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Pass The Salt! by FullAuto Written on 30th April 2006

Directed by: James Gunn.
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker.
Released by: Universal Studios.
Release date: 28th April, 2006.
Running time: 95 minutes.

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"What? Do I have an alien slug inside of me or something?"
How could I not go and see Slither? It has aliens and zombies. Okay, not the classic walking corpses, but I can make allowances. The basic story is far from original. Small town attacked by aliens isn't the sort of material that kicks off the Revolution, it's been around since 1956 at least (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, fact fans) and is still popular today. Films like Undead, Evolution and The Faculty are probably the most modern examples. Film fans are born knowing this story instinctively. I don't think Gunn's previous sterling work on the Scooby Doo films spurred his creativity much (sorry, I wasn't going to mention it but some things are too difficult to resist).

In the quiet town of Wheelsy, Chief o' Police Pardy (Fillion) has a long-unrequited thing for Starla (Banks), playing the second most attractive biology teacher I have ever seen (the first is, of course, Miss Lowe, who taught me for a year in secondary school). Unfortunately, she is married to baldy arsehole Grant (Rooker). Starla, that is. Not Miss Lowe. I mean, Miss Lowe probably is married by now (if she isn't, I am available on incredibly short notice), but I doubt she's married to Michael Rooker.


Mayor MacReady (Henry, playing the same sort of foul-mouthed blowhard he did in Payback), along with the rest of the town, is interested in nothing but opening hunting season. Unfortunately, someone is out in the woods getting infected with an alien parasite and soon they become very, very hungry. You know where it goes from there. Oh yes. B-move Heaven.

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"Keep your fucking hands off my squid. I ain't joking."
Gunn might not be the most imaginative writer/director going, but the formulaic structure of the film doesn't limit him at all. It's competently shot, there is a barrage of references (I lost count), and despite the emphasis on comedy, he even manages a few scary moments. The special effects...vary. There is the occasional "Oh wow, FMV from a Playstation game!" moment from the CGI, and some of the practical effects are dodgy (kudos for using them anyway, CGI would have cost more and looked even worse) but on the other hand, there are some great head shots. The gore is high quality and the creatures are quite distinctive, with some genuinely foul abilities. There is a lot of monster variety, with outwardly normal zombie townsfolk, alien slugs, mutant deer, human incubators and so on. Most don't stray from the slimy alien mould (ewww) and are too comic to be really menacing, but that doesn't mean they don't elicit a few grimaces of disgust. A scene with an unlucky woman getting pumped full of seed (just not in the way she expected) is both funny and horrible at the same time.

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"Alien sex, boys. Feast your eyes."
I must say, praise be to Gunn for not putting any gratuitous nudity in this flick. I know, I can hardly believe I'm saying it, and after seeing a very attractive young lady in the bath (in the film, you bunch of fucking perverts) I freely admit I was hoping for it, but the suds stayed in place and subsequent shots artfully avoided any revelations apart from a glimpse of nipple. It's a step up in class from the usual B-movie oh-it's-so-hot-in-here undressing that is de rigueur for the genre. Although her getting a mouthful of slug had such phallic overtones that it made up for it, quite frankly. I pondered just how much de facto cock-gobbling there was going to be in the film, and the answer is: quite a lot. Perhaps it is just my twisted mind, that is certainly a possibility. But there are other aspects of the various creatures that are not subtle about their penetrative nature, and I began to fantas- (oops, typo) wonder just how far this orifice-invading would go. It never gets really graphic, just quite suggestive. I am quite tempted to watch it with an impressionable female friend. Just to satisfy my curiosity.

There is some great use of music, it has to be said. Some very unique tunes indeed, with good lyrics and an authentic shitkicker feel. Special mention to the karaoke scene, which had me in tears of laughter. Good gunshots too, and the alien noises (why do small alien creatures with no obvious mouths always squeak and squeal?) are appropriately humorous.

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Outdoors choir practice turned nasty.
Black comedy and gross-out laughs are by far the film's strong point. I think films fall into one genre or another, and I think Slither mostly fails in its attempt at horror, though this just makes it hilarious, to be honest. There is the odd shock and jump scare, some of the scenes are a little creepy, but mostly it's just fucking funny. Fillion's sheriff seems to be somewhere between John McClane and Ash, not as tough as he looks and severely out of his depth, with deadpan dialogue that is all the funnier for the circumstances he's in. Banks brings some character to the usual two-dimensional love interest, making her a little tougher, a little more resilient than usual. Her performance, though by no means serious, doesn't always have the same amount of humour as the others. In that respect, it reminds me of Shaun of the Dead, where the characters are just normal, everyday people thrown into danger. However, Henry's portrayal of MacReady steals the show. He swears like it's going out of fashion, does a convincing job of being petty, arrogant and small-minded, and has some of the best lines in the entire film. Never have I seen a better-realised arsehole in a B-movie.

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Giant Sperm was lethargic.
Jokes and good one-liners are distributed fairly evenly throughout the supporting cast, making sure they all have some memorable moments. A nice touch is the lack of humanitarianism. When people start getting turned into zombies, there's no improbable bullshit about saving lives; the survivors just start blowing them away. It's fantastic to see such a willingness to get down to business and stop faffing about. The build-up is still slightly too long, we know where events are leading and just want them to hurry up, but it's firmly slug-in-cheek and keeps you entertained until things really kick off. The acting is better than the norm for this sort of film, and although some of the exposition is a little weak and far too convenient, if you've come for clever plot twists you're watching the wrong film.

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"I said I was allergic to alien seed but nooooo..."
Is it an original film? No, I already told you it isn't. Aren't you paying attention? What the fuck is wrong with you? It's a fun, unpretentious B-movie, with no illusions about what it is. It's not a new idea, but then again, neither are most films. It doesn't have startling revelations or deep characterisation. It is a new iteration in this small but popular category of films, and it's a very good example of that category. Perhaps the concept is no longer as frightening because we don't have paranoiacs screaming about Communism, but more likely it's because people like Gunn have seen the comedy potential in such films, and developed it. It's an amusing, light-hearted film with plenty of laughs, plenty of gore, and horrible aliens. Oh, and if I were you, I'd stay until the credits have rolled. Wink wink, nod nod.

Salt had better work, because I'm not wasting beer on them...


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