The second installment of my journey through the horror gaps is a horror comedy classic, Slither. This is probably my favorite type of horror movie, mainly because the laughs relieve the insane tension I feel in my gut while watching them. But it is hard to get them just right. There has to be a mixture of horror and comedy that doesn’t lean too much on one side or the other. If the product does lean into more horror than comedy or vice versa, then you risk the film not having enough weight to scare you or the comedy seems to be shoe-horned into a straight forward horror film. The key to the balance is having believable characters. These characters shouldn’t be put into the film purely for comic relief or because they look strange. Their humor must come out of the situation and their ability to cope with it. This is handled really well in a movie like Shaun of the Dead. But is it handled well in Slither?
Before I answer that question, let me tell you what the film is about. Slither stars Elizabeth Banks as Starla. Starla is a teacher in a small town where everybody knows everybody. But the director makes a point of showing that just because the town is small, it doesn’t mean that the people in it are inherently quaint. (This aspect of the film I find refreshing, having come from a very small town myself.) Starla is married to a wealthy man, Grant. Everyone seems to think it is a marriage of convenience for Starla because she came from such a poverty-stricken family. But Starla takes her marriage seriously. But that doesn’t mean their relationship is all roses. One night after Grant fights with Starla, he ends up in a woods where he finds an odd alien like thing. He leans in to investigate it and the thing attaches to him. This thing attaches like a parasite and doesn’t let go. It transforms his behavior until it turns him into an octopus like creature. Nathan Fillion plays a police chief in this small town. He also is hung up on Starla because they grew up together. Nathan is put on the job of catching this octopus like creature and puts together a motley crew to investigate. At first it seems that Grant monster is just killing livestock and eating them. But that is not the case. Instead he is breeding a colony of slugs that invade human bodies and take over their bodies in a zombie like fashion. Nathan bands together with Starla and a couple of other people to fight off this spreading invasion.
This film seems to have more depth than your average zombie picture. There is a big cast, but you really get to know each person by the way they interact with each other. For instance Jenna Fischer has a small role as the phone operator. We get to know that she isn’t that smart when she is talking over the radio and decides to nod her head instead of actually answering. The police officer on the other line asks if she is nodding her head because she seems to do it all the time. Such a small moment gives depth to a character who can be seen as disposable. This depth of character is what drives the comedy more than just funny lines. For instance how the mayor reacts to almost getting killed by a zombie after he has been running for a long time is funny because that is what a person like him would do. Everything we learned about him plays into how he reacts to that situation. But don’t get me wrong. This film isn’t all fun and games. There are moments of true horror and suspense for me. The most effective scene takes place in the house of a young girl. She is in the bathtub (unfortunately we see no boobies… what a waste!) when the slugs invade her house. A slug creeps up behind her and makes its way to the mouth which is the typical point of entry for these parasites. But she is conscious of this slug so she tries her hardest pull it out while at the same time the slug is trying its hardest to get in. This struggle is intercut with images of the slug’s past as its poison invades her brain. These images are truly stuff of horror.
In conclusion, I say that Slither is an effective horror comedy that I will probably return to on multiple occasions. It has fun performances, really scary moments and a real sense of place. I say go stream it, now baby!