SLITHER has perhaps the worst poster of any terrific film released in 2006. It may have actually kept people away, what with the way its space slugs converging on a bathtub cradling a classically nubile nymphette. It fails in every respect to convey the wicked humor and superbly self-aware irony that permeates every frame of film the way those evil space slugs permeate the film’s unwitting small-town populace. It also doesn’t quite capture the personalities of the slugs, which are suitably gross, but, even better, ferociously creepy.
Writer/director James Gunn and star Nathan Fillion provide the banter of the commentary track. Inspirations, influences, and the dangers of directing in freezing weather are covered along with gobbets of insights into individual scenes and the personalities behind the characters. Amidst the verbal horseplay much is revealed about the compromises low-budget films are forced to make, and a refreshing candor about what worked and what didn’t come out quite the way Gunn had planned. There are the usual deleted and extended scenes, as well as several behind the scenes featurettes. That last is, alas, remarkable only for bringing home exactly what co-star Michael Rooker endured in order to morph into the creature his character becomes. The featurettes on creating that effect as well as several others are a handbook for budding effects artists and an insight into the business of gore for the rest.
What was most remarkable for me re-watching the film with the commentary track going and the dialogue muted was how some of the jokes still worked with just the reaction shots and the subtlety of some of the visual. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an understated flick by any stretch of the imagination, but I appreciated all the more the way the broad humor was underscored by the smarts that Gunn used. And, of course, all the references to the horror classics he grew up on.
SLITHER is a minor classic of its genre, at once a spoof and an homage and a wondrous guilty pleasure at both. It may be tough to face a rare steak or a plate of calamari after seeing it, but it’s a small price to pay.