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Set Visit: Slither (1/3)

03.01.2006

(April 2005): Monster movies are fun. I don't care how old you are, or what you do for a living, or if you're a fan of romantic comedies- everyone has fun at a monster movie. You laugh, you scream, you cheer- all in the knowledge that there's no way it could possibly be real.

So when Universal Studios, home of such classic monster movies like FRANKENSTEIN and THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, invited JoBlo.com/Arrow in the Head to check out the set of their latest monster movie SLITHER, I didn't have to think twice about sayin' 'f*ckin' eh'!'. Especially after following the film developments from day one, as James Gunn, writer of the awesomely fun and gory DAWN OF THE DEAD, was making his feature film debut as both writer and director of SLITHER. I knew I was in for a 'monster-geek' good time, and couldn't wait to check it out!

I know what you're thinking- 'what the hell is SLITHER?', right? From the title it could be a story about anything and everything, from snakes to aliens. So what is it? Keep your panties on, and I'll tell you.

Starla, the most beautiful woman in her small town, enlists the help of Bill, the handsome young police chief, to deal with her husband, Grant. Grant is infected with an alien plague, which has turned him into a slithering, flesh-eating creature. As Grant's murder spree evolves from pets to people, the disease threatens to overrun the town with slithering, worm-like creatures. Now it's up to Starla and Bill to stop the plague before it spreads further and kills everything on Earth.

Sounds like a jolly good time, doesn't it? Alien plagues, slithering worm-like, flesh-eating creatures- and did I mention HENRY's Michael Rooker plays Grant? Yes, the ultimate in badass stars in the leading monster roll. Intrigued? You bet your ass you are. Want to hear more? Sure ya do! Want me to stop rambling and get on with the set visit? YES!!! Ok. Onto the set visit.

Whisked away from our hotel in downtown Vancouver to where the studio was located on the other side of town, our posse of genre journalists first met up with the Visual Effects Supervisor John Gajdecki to talk about what SLITHER had in store for us, as far as the visual effects goes. John was super nice, and gave us a ton of great information on the tone, the effects, and how the overall experience of making this movie had been so far.

Here are some highlights of what he had to say:

  • The film has 181 Visual Effects Shots.

  • Lots of creature effects, lots of prosthetics (by Todd Masters of Masters Effects).

  • There are 10-12 major sequences in the film.

  • It's funny in tone with some good scares. Lots of goo and slime involved here.

  • It's going to be very gory, and a very hard R- it's in director James Gunn's contract to make it R.

  • Opening sequence involves a gag where we see a gigantic asteroid hurdling towards Earth, and when it finally hits near the town of Wheasly, USA- the asteroid is the size of a baseball. The asteroid is what starts the body snatching.

  • The alien spore has been going through the galaxy for billions of years, killing everything on the planets, destroying them one by one, and when there's nothing left to do, they move on to the next planet and start the whole thing over again.

  • Creatures start out moving slow, and work their way to moving very fast.

  • Michael Rooker's Grant Grant has tentacles coming out of his head, coming out of his arms and legs, and all he cares about is eating meat.

  • The film's inspired by THE THING, THE FLY, SAW, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

After we talked with Gajdecki, we were taken into the 'computer room' next door, where we were shown a Previsualized (PreVis) shot of an SUV crashing into the side of a cop car. It was your basic T-Bone crash sequence, with some awesome camera angles from inside the cab of the cop car as it's hit by the SUV (think THE FORGOTTEN).

Since it's Gunn's directorial debut, both he and Gajdecki thought it would be a good idea to PreVis all of the film's major sequences, so they would have a better idea of how each sequence was going to look. This is a good way for everyone to be on the same page with the director, as well as a way of saving time and money in the long run.

After the PreVis, we were shown a picture of the final stage of Grant Grant's transformation, and I'll say right here and now that it's frickin' awesome! He's HUGE! He barely fits inside a living room, his legs are the size of tree trunks that seem to be rooted into the ground. There are slimy tentacles coming out of his body in each direction- it's monstrous! You can barely see half of Rooker's face in the middle of this mass of gooey flesh- the only thing that resembles this thing as a human. Let's just say, if you walked into your house with this thing in your living room, you'd poop yourself before running away in hysterics- and loosing your mind from the horror of it all. Yeah, it f*ckin' rocks!

From there, we were taken onto the main sound stage, and after walking past the food cart, the first thing I saw was a life size replica of a cow- looking so real it could have been a stuffed cow for all I know. From that point on, I knew things were going to be fun on the set- and I was right!

The first set we were shown was of the living room of Grant Grant after the majority of his transformation. Very detailed room, with wedding pictures of Rooker and co-star Elisabeth Banks on the walls- and blood. Lots of goo and blood splattered on the walls, all dried up and crusty. It was great. Most of Grant's monstrous body was also there, as his legs go through the floorboards of the room. It looked like a jungle of tentacles and sliminess, with thoughts of Stephen King's character in CREEPSHOW coming to mind.

We then met up with the super cool James Gunn, with his hair all spikey in every direction, and he seemed as genuine as you can get. I haven't worked with many directors (really, I've never worked with any directors), but I know I'd like to work with this guy- he was laid back, he was crackin' jokes the whole time- he was one of us. I'll go more into what he had to say in Part 2 of this set visit, so we'll go on to what he showed us.

He had with him a picture of Michael Rooker's final stage of make-up as the monster, and besides one of this eyes, he was pretty much covered up in a goo. He looked like a cross between Freddy Krueger, raw hamburger and Pizza the Hut. Reddish orange-ish sliminess. It was at that moment that I felt bad for Rooker, as he had to be in make-up everyday for hours to get that look down- it didn't look fun ( but it looked really cool!).

Gunn then took us on a tour of the sound stage- first stop, the Effects Shop. In here, there were tentacles of all shapes and sizes lying around the floor, on shelves, on tables and desks- lots and lots of creature stuff here. And the best part? On the floor was a dummy cop (looked real enough), with it's chest ripped open from it's neck to it's waist line- and intestines, bone fragments and lots of blood hanging out. It was cool. This guy seriously got f*cked up! I'll say this about the effects shop- everything looked pretty good in person, so the final look of the film will look as real as ever. Good shit!

From there we here corraled onto the set of the barn, where Grant stores the dead bodies of his victims- everything from animals (cats, dogs, sheep, etc...) to people (half the town, from what I hear). Sitting across from the actual barn was what appeared to be a ginormous boob- like, the size the of two VW Bugs- yeah, frickin' huge!

Except it wasn't a boob, but the prosthetics for a very bloated and on the verge of exploding chick. There were two very small (in comparison) arms sticking out the sides, and a hole in the middle of it with stringy hair all around the hole. It looked like the giant navel with a happy trail of this bloated woman. Or a lot like the holiest of hollies. But it wasn't. The hole was where the actresses head was going to stick out of, the hair was supposed to be the hair on her head. I guess it's a bloody mess when this chick finally pops.

Sitting next to this bloated blob was a cardboard box. With a head in it. The head of this exploding chick from the looks of it, as her facial expression was one of constipation and discomfort. Very cool.

I then inspected the barn. Think FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3, but darker, with cats and shit hanging from the ceiling, and blood splattered sporadically on the walls. Not the kind of barn you'd like to stumble into in the middle of the night. Come to think of it, there isn't a barn on the planet that I'd want to stumble into on the middle of the night.

Off to the side of the set I spied a pile of what looked like dead animals. Lambs, sheep, dogs, cats, cows- all just sitting off to the side, covered in gore, splattered with blood, just sitting there with the crew walking by it to get to the food cart, as if it were no big deal. Gotta love the movie business!

From there we were taken into an area for our interview with Michael Rooker, which I'll go into in greater detail later, but I'll just say now that the guy is frickin' cool as f*ck.

From there they let us watch the filming of a scene, where star Nathan Fillion is being attacked by a couple of slithering tentacles in the front yard of the main house. In the scene, Nathan gets penetrated by one of the tentacles, but is able to get free of it before shoving the tentacle into a nearby propane tank (knocked from the the BBQ).

Basically, we watched Nathan lie on his back and battle a couple of tentacles that were being animated by a few puppeteers. Think the scene from ED WOOD where Johnny Depp is telling the actor to thrash around with the octopus. It was really funny to watch them film, but from the look on the monitors, it actually looks scary as all get out. Movie magic for ya.

You could tell this was the last week of filming, as the tone on the set was pretty laid back and the sense of humor for what they were filming was great. At one point Nathan had an itch on his forehead between takes... and used the tentacle to scratch it for him. . Gunn was great screaming directions from his chair 20 feet away, with simple directions like 'Convulse!', and 'Grab it!'. Entertaining as hell to watch this whole process.

After Nathan attaches the propane tank to the tentacle (a scene which had to be shot multiple times because he kept burning his hand on the rigged propane nozzle), he is then yanked into the house by tentacles, or a rope around his waist and a bunch of burley dudes at the end of it. It went down like this: Gunn yells 'Convulse!', then 'Yank!' and Nathan is yanked out of the shot, and practically through the window. It was great. I can tell this flick is gonna be a lot of fun, with some really great scares fo shizzle.

The whole time we were there Gunn was joking with us on set, and chatted with us whenever he had a chance. The guy's not a hotshot, but a horror geek like the rest of us- so you know he's gonna keep it real with this flick, and give us something we're all gonna love.

Now what? Interview time! Stay tuned fellow readers, as my interviews with director James Gunn, and star Michael Rooker on what SLITHER has in store for us, where these aliens came from, how much blood/goo was used, and all sorts of fun and interesting tidbits on the making of this monster flick. So take some time to relax, smoke a bowl, and return in a bit to catch up on your SLITHER fix.

SLITHER opens wide on March 31st
Check out its OFFICIAL SITE HERE!!

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

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