From the deepest reaches of space comes an asteroid, spinning across the void until it is caught in the orbit of a planet and plunges to earth on... Earth, in fact. By the time it hits the ground, in a North American forest, its size has been much diminished, and the two men nearest the impact, Police Chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) and his deputy Wally (Don Thompson), don't notice it at all. Yet the rock has split open and something has emerged. However, there's other things to concern Bill as he has been in love with local beauty and schoolteacher Starla (Elizabeth Banks) for years, but never done anything about it. Now it's too late anyway, as she is married to Grant Grant (Michael Rooker), one of the richest men around, but that whatever-it-was that has landed in the forest will soon have a close encounter with him, with outlandish consequences...
James Gunn, writer and director of Slither, not be be confused with another cult movie of the same name (the eccentric nineteen-seventies comedy thriller, that is), patently knew his horror movies, and specifically the American horrors of the eighties, which made a change from filmmakers paying tribute to the influential shockers of the seventies. Yes, there's no Texas Chain Saw Massacre cannibal families, or similar here, this time it's works such as The Thing and Night of the Creeps that bear most resemblance to the plotting, although there are eventually zombies that turn up; I guess you couldn't help but pay homage to George A. Romero in any Hollywood chiller of the 2000s that doesn't involve remaking an Asian original.
Gunn had served his apprenticeship with tacky low budget grime movie exponents Troma (there's a character watching a Troma opus on TV here, and Lloyd Kaufman puts in an appearance) before writing such works as the Dawn of the Dead remake, so he knew of which he wrote. And it shows, not only in the various homages, from names of characters to re-heating of scenes familiar to fans, but in the way he understands the principles of the genre. Not only delivering on the gloopy gore and rubber monsters (how nice to see them used so prevalently after years of computer graphics in such films), yet paying attention to humour and giving us heroes and heroines to cheer in their battle against the alien onslaught.
Grant is on his way home from the bar through the forest, accompanied by Brenda (Brenda James), who he knew from high school and who still lusts after him. After fighting off her attentions (well, almost), Grant notices a blob on the ground that promptly fires a barb at his chest, thereby infecting him, although he doesn't know it yet. He may have an idea later on, however, when he grows tentacles that have a tendency to infect anyone he plunges them into, specifically Brenda. The small town atmosphere is well conveyed, and although the comedy is perhaps more likely to make you chuckle wryly than roar with laughter, it humanises the characters and makes the story into more of a romp. Unashamedly B movie in outlook, Slither boasts a canny cast and inventive effects, and even finds time for an optimistic hint at a sequel - keep watching the credits. Music by Tyler Bates.