More noise than signal


This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Jesus. Another one. Could we please have a moratorium on the production of horror films, at least until someone remembers how to make them properly, or failing that, tolerably?

Snappy introductory paragraph, eh readers? Shame it’s not hugely appropriate in this case, sadly not because the modestly budgeted Slither happens to be the epoch-making horror film we’ve been hoping for, but because it’s not really a horror film. According to my cinema listings it’s a horror / comedy / sci-fi flick. A rarer beast for sure, but not one that’s any easier to get right. As Slither handily proves.

Short form roundup – an evil body controlling slug arrives via meteorite and latches itself onto Grant “Grant” Grant (Michael Rooker). While he’s busy kidnapping dogs and mutating into a squid his wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) is too busy fending off a longstanding but growing mutual attraction to local police Chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) to notice these minor changes, at least until Grant kidnaps a local girl for use as a breeding tank for hundreds and hundreds of his horrible, people-controlling, hive-mind havin’ sluggy offspring, with which he’ll take over the quiet town and then the world! Oh Noes!

I guess it’s up to dead-pan Pardy, Starla, foul mouthed Mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) and teenage survivor Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier), who has somehow gleaned an insight into this alien-Grant hybrid’s plans for the future of Earth (outlook: not good) to stop him/it, gangster-style. Gee, I wonder if they’ll manage it? Cough.

Remember that multi-angled description used earlier on? Horror / comedy / sci-fi? Anyone else worried by the number of slashes in there? Yeah? With good reason, my young padawan. As a horror, Slither isn’t horrific enough. As a comedy, Slither isn’t funny enough. As a sci-fi, Slither isn’t, um, sciency enough? Well, however it’s sliced, one thing is constant; Slither just isn’t enough.

It’s not awful, by any means. Firefly / Serenity lynchpin Fillion does the whole world weary acerbic thing as well as anyone, and will no doubt keep the very small legion of ‘brown anoraks’ or whatever Firefly fans are calling themselves these dark days happy. Everyone else displays varying levels of adequacy with no-one disgracing themselves. Some of the gags fall flat, but that’s writer / director James Gunn’s fault rather than the casts.

Slither just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, and plays its trifecta of components against each other without noticing that they’re in direct opposition to each other. At times it seems like it’s cranking itself up for a Lake Placid (which, incidentally, may be the most under-rated film of the last decade) style carnival of sarcasm and off-handed dismissal. Sometimes it takes a sillier, spoof-ish path something along the lines of Evolution. Fair enough. However, it’s still trying to scare you. With the same things it’s just finished trying to have you laugh at.

Which, naturally, doesn’t work. Essentially, you’ll leave the cinema with something of a sense of puzzlement over what Slither was trying to achieve, and perhaps move onto grander philosophical discussions as to whether you can claim something to be a failure purely on the grounds that it’s aims can’t be obviously discerned rather than the usual metric of failing to achieve a stated aim. After that, you might put the bong down and answer a more relevant question, namely was Slither worth your time and money?

The answer, in this scriveners opinion, is no. It’s rarely a dull film to watch, albeit without ever hitting any notable high points. It will occupy your time adequately for the sensibly limited ninety minute or so run-time. If that’s all you want, go ahead, knock yourself out. Slither is adequate, just barely, for that purpose. Higher expectations, however, will not be rewarded.