Thursday, September 13, 2007

Slither (2006)

Should a film which is an homage to a bad genre film itself be a bad genre film? Or, rather, should the modern cinematic enterprise paying tribute to earlier schlock attempt to transcend the genre and become a both a better film and an homage to something fun and frivolous? The latter approach seems to be that of Quentin Tarantino, while the former is, alas, that of the producers of 2006's Slither, an attempt to make a fun b-movie homage which is quite unfun.

Now, with a film about alien mutant slugs infecting backwards townspeople, you might reply, well, caveat emptor. (Wouldn't it have been swell if I knew the Latin for "let the renter beware," or even, "let the Netflix subscriber beware"? I only made it to Latin II.). But, I had some level of faith in the film, as it featured Nathan Fillion as the protagonist sheriff, and as nerds can attest, he turned the doomed television show "Firefly" into a fun adventure (so fun for some, in fact, that they still refer to him as "the Captain" five years later, which is rather sad, don't you think?). The always lovely Jenna Fischer (Pam from "The Office," for those of you not already obsessed with her) cameos, and it is her husband, James Gunn, who wrote and directed the project. (The two of them, though, are not so lucky in love, as they recently announced that they would part ways.). All I knew of Gunn was that he wrote the recent remake of "Dawn of the Dead," and you can't go wrong with zombies, at least these days, right? (Actually, it turns out he wrote the two live action Scooby Doo movies, which, really, is not the sort of project that aspiring writers go to Hollywood to draft, is it?) But I didn't know that until after I watched Slither, and in the absence of that knowledge, could I go wrong?

Yes. Slither was awful. The "humor" is that one note, juvenile dreck that lost its amusement at puberty. It was the kind of film that aspires to be so bad that it is good, fails in that attempt, and is forever consigned to Showtime or Cinemax. (Or The Movie Channel, but I'm not sure that premium movie channel still exists, does it?) You can guess the plot: a small town full of stereotypes is invaded by aliens, and the characters conform to their stereotypes to their detriment until they blunder their way into victory. Really, if I want to watch a horror film this bad, I should just rent something from the 1980s, like Prom Night II or Night of the Demons, attempts at film-making which don't disguise their utter awfulness with the pretense of homage. Why do I bother?

It still doesn't surprise me that bad movies are perpetrated. What baffles me, though, is that this film received multi-million dollar financing. Gunn got to write and direct a film, and someone paid him to do it. Some producer wrote him checks to bring his vision to screens across America. With that type of backing and support, why not go the extra mile and make a good movie? Ah, but you say, he is making a bad movie from the outset. Gunn obviously enjoyed those silly horror movies from the 1950s, which were bad, and thus, his homage to them must be equally bad. It's all in the fun. But that's not necessarily the case. Tarantino makes films which, in that most postmodern of ways, recreate scenes and lines of dialogue from bad 1970s exploitation flicks, but he cobbles his influences together in such a way that he fashions a creative and compelling narrative which entertains as it robs from that which came before. A little effort, and you're not a thief but an auteur. Why not go that route and at least earn a little artistic respect as you pay tribute to your guilty pleasures? Oh, well.

1 comment:

J.S. said...

Slither was great! I think anyone who is a true fan of B movie horror films will probably like this movie. I think it hit just the right notes with its combination of humor and horror. I can't help say that to deride this kind of movie for having juvenile humor or a stereotypical plot is to kind of miss the point (and, more importantly, I think it shows that you like THE IDEA of B horror movies, but that the movies themselves may not actually be your thing).