Slither (2006 film)
Official poster for Slither
|Directed by||James Gunn|
|Produced by||Paul Brooks
|Written by||James Gunn|
|Music by||Tyler Bates|
|Edited by||John Axelrad|
|Gold Circle Films
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||95 minutes|
Slither is a 2006 American science fiction-horror-comedy film both written and directed by James Gunn, and starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks and Michael Rooker. The film was produced by Paul Brooks and Eric Newman. Slither is James Gunn's directorial debut. Slither was notable for being "a box office flop", whose performance "might have killed off the horror-comedy genre for the near future." Controversy ensued over the many similarities and plot-points shared with the 1985 horror-comedy cult classic Night of the Creeps.
A meteorite housing a malevolent, sentient extraterrestrial parasite crashes into the town of Wheelsy, South Carolina. While frolicking in the woods with Brenda (Brenda James), local car dealer Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) finds the parasite and is infected by it. The parasite takes over his body and absorbs his consciousness and memories. With the alien now in control of his body, 'Grant' begins to slowly change into a tentacled slug-like monster.
Many pets soon disappear, but Grant is not suspected. However, his wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) begins to question his health; he explains the initial changes in his appearance as an allergic reaction to a bee sting, saying that a doctor has already given him something for it, but Starla soon learns this is a lie. Starla contacts the police chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) – her childhood crush – who attempts to reassure and comfort her while not acting on his feelings.
Grant infects the lonely and neglected Brenda with hundreds of his offspring. He hides her in an isolated barn where she becomes massively obese as baby alien slugs grow inside her. Bill leads a small group of officers on a hunt for Grant; they find Brenda in time to see her explode, releasing hundreds of the alien slugs. Most of Bill's group are infected by the slugs and become Grant's puppets, speaking as if they were Grant and obsessed with bringing Starla home and holding her to her wedding vows.
Everyone in town is quickly eaten or absorbed into Grant's hive mind except Starla, Bill, mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) and one teenager, Kylie (Tania Saulnier), who escaped a partial bonding in which she saw the slug's memories; it moves from planet to planet, eating or absorbing all life it finds there. The parasite's consciousness, however, is influenced by the real Grant's memories and his love for his wife, Starla.
The survivors try to escape detection and kill Grant. The townspeople attack their vehicle, capturing Starla and Jack. Bill and Kylie track Starla to her home, and find that the infected are melding into one giant creature. They must risk their lives to stop the infestation from spreading any further. Jack awakens in the house's basement, where several of the infected are eating; he tries to escape but soon finds that he too is infected. Starla charms the monster by calling him "Grant" and telling him they can be together, but as they get close to each other, she pulls a knife from her underwear and stabs him in the chest. He slaps her with a tentacle and knocks her across the room.
Bill arrives; Jack begs to be killed, and Bill shoots him in the head. He tries to kill the monster with a grenade, but another tentacle knocks the grenade into the pool, where it detonates. The monster sends two tentacles to stab Bill and infect him; one is lodged in his abdomen, but Bill attaches the other to a small propane tank, filling Grant with gas, and Starla shoots the monster, causing it to explode, whereupon all the infected die. The three survivors walk away to find a hospital for Bill.
A cat approaches to feed off Grant's remains and is infected.
- Nathan Fillion as Bill Pardy
- Elizabeth Banks as Starla Grant
- Michael Rooker as Grantford "Grant" Grant
- Tania Saulnier as Kylie Strutemyer
- Matreya Fedor as Emily Strutemyer
- Gregg Henry as Jackson "Jack" MacReady
- Don Thompson as Walter "Wally" Whale
- Brenda James as Brendalynne "Brenda" Gutierrez
- Jenna Fischer as Shelby Cunningham
- Jennifer Copping as Margaret Hooper
- Haig Sutherland as Trevor Carpenter
- Amber Lee Bartlett as Jenna Strutemyer
Background and production
Gunn was said[by whom?] to be influenced by the wave of graphically violent horror B movies of the late 1970s and early 1980s, largely created by such directors as John Carpenter, Lloyd Kaufman, David Cronenberg, Stuart Ettingoff and Fred Dekker.
Controversy ensued over the many similarities and plot-points shared with the 1986 horror-comedy Night of the Creeps, including the following: the high-concept idea central to both films is that both movies feature alien slugs that are parasitic worms that enters the brains of their hosts through the mouth, transforming them into zombie incubators for more alien parasites—despite Gunn's dubious claim that he based the parasitic worms from David Cronenberg's film Shivers, the worms' behavior is identical to those from Night of the Creeps in that they are excitable, quick and slippery, changing their hosts almost immediately into mindless, rotting, shambling zombies where in Shivers the parasites are small, quiet and a hidden presence that simply elevate the sexual urges of their hosts (they are not transformed into zombies); an homage to The Blob with a key opening scene in both films of an alien meteorite crashing to Earth; a climax in both movies where the aliens join together to form a massive blob in a showdown against the survivors, only to be killed by a massive fiery explosion; both films sharing a gimmick of naming characters and places after notable cult movie directors, most notably, from the works of John Carpenter; both films sharing a trick ending where a domesticated household pet is infected by a surviving alien parasite, the only difference between the two films being that Slither changes the pet from a small dog to that of a cat. Night of the Creeps director Fred Dekker commented on the controversy by saying, "Slither didn't necessarily knock the box office on its ass. I think there is an argument to be made that audiences don't want to see movies about zombies with slugs in their heads." Further controversy ensued after James Gunn, who is a self-proclaimed cult horror fan, claimed he never saw Night of the Creeps until after he made Slither, a claim that was greeted with a backlash, challenged as dishonest by several critics and horror film fans, especially when it was pointed out that the likelihood that Gunn never heard of Night of the Creeps when surrounded by, and working with, hundreds of cast and crew also familiar with the film suggested he was covering up his knowledge of the film  According to journalist Steve Palopoli:
When the trailer for Slither came out, Internet boards about the movie suddenly lit up with protests from a legion of fans of the 1986 film Night of the Creeps. "Alien slugs that turn people into zombies!" they cried. "What a rip-off!" I bring this up not because I think Slither--which is a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of at least a dozen '80s horror films--could really be considered a rip-off of any one of them.
Palopoli then goes on to directly compare Slither to the aforementioned Night of the Creeps as well as Shivers (1975). In his defense, Gunn has stated, however, that both David Cronenberg's Shivers and his 1979 film The Brood were the two biggest influences on the story in Slither, along with the manga Uzumaki (2000) by Junji Ito. Slither also pays homage to the studio Troma Films, where Gunn began his career. Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman has a cameo as a "Sad Drunk," and one scene includes a clip from the Troma film, The Toxic Avenger.
Slither was released on regular DVD and on HD DVD/DVD hybrid disc on October 24, 2006. The HD version is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen encoded at 1080p and Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround. In addition to the film, the DVD contains two making-of documentaries, one being solely dedicated to the visual effects. The DVD also contains deleted and extended scenes, a blooper reel, visual effects progressions, a set tour with Nathan Fillion, and audio commentary by James Gunn and Nathan Fillion. Also included are featurettes outlining how to make edible blood, and Lloyd Kaufman's documentary discussing his day on set, and the shooting of his one line (which was eventually cut from the film). Finally, there is an added bonus entitled "Who Is Bill Pardy?" which is a joke feature made by Gunn with the sole purpose of roasting Nathan Fillion, and was shown at the film's wrap party.
Slither received mostly positive reviews. The film-review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes said 86% of critics gave a favorable review. The movie was also featured in the April 14, 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly as #1 on "The Must List"; "Ten Things We Love This Week". Slither picked up the 2006 Fangoria "Chainsaw Award" for the Highest Body Count, and garnered nominations in the categories of Relationship From Hell, Dude You Don't Wanna Mess With, and Looks That Kill. Additionally, the horror magazine Rue Morgue named Slither the “Best Feature Film of the Year”. Among the critics who did not like the film, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper gave Slither a "two thumbs down" rating on their television show, with Richard Roeper saying he was "all zombied out" after reviewing a wave of zombie-themed movies from the year before. Guest critic Michael Phillips named Slither his DVD pick of the week on the television show Ebert & Roeper. Slither was listed as one of the “Top 25 DVDs of the Year” by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone magazine.
Box office performance
Slither was "a box office flop", the production budget taking up about $15 million of the total. following its debut in the United States and Canada on March 31, 2006 in 1,945 theaters. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $3,880,270 and ranked #8 at the U.S. and Canadian box office. Slither grossed $7,802,450 in its theatrical run in the United States and Canada. Slither also underperformed in France, grossing $236,261 from 150 screens. The film grossed $5,032,486 as of February 6, 2008 in territories outside the United States and Canada for a worldwide gross of $12,834,936. Its box office performance was substantially less than its total budget of $29.5 million, including marketing costs; the production budget taking up about $15 million of the total. Paul Brooks, president of Slither's production company, Gold Circle Films, said the company was "crushingly disappointed" by the gross. Universal Pictures distanced itself from Slither's poor box office performance, citing their distribution of the film as merely part of a deal with Gold Circle Films. The Hollywood Reporter speculated that Slither's performance "might have killed off the horror-comedy genre for the near future." Producer Paul Brooks offered this explanation about why Slither failed to catch on with movie-goers:
I think that because it was comedy-horror instead of pure horror is where the problem lay. It's the first comedy-horror in a long time, and maybe the marketplace just isn't ready for comedy-horror yet. It's difficult to think of other explanations.
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