Tuesday, January 09, 2007


From time to time, people can be honestly seen to 'surf' the internet. The Arctic Monkeys are riding on the crest of a wave that was in part made possible from their Myspace page. The ubiquitous 'Numa Numa' kid's popularity ballooned so rapidly from a three minute internet spot he recorded miming to a europop tune, that he was eventually offered an appearance on Jay Leno. More and more companies are using viral commercials, or downloadable e-mailable versions of ads that would never air on tv, and these too have a tendency to spread like wildfire throughout office inboxes all over the world.

All these examples are variations on a theme, a commodity held in the holiest of sacred regards by movie-makers: 'internet buzz'. This is another way of referring to the interminable claptrap spouted by 'bloggers' like me, a member of a community that regards itself as slightly less inferior to the dreaded 'message-boarders'. Once the ripple of buzz is picked up on a topic, you will see forum postings, message boards abound with variations on a theme such as 'dude, OMG, like, I can't wait for this one', or 'is SOAP gona be better than LOTR???!?!' The classic example of this buzz getting out of control was prior to the release of 'Snakes on a Plane'. Now, I haven't seen the movie, so I can't comment on its quality, but the impression I got from seeing Sam Jackson talk it up on The Daily Show is that it's a b-movie, trying to be intentionally tongue-in-cheek, but that the idea sounded, well, pretty boring.. Why, then, did the message-boarding fanboys and bloggers embrace 'Snakes on a Plane' so fondly, giving it that most loving of internet fanboy thumbs-ups, an abbreviation (SOAP) and generating all sorts of excitement in advance of its release? Who knows folks, for the internet is a strange place. What's stranger to me though, is that a movie like Slither, which provides all the laughs and grisly enjoyment that Snakes on a Plane promised, never generated a single ripple of internet 'buzz', at least none that registered on my, um, sonar.

Slither is an irreverent comedy horror in the same vein as Sam Raimi's 'Evil Dead' trilogy, or perhaps Peter Jackson's 'Braindead'. It's a monster movie, of the genre that Troma studios have been churning out for years. For Troma movies, think 'Redneck Zombies' or 'The Toxic Avenger' and you get the idea of the tongue-in-cheek approach that they take to entertainment of this type. Slither borrows a lot from the Troma style, and indeed, one of the movie's characters is relaxing at home watching a Troma movie before she meets the monster of the piece.

Essentially, Slither doesn't take itself too seriously, and is all the more enjoyable for it. The self-awareness displayed by writer-director James Gunn probably comes from his own experience as a writer/director on Troma movies. Although he debuted with the not so memorable 'Tromeo and Juliet', Gunn did go on to bigger things, penning the script for the 1994 remake of George Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead', which was a big box-office success. He also provided a bit of bankability for himself by penning the two live action 'Scooby-Doo' movies, work of a more mercenary nature perhaps, but of the type that allows you more freedom in Hollywood, freedom to do your own thing.

And with this freedom, Gunn has put together a creditable addition to the comedy-horror genre. Slither is a pastiche of homages to many well-known monster movies, with throwback scenes to movies such as Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead', 'Halloween', 'The Toxic Avenger', '28 Days Later' even, all the movies Gunn obviously has affection for.

The movie is set in a backwater southern u.s. town named 'Wheelsy', where the residents pretty much all look like zombies even before they get infected by the mutant space monster that's on the prowl. The town is policed by Bill Pardy, played by Nathan Fillion, who you might recognise from the under-rated 'Serenity', and who is soon to be seen in the questionable sequel 'White Noise: The Light'. Fillion seems to be cultivating a reputation for himself as a bit of a b-movie icon, but he gives a good account of himself in Slither.

The monster effects on display (and lets face it, they may as well be a cast member) are very good, and there are also a few genuine moments of suspense and horror amidst all the tongue-in-cheek sarcastic humour.

The story trundles along at a decent pace, and from the get-go, you're never more than a couple of minutes away from something gross! Speaking of which, the monster of the piece, the unfortunately named Grant Grant, is played by Michael Rooker, one of those Troy McLure type supporting actors you will recognise, but be unable to place from anywhere specific. He plays the role well though, even if he becomes unrecognisable about a third of the way into the movie!

I'm painfully aware though, that even if I sing this movie's praises, it's going to be difficult to convince you to see it if you're not a fan of the horror genre. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why Slither tanked at the box office, despite its obvious quality. It seems surprising to me that it didn't generate any kind of internet buzz, however, as it is one of those movies that would seriously benefit from good word of mouth..

So here's my contribution to hopefully starting a wave of DvD interest for Slither. It deserves it, mainly because it's a funny, entertaining way to spend ninety minutes. The gore is extreme, the monsters are frightening, the jokes are funny, and the victims, for the most part, deserve what they get! If these characteristics do not a good monster movie make, then my name's Freddy Krueger.

The Verdict: for fans of monster horror, this is great fun.
The rating: 7/10

1 comment:

sammyray said...

Man, I wish this film had been better. I think it might have been a stronger movie if they'd stuck with just the slugs - they were CREEPY. The subplot with the guy turning into a monster was just too 80's for me.

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