Every now and then a horror film shows up to remind us that it's only the lower budget fare that really delivers the goods in this genre, and "Slither" is exactly that. In an era where horror film budgets have become bloated to $100 million levels, "Slither" is a down-to-earth experience that harkens back to the golden 1970s and 1980s. James Gunn's directorial debut borrows liberally from the best of that era: "Shivers", "Re-Animator", "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "Grapes of Death", "Squirm" "Fiend Without a Face" and "Dawn of the Dead". With a reasonable, but not monstrous, budget to work with, Gunn concocted a funny, character-driven fear film that was easily the best the genre had seen in years.
For all its gore and Troma-like comedy (Gunn also wrote the Troma cult classic "Tromeo and Juliet"), what really makes "Slither" work is that Gunn knows how to deliver suspense in his storytelling. When the shit hits the fan for the characters in "Slither," you are on the edge of your seat as they go about trying to survive in a redneck community taken over by aliens from another world.
Rather hot-looking Banks (best known to genre fans as a recurring sexy secretary character in the Spiderman films) plays the wife of a bald redneck (horror veteran Michael Rooker of "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"). One night, she refuses his advances for sex, so he goes out, gets drunk, and nearly shags a single mom before the two stumble across an alien entity that landed in the local woods. Naturally, Rooker is attacked by an alien slug that pummels its way through his chest and quickly takes over his brain, turning him into a super-protein obsessed madman who kills dogs and chows down on steaks.
The alien, of course, plans to take over the world. But even aliens have feelings, and this one falls for incredibly babe-titious Banks so he spares her the fate he has in store for the single mom, whom he impregnates with more worm-like slugs for the eventual conquest of Earth.
In one of the best scenes of the movie, a teenage girl (played by 20something Tania Saulnier) taking a bath confronts a slithering alien being, only to discover that her entire family – including loveable twin sisters – have been taken over by the aliens and become lumbering zombie-like creatures looking to spread the parasite to other people, via slug in the mouth (a la "Shivers"). It's one of the best scenes in a horror film in quite some time. There's always something scary when your own parents and sisters are coming trying to kill you, insisting it's "Family fun day."
If anything, "Slither" owes more to "Shivers" than Romero's "Dead" films, but the prosthetic-FX climax is quite reminiscent of many of Brian Yuzna's film and especially Gordon's "From Beyond". Rooker begins to resemble the monster-villain in that film as he morphs from human into sick, goo-covered flesh-colored blob. In short, "Slither" is a tribute to the 1980s that should satisfy any disgruntled horror fan in 2006.