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Nathan Fillion

Nathan Fillion - "Slither" Movie - Screendaily.com Review

Tim Grierson

Wednesday 22 March 2006, by Webmaster

Dir: James Gunn. US. 2006. 94mins.

A loving homage to B-movie horror films, James Gunn’s Slither supplies gross-out scares as well as some self-mocking humour. But while the film will please genre fans, others may find the presentation over-familiar.

Slither opens on March 31 in the US - following its appearance at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin - before working its way across Europe and other territories. The R rating at home will doubtless hurt its chances with younger teen males, who would seem an ideal target for its sci-fi/horror mixture, although prospects look decent given the relative lack of similar fare at this time of year.

With neither major stars nor an established brand name (which the Dawn Of The Dead remake, written by Gunn, enjoyed), returns might mirror the box-office of another tongue-in-cheek horror offering, Shaun Of The Dead, which grossed $13.5m domestically and $15.5 overseas but did much better on ancillary.

Debut director James Gunn, who also wrote the Scooby-Doo films, opens Slither on an ominous note as a meteor crash-lands into the woods outside Wheelsy, a sleepy Southern town.

An alien parasite embedded in the rock soon implants itself into local Grant (Rooker), turning him into its personal base of operations to begin the overthrow of Earth. Only Bill (Nathan Fillion), Wheelsy’s police chief, can stop the alien, which quickly turns the townspeople into zombies lusting for human flesh.

After a slow, drawn-out opening - during which we are introduced to Bill, Grant and Grant’s pretty wife Starla (Banks), object of Bill’s crush - Slither finds its rhythm. The alien sends out slimy sentinels to enter humans and control their minds, before an almost merciless series of zombie attacks, desperate getaways and gut-wrenching shots of disgusting mutant blobs and creepy slug creatures.

With ample good humour, Gunn’s script treats this battle between man and extra-terrestrial with drive-in movie playfulness. From his portrayal of the townsfolk as goofy country hicks to his cheerful enthusiasm for his scare scenes’ copious amounts of gore, Gunn wants the audience to relish the horror conventions as much as he does.

Despite Gunn’s adoration for the cheesiness of monster movies’ cheap effects and wooden characters, he does take the conventions seriously enough so that Slither never slides into stale parody.

But although he does hit all the right story beats, Slither does not offer many surprises and Gunn seems happier recycling zombie-movie clichés than bringing anything new to them. Also, by attempting to be both frightening and funny, the feature falls into an unsatisfying middle ground.

Thankfully, the terrifically understated Nathan Fillion does great work as the stone-jawed lawman who must save his city and finally win the girl of his dreams. Much as he did on Joss Whedon’s cult TV show Firefly - and its feature spin-off Serenity - he subverts the standard hero archetypes, offering a sly wink to the audience without coming across as smug or bored. For fans of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, he fits the Bruce Campbell mould quite nicely, ironic and dashing at the same time.

Fillion’s perfect comic timing, not to mention his ability to anchor the few moments of tenderness, make you wish that Gunn had been willing to craft a more memorable plot for his protagonist instead of simply orchestrating a diverting romp through familiar formulas.

Production companies :

Strike Entertainment - Gold Circle Films - Universal Pictures

US distribution : Universal Pictures

International distribution : UIP

Executive producers : Marc Abraham, Thomas A Bliss, Norm Waitt, Scott Niemeyer

Producers : Paul Brooks, Eric Newman

Screenplay : James Gunn

Cinematography : Gregory Middleton

Editor : John Axelrad

Production design : Andrew Neskoromny

Music : Tyler Bates

Main cast : Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker