The town of Wheelsy is about to be overtaken by slugs. Only these aren’t your average slugs. (That’s so 1990.) They’re the mini-henchmen extensions of a million-year-old extraterrestrial organism that doesn’t reproduce but only ingests things as part of its ongoing expansion. Wheelsy just happens to be the unlucky place where the organism’s pod has landed, and the town’s sugar daddy, Grant Grant, happens to be the first to make its acquaintance. Apparently in outer space, a slimy tentacle through the stomach and a full-body takeover is kosher as a handshake.
Grant’s wife, Starla, has a hunch that something strange is going on when she discovers a basement full of gutted, half-eaten animal corpses. Only by that time, it’s too late. Grant—or at least the creature inhabiting him who I’ll refer to as Grant—is on the hunt for more fresh meat and has already recruited a female apprentice. When she and Grant are reported missing and the town’s livestock begins disappearing by the herd, newly appointed police chief Bill Pardy gets in on the act and rounds up a posse (along with Starla) to hunt down the abductor. They soon meet more than they bargained for with a deformed, tentacle-waving, ever-fattening Grant—who’s extremely hungry and quickly turning the townsfolk into a horde of slug-infested zombies.
Despite Grant having previously tried to kill her, Starla reminds her husband of the undying love she swore to on her wedding day. “I’m gonna stand by you just like I said I would—for better or worse,” she says. “Marriage is a sacred bond.” She also apologizes to her husband for potentially hurting him and adds, “I do want to be a good wife.” Bill repeatedly risks his life to save others. A teen girl returns the favor for him.
Christianity gets poked at throughout. When a female officer utters, “Praise Jesus!” after learning her partners are still alive, detestable town mayor Jack MacReady tells her that God is nowhere to be found. Earlier, he paraphrases the creation story in a speech to coronate the beginning of hunting season, telling the crowd that “God said man should have dominion … I believe that when God said that He was thinking of deer season and how much d–n fun it is to shoot a buck or two.” When things seemingly can’t get any worse, a groggy Bill wakes up to a “Jesus Saves” sign. A priest smokes a cigarette and later becomes part of the zombie mass.
While fantasizing about his biology teacher (Starla), a teen boy draws a crude picture of her naked. Various times the camera makes sure to zoom in on her backside. Grant (as himself) tries to initiate sex with his wife and begins to undress her, but she’s not in the mood and recommends he “work this one out” for himself. Feeling rejected, he runs into the arms of another woman, who’s more than happy to kiss him. Later, she takes off her shirt (showing her bra) and prepares to have sex with him. The situation turns even more disturbing as, once he reveals his extraterrestrial qualities, it’s played off as a rape scene in which her tortured movements and expressions turn sexual.
Grant and Starla kiss passionately, and we hear about their ensuing sexual encounter when Starla tells a co-worker that he explored her body in a completely new way. Later, Starla is shown taking a shower, with her bare backside strategically obscured by steam. She also wears a nightgown in a couple of scenes, and we catch a glimpse of her underwear. Grant appears in his briefs.
The camera gives a bird’s-eye view of a teenage girl taking a bubble bath (her privates are covered). As she bathes, a slug enters the water and, in an overt sperm metaphor, wiggles its way between her legs. When the girl jumps out and wrestles with the slug, we see a good portion of her cleavage. Starla’s dress also reveals cleavage, and a TV screen displays bikini-clad girls in a hot tub. A large man is shown naked from behind.
Several sexual innuendos, including a high school mascot’s name, accompany a couple of jokes about a lady being a lesbian. A woman comments about having a crush on an older man and being “game” when she was 10 or 11.
In Slither, over-the-top violence is meshed with gooey gore that, by the end, leaves virtually every inch of the screen covered in blood, brains and gook. Let’s just say those making this movie wanted things to get really graphic. Just some of the cases in point:
After getting sliced in half by Grant’s tentacle, a man’s innards come pouring out. Several characters’ heads explode after getting shot with a shotgun from short range. (The camera makes a point of emphasizing the top of one victim’s cranium being opened.) Other firings result in complete decapitations and dismemberments. When a man-turned-zombie asks to be killed, Bill doesn’t hesitate to shoot him in the chest. Starla impales another man through the throat with a stake. To make matters worse, she jiggles the pole around, then kicks the guy in the head for good measure.
A sluggish creature is shot, set ablaze and explodes. Other slimy beings are stabbed, crushed or burned. Multiple humans, meanwhile, get gutted, stabbed with tentacles or slimed with acidic vomit that quickly mutilates their skin. Animal remains are shown in gruesome fashion, with one dog’s entire body peeled open as if being dissected. The canine’s detached head is also highlighted. Equally as disturbing, human characters eat various raw animal meat. One man bites into a woman’s arm, which is shown as grotesquely as possible.
God’s name is misused around 20 times, many of those in combination with “d–n.” Jesus’ gets profaned eight times. The f-word is tossed out in almost three-dozen instances (including a teen screaming “m—–f—er”), while the s-word gets around 20 mentions. More than 50 other profanities and extremely crude terms (including several obscene references to anatomical parts) slime this movie. One is used in front of a little girl.
Grant orders another round at a bar and is later shown drunk with an equally intoxicated woman. Various characters down glasses of beer and wine, and Bill comments on his failure to “get a buzz.” Starla’s father is said to be an alcoholic. Besides the smoking priest mentioned earlier, MacReady and a couple other characters light up.
Darwin is presented as a virtual hero in a high school classroom where evolutionism is taught to be a fundamental part of life. (The extraterrestrial being serves as a prime “survival of the fittest” example.)
A woman with baby in tow is shown watching a foul TV show. She also swears around the child and puts him down to engage in sex with a married man (in another room). Speaking of affairs, most of the main characters seem to be either having one or thinking about it.
I get it, I get it. Slither is the latest horror flick that’s supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the genre and, if extrapolated to the nth degree, possibly on society as a whole. It’s not quite Scary Movie 15 in its comedic intent, but neither does it take itself as seriously as, say, Saw or The Amityville Horror. As a result, secular critics have praised this B-grade movie for its combination of self-awareness, genuinely scary moments and abundance of gross-out content.
I’d like to offer another take, one that doesn’t care what deeper meaning—or lack thereof—lies in this celebration of all things grotesque. Sure, director/writer James Gunn (who helped write 2004’s Dawn of the Dead) was intentional with the laughs and the wink-winks. But he was just as intentional with making sure we see brains being splattered across a field—repeatedly. Or hear a town mayor cuss like crazy. Or witness a virtual rape played out for eroticism.
I also can’t help but think Gunn knew exactly what he was doing when he penned MacReady’s loaded reaction to the town run amok: “This s— is about as far from God as it can get.” For that, and for the millions of moviegoers who opt for Slither as mindless entertainment, it makes me not scared, amused or enticed—it just makes me sad.