Today's film is the 2006 sci-fi horror/comedy Slither.
Slither is really a big budgeted fan film, writer/director James Gunn's homage to his heroes and favorites, mixing together elements from several sci-fi-slanted horror movies from the '70s and '80s into one very entertaining, comedic cinematic casserole.
The film is totally upfront in acknowledging its inspirations, anyone familiar with them will easily pick them up - a funeral home named after Kurt Russell's character in John Carpenter's The Thing, a school named after a character from Tremors, The Toxic Avenger playing on a TV, a cameo by Troma head Lloyd Kaufman, nods to The Blob, Videodrome, and director Frank Henenlotter, music from Predator, etc.
The story centers on the marriage of Grant Grant and his younger, beautiful schoolteacher wife Starla. Their sex life has been lacking lately, and this latest time when Starla turns down Grant's amorous advances because she's not in the mood, he reaches a breaking point. He goes out to a bar, gets drunk, picks up a girl from his past, and wanders off into the woods with her. He soon realizes that things are going too far, but before he can head back home to Starla, he spots a slime-seeping, pulsating object that came from within a meteor. Armed with a stick like the old man in The Blob, Grant checks out the slimy object... which splits open and fires a parasite into his body, a parasite that quickly burrows its way into Grant's brain.
Now under the control of the alien organism, Grant starts to go through some horrible changes, gradually transforming into a grotesque creature. The alien mind has access to all of Grant's memories and emotions, though, so it also feels his deep love for Starla and refuses to harm her. When it gets the urge to "impregnate" a woman with slug-like parasites, he doesn't do this to Starla, he seeks out the woman from the bar.
The woman eventually "gives birth" to hundreds if not thousands of the parasites, which then set out to crawl into the mouths of the residents of the sleepy little country town Wheelsy, turning everyone into zombie minions, their minds connected to the Grant-creature's. And they all want to bring Starla back home to her husband.
If left unchecked, the slug parasite process will continue until everyone on the planet is a space zombie. The people on the front line who have to do whatever they can to save the world are Starla, Wheelsy's Sheriff Bill Purdy, who's had a crush on Starla for years, the high strung town mayor, and a teenage girl who narrowly avoided being taken over by a parasite and briefly experienced the alien mind meld.
The film moves at a good pace, the action building up and the scope expanding as it goes along, and the real key to how entertaining it is is its characters. They're all likeable, fun people to spend some time with, even the ones that are monsters or douches, and the roles are filled by a great cast. As hero-next-door Bill Purdy is Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks is Starla, Michael Rooker in shaven head Mallrats mode plays Grant Grant. The movie delivers many laugh-out-loud moments, and in my book its hilarity MVP is Gregg Henry as Mayor Jack MacReady.
With its tone and space slug zombies, the movie Slither most closely resembles is Fred Dekker's great 1986 horror/comedy Night of the Creeps. Ironically, I've heard that's one of the few '80s horror films that James Gunn missed out on seeing. The inspiration for the Slither parasites was actually taken from David Cronenberg's much more serious minded 1975 film Shivers, a.k.a. They Came from Within, a movie which will be covered later on in SHOCKtober.
A bathtub scene in Slither is a direct reference to a bathtub scene in Shivers/They Came from Within, and both movies' tub scenes made it onto their posters. (See They Came from Within's here.)