Long before he was taking the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the deepest reaches of the galaxy, James Gunn was mainly associated with horror movies. As a screenwriter, Gunn got his start with Lloyd Kaufman and the exploitation masters at Troma with the madcap opus Tromeo and Juliet. As his career progressed, Gunn would write the live action Scooby-Doo movies and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. In 2006, James Gunn would make his directorial debut with the horror flick Slither, which instantly became a cult classic with its blend of horror and humor. Now Slither lands on Blu-ray with another stellar edition issued by the good people at Shout! Factory’s horror imprint Scream Factory.
Slither takes place in a quaint South Carolina town where hunting is a favorite pastime. Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) is the sheriff and Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) is the mayor of this quiet little burgh. Elsewhere in the town, Starla Grant (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband Grant (Michael Rooker) are in the midst of a rocky part of their marriage. When Starla rejects Grant’s romantic advances one night, he goes to a bar where he meets Brenda (Brenda James), and the two drunkenly stumble to the woods for a make out session. There Grant discovers a meteor-like rock resting the woods which he pokes with a stick. Then something emerges from the mysterious rock, shooting Grant in the chest with a parasitic creature that will take over his mind and body. Soon Grant becomes a fiend for raw meat, going as far as to kill livestock and pets to satisfy his endless hunger. Grant then transforms into an alien creature that spread deadly slugs that infect people, turning them into zombie-like hordes connected to the consciousness of the mutated Grant. It’s up to Bill, Starla, and the other citizens of the town to stop this horrific plague.
The sensibilities that have made James Gunn such a popular director with Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel were all present in Slither. The crazed sense of humor that Gunn has brought to his Marvel blockbusters are noticeable in his low budget debut. The filmmaker also showed a keen use of music in Slither, using some rather oddball country songs to play as the backdrop of ghastly, disturbing scenes. There’s also the interest in creature design, with the mutated Grant and various other terrifying creatures providing viewers with unsettling imagery while maintaining a balance between practical effects and CGI. While Slither flopped on its initial release (something I’d ascribe to the difficulties of selling the masses on original horror), there was everything present that would give Marvel’s mastermind Kevin Feige the confidence to give Gunn a massive franchise blockbuster. Fans of Gunn’s Slither and Super, like myself, were rewarded by seeing a unique voice in cinema propelled to the A-list and rewarded for being an oddball on the fringes.
Since this is a Scream Factory release, the Blu-ray for Slither features a number of special features old and new. Every special feature from the 2006 DVD release have made the transfer over to the Scream Factory Blu-ray. The new special features include a new commentary track by Gunn and some of the film’s stars. There are also new interviews with Gunn and Gregg Henry. The new interview with Gunn was personally enlightening for me, as the writer-director asserts that David Cronenberg’s Shivers was the inspiration for the parasitic slugs and not, as I previously believed, Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps. Scream Factory once again proves why they’re among the vanguard of physical media, producing definitive editions of cult films that are designed precisely for the audience they’re intended.
Before reaching the widest audience possible, James Gunn made cult movies for a very narrow audience that was highly receptive to the crazy horror world that he crafted with Slither. This movie is creepy, gory, silly, and scary. Great filmmakers continue to emerge from genre cinema because it’s allows them a chance to show off their skills and imagination with a limited budget, and that’s a tradition that James Gunn has carried on. Slither is one of the best cult movies of recent memory and once again Scream Factory has issued a special edition that treats the film with the reverence it deserves and one that will absolutely please fans of James Gunn.