Saturday, August 13, 2011

Slithering to the Well Once Too Often

It is difficult to come up with an original deformed destructive being, or DDB. The DDBs that have already succeeded in horrifying audiences dominate the imagination and generate sequels and remakes; the ones that purport to be new tend not to be really new, but only slight variations on what has come before. Then there is a movie like Slither (2006), which blends together several DDBs that we have already seen before, making them newish by adding a coating of parody.

In Slither, extraterrestrials traveling by meteorite invade a small town and proceed to do several things lifted from other, better horror movies:
1. penetrate a human and make him a carrier of other aliens (found in Alien)
2. have weird, contaminating sex with tentacle-like organs (found in Rabid)
3. generate zombies who spread the disease (found in Night of the Living Dead)
4. shoot acid (Alien again)
5. grossly deform a couple of the contaminated humans (The Fly, The Thing, et al)
6. spawn offspring from an enormous queen (Aliens)
7. stock lairs with remains of dead creatures (in this case livestock and pets; it's humans in Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, and so on)
8. spread via little worm-like entities (They Came from Within)

So when you add it all up, Slither is less a new horror movie than a potpourri of other horror movies. It has some scares and shocks, but these are faint echoes of the scares and shocks from its predecessors, and even the echoes tend to be undermined by the air of tongue-in-cheek humor, a constant peril in horror comedies. Also, when Michael Rooker's character reaches full alien development, he looks sort of like Jabba the Hutt, representing a silly sort of pop culture reach in yet another direction.

The movie is not entirely a waste of time. It stars the beautiful Elizabeth Banks, always a welcome presence. And it does move along in a more or less entertaining way, if only faintly entertaining. But I am always hoping for something more: for that stroke of originality that says a new DDB is on the screen; for the horror that comes when the filmmaker proves that the new DDB is there.

George Ochoa
Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films

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