The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



You know that kid in school who would eat anything just for the fun of grossing people out? Slither is the movie equivalent of that kid. Of course, there are only two reactions to such a film: you can get grossed out and throw up, or you can get grossed out and laugh. The movie is most definitely not for everyone, but if you have a sick sense of humor and are proud of it, then rejoice, because James Gunn's 2006 ooze-tastic masterpiece hits Blu-ray in a Scream Factory collector's edition on August 1.

The film is set in the fictional small town of Wheelsy where, in the opening scene, a meteorite crashes to earth. Elizabeth Banks plays Starla Grant, a young woman married to the much older – and much richer - Grant Grant (Michael Rooker). One night, while fooling around with another woman, Grant stumbles upon a cocoon that came out of the meteorite. A worm-like creature shoots out and burrows into his chest. Almost immediately, Grant starts to morph into the proverbial something else. He develops oozing wounds all over his body and he just can’t eat enough meat. When the local supermarket runs out, he begins chowing down on neighborhood pets.

Starla discovers her husband’s new state, which he passes off as a reaction to a bee sting, and calls local police chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion). Pardy has always carried a torch for Starla, so he’s naturally willing to help. The investigation leads to a run-down shed, where a shocking discovery is made in a spectacularly gruesome way: an alien being has unleashed thousands of swarming red slugs that forcibly enter peoples’ mouths and burrow into their brains.

If you've already seen Slither, you know what to expect. If you haven't, get ready for some of the most astonishingly disgusting sights your eyes will ever behold. Lots of people get infested with the relentless slugs, and the only way to remove them is by blowing them out of the skull. The horror scenes are seriously squirm-inducing. Every time the slugs start attaching themselves to innocent victims, you may begin to get a sensation of creepy-crawly itchiness.

At the same time, this is a very funny film. Gunn once worked for the schlock studio Troma, and he has intentionally crafted a piece of entertainment that aims to be outrageous in that B-movie way. Some of the humor comes from the extreme nature of the gore – a person balloons up and then explodes into a giant mass of slugs, for crying out loud – but some of it also comes from the characterizations. Fillion has a dry sense of comic delivery that renders his punch lines hilarious. Even funnier is Henry, who plays the often belligerent mayor of Wheelsy. He greets the situation with a mixture of annoyance and pants-wetting fear. Some of his lines are priceless in their sarcasm. As for Banks, she's her charming self, expertly walking the fine line of being in on the joke and not letting on that fact.

What is it that makes a movie like Slither appealing to some people? It probably has to do with the simple but usually unacknowledged idea that being grossed out can be kind of fun. Especially these days, when most taboos have long been shattered, there is something appealing about watching a film take pride in pushing the envelope. To be clear, there's a difference between realistic sadism (the kind practiced by the Saw series) and the tongue-in-cheek gore practiced here. The former dares you to look at it; the latter dares you to look away.

There are all kinds of disgusting images on display in Slither, but despite the graphic visuals, it's tough to take offense to them. They’re slimy and unrealistic, which makes them non-threatening even as they elicit continual shrieks of “Ewww!” If comic gross-out flicks are your thing, this is one of the best of the modern era.

( out of four)

Blu-ray Features:

The Slither collector's edition Blu-ray will be released on August 1. As with most Scream Factory titles, it comes packed to the gills with supplementary material. Most of the extras have been brought over from Universal's original DVD release, including an audio commentary with writer/director James Gunn. There is, however, a second all-new commentary from Gunn and actors Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker. Two new featurettes are here, as well.

The first is a half-hour interview with Gunn, who talks about the genesis of the movie, the casting process, and some of challenges of working on a limited budget. He also tells a couple of interesting stories. One is about the shock of discovering how poorly horror-comedies tend to do at the box office right before Slither was released. The other involves his plea to Universal to abandon their plan to avoid screening the movie for critics. As always, Gunn is funny and open in his reflections. The other new piece is a nine-minute interview with actor Gregg Henry. He reminisces on making Slither, working with the other actors, and his (correct) belief that the end product holds up really well. Both of these segments are terrific.

“The Sick Days and Slimy Nights of Slither” runs ten minutes and is a fairly straightforward making-of piece. Fillion provides a “Slithery Set Tour” that takes you through some of the story's locations, while “Visual Effects: Step by Step” shows how the impressively disgusting creature effects were accomplished. “Brewing the Blood” and “Bringing Slither's Creatures to Life” continue with the subject of achieving the gross look of the movie. Since grossness is a key component, it absolutely warrants several different sections.

“Lloyd Kaufman's Video Diary” finds the legendary head of Troma – the company that gave Gunn his start – arriving on set and interacting with the cast and crew. Deleted scenes (with optional Gunn commentary) and two gag reels, one focusing mainly on Fillion, are here, too.

Scream Factory has done a commendable job bringing Slither to Blu-ray in a package that fans will eat up. Once again, their collector's editions prove to be a true cause for celebration.

Slither is rated R for strong horror violence and gore, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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