmuted face hole. Not only is there a veritable feast of in-jokes in the character names and cameos, but the plot bares striking resemblances to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Tremors, Night of the Living Dead, Shivers and Night of the Creeps.
The film gets away with all of this however, as it bills itself as a comedy horror.
Now at first it doesn’t seem that funny, and for the first 20 minutes I was wondering if they just slapped that humour tag on the box so that people couldn’t slate or berate its lack of originality.
I mean, surely making a ‘comedy horror’ is another way of making a terrible horror film and pretending you meant it to be bad (Gary Busey’s Gingerbread Man anyone?).
In the 80’s movies like Neon Maniacs and The Lamp were made in all seriousness to scare the living puss out of the populace. The fact that they are terrible and that I spent most of my teenage years rewatching them on video with my mates laughing my ass off, doesn’t mean the directors will re-release either of them, call them ‘comedy horror’ and say all the bad effects and terrible acting were deliberate.
Luckily for Slither it is a comedy horror and deliberately so, not in a ‘that’s funny ha ha’ way more an ‘aww god that’s gross ha ha’ way, and that’s its ultimate success.
For me, laughing and making jokes about the disgusting and horrible things that happen to Grant and the poor people of the town is a more realistic than taking them seriously and screaming (which also happens). Making an inappropriate joke can break a sombre mood and keep people from being scared. The expression ‘if I don’t laugh I’ll cry’ is often true. And I know if I myself was being chased by mindless alien slug enslaved versions of my neighbours, to stop myself adopting the foetal position and crapping my boxers, the only way to keep running would be to use my cutting wit as a defence mechanism – just like the characters in Slither.
Slither has some good effects, some solid shocks and enough gross-out moments to keep every horror fan happy, so give it a go. Just don’t expect too much.
And if you ever decide to move to a small rural town, you only have yourself to blame when you get killed you idiot!