• Slither



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: August 1st, 2017.
    Director: James Gunn
    Cast: Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry
    Year: 2006
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    The Movie:

    Before James Gunn became a big time Hollywood director with the two Guardians Of The Galaxy films he’s made so far, he got his start writing for Troma before penning the surprisingly good Dawn Of The Dead remake and then making his feature length directorial debut with this 2006 film for Universal, Slither. While the film may wear its influences on its sleeve (there’s a big Night Of The Creeps vibe here and healthy doses of Invasion Of The Body Snatches, Society and The Thing thrown in for good measure), that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a very entertaining mix of horror and comedy.

    When the film begins, two small town cops are sitting in their cruiser talking away, unaware that not too far behind them back in the woods a meteorite has landed. Later that same night, Starla Grant (Elizabeth Banks) isn’t in the mood, sending her randy husband Grant (Michael Rooker) off to a local bar where he meets up with Brenda Gutierrez (Brenda James), the younger sister of a girl he dated in high school. It turns out that Brenda always had a crush on Grant and the two head into the woods to fool around. Of course, that’s where the meteorite landed and it isn’t long before ‘something’ has shot out of the space rock and planet itself firmly in Grant’s chest.

    As the next few days pass, Grant starts to change. When Starla tries to make things up to him the next day he’s a sexual dynamo, but his behavior is odd – he seems obsessed with meat, he’s locked the door to the basement and local pets start going missing whenever he’s around. When he fails to meet Starla at a concert one night, she winds up hanging out with one of the cops from the opening scene, Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillian). He’s carried a torch for her for some time and has trouble hiding it. Not surprisingly, the attraction is mutual – but that night, things with Grant get even weirder. Once tentacles start coming out of his chest and growths start appearing all over his body, he heads out into the woods. Meanwhile, Brenda’s gone missing. Soon enough Bill and the rest of the local police department, with Starla in tow, are out looking for Grant – but he’s changed, he’s no longer human, not even close – and whatever has happened to him? It seems to be spreading.

    This is a fun watch. There’s a twisted sense of humor to all of this, but at the same time, the movie never shies away from the fact that it is, first and foremost, a horror picture. Gunn also pays tribute to his past, without overdoing it. There are nods here to John Carpenter and Frank Henennlotter as well as a small cameo from Troma’s own Lloyd Kaufman – and of course, when Grant shows up at Brenda’s place she’s watching The Toxic Avenger on her television. The bathtub scene used for the poster art is a clear homage to Barbara Steele’s infamous scene in David Cronenberg’s Shivers. While the picture does take a little bit of time to get going, the buildup is entertaining enough in its own right that even during the slower first half, the picture is never dull. It’s also chock full of some pretty gross special effects, building to a fairly insane conclusion where Gunn and company really let it fly.

    The cast here are solid. Elizabeth banks and Nathan Fillian both make for very likeable leads here, while Michael Rooker steals more than a few scenes as Starla’s philandering husband/patient zero. Lots of great supporting players here too, like Gregg Henry, Don Thompson, Tania Saulnier and Haig Sutherland. The movie also features a small cameo from Jenna Fischer, probably best known for her work on the US version of The Office, who also happened to be James Gunn’s wife at the time (they’ve since divorced). Rob Zombie also ‘appears’ in the movie as the voice of the doctor that Karla calls when Grant’s condition worsens while Gunn himself has a small role in the film as one of the teachers at the school where Starla works.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Slither makes its American Blu-ray debut (it has been released in Canada, Germany and Australia on the format in the past few years) from Shout! Factory in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. Nicely lit scenes look quite good here and show really nice color reproduction and pretty solid detail. There might be some minor noise reduction in a few spots but it’s nothing major, these scenes look just fine. Once things get dark and take place outside in the night, however, there are some compression issues as well as a strange sort of green tint that looks off. As such, the picture quality and the color timing in these scenes is a bit of a mixed bag – however, if memory serves, the movie has always had this look to it, so Shout! Factory shouldn’t really be faulted for it. The good definitely outweighs the bad here, this is overall a pretty nice picture.

    English language audio options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo options with removable subtitles provided in English only. Both tracks sound pretty solid here, with the 5.1 mix obviously spreading things out into the rear channels where the 2.0 track can’t. Dialogue is clean, clear and properly balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion here to note. The 5.1 mix can sound a little thin in a few spots but either way you slice it, both options are quite good.

    Shout! Factory has put together some decent new extras for this Blu-ray release, starting with an audio commentary with writer/director James Gunn and actors Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker. This is a pretty active track delivered with a good sense of humor right from the start. They talk about the film’s release history and note that in the twelve years that have passed since this movie was made they’ve forgotten a lot. That’s a joke, obviously, as the track actually contains a lot of information. They talk about how one certain character steals the film, how Rooker laughs at ever line he delivers in the movie during screenings, the quality of Elizabeth Banks’ work in the picture, how claustrophobia was an issue on set for a certain actress, subtle details of the script that you might not pick up on during the first viewing and quite a bit more. They also talk about what was done as an effect compared to what was done practically in camera, little ‘Easter eggs’ that exist in the film, interacting with real cows during the shoot, using digital effects in the movie where practical effects weren’t possible, shooting in British Columbia, and loads more. Lots of joking around here as the track plays out but these guys are clearly having a blast looking back on the making of the movie.

    Also on hand are two new featurettes, the first of which is The Genesis Of Slither which is an interview with Gunn that runs just under half an hour. He starts off by talking about how he wrote the script to sell and make some money off of before he wound up directing it himself. From there, he talks about how the movie found its home, his affiliation with horror films at the time, some of the influences that worked their way into the script when he was writing it, his own cameo in the picture, balancing the grounded and down to Earth with the over the top elements, how the various cast members were assembled for the picture and what the cast brought to the film, the two things that the studio asked him to cut from the picture, the difficulty in bringing the ‘Brenda blob’ to life in the film and lots more. The second new featurette is an interview with actor Gregg henry entitled The Other MacReady that runs just over eight minutes. Here he speaks about his relationship with Gunn, how he played the character as written, his favorite lines from the movie, how much fun he had on the shoot despite conditions that were less than comfortable, the crazy makeup that Rooker had to go under to become the creature he becomes in the movie, the makeup he had to go under himself, the importance of the timing in the film and how he feels about the movie all these years later since making it.

    The rest of the extras on the disc are carried over from the special edition DVD release that came out through Universal Studios back in 2006. The first of these legacy extras is the audio commentary with James Gunn and Nathan Fillion. As you’d probably guess, it covers a lot of the same ground as the new commentary, but it’s included here for posterity’s sake and that’s not a bad thing. Gunn also provides optional commentary over the ten minutes of deleted scenes (Mrs. McCammon's House / Grant At Work / Grant/Starla Dinner Scene #1 / The Meat Filing Scene / Grant Takes Dog Away / Grant/Starla Dinner Scene #2 / Outside 'Deer Cheer' Lodge / Starla Zones Out in Classroom) as well as seven minutes of extended scenes (The Butcher Shop / Bill And Starla On Lodge Balcony / Grant At Brenda's House / Bill And Kylie Outside Police Station).

    Moving on to the featurettes, Visual Effects: Step By Step is a five minute piece that shows how the film mixed practical and digital effects to get the movie into the shape that it is in the final cut of the film. On the Slithery Set Tour With Actor Nathan Fillion segment we get five minutes of the actor showing off the set and hamming it up for the camera. In The Sick Minds And Slimy Days Of Slither is a ten minute featurette shot while the production was underway that is made up of some interesting behind the scenes footage and cast and crew interviews, while Brewing The Blood is just what it sounds like, a quick piece explaining how to make fake blood that runs just under four minutes. Bringing Slither’s Creatures To Life is the lengthiest piece here, running eighteen minutes. It’s another behind the scenes segment, this time focusing on the creature effects that play such a big part in making the movie what it is. Also be on the lookout for Lloyd Kaufman’s Video Diary, a nine minute piece where the face of Troma films shows off what it was like on set as we see him prepped for his cameo in the film.

    Rounding out the legacy extra is an eight minute Gag Reel, an amusing five minute Who is Bill Pardy? Featurette and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Animated menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    Also worth mentioning is that this release comes with a reversible cover sleeve featuring the newly created art on one side and the original poster art on the reverse, as well as a fancy slipcover (again, sporting the newly created artwork on the front panel).

    The Final Word:

    Slither holds up well, a genuinely effective mix of horror and comedy with some really strong effects work and a great cast. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray is loaded with extras old and new and offers up the film in a decent high definition presentation.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!