The Slither episode of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? was Written and Edited by Ric Solomon, Narrated by Travis Hopson, Produced by Lance Vlcek and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
James Gunn has become a huge household name in the superhero world. From 2010’s critically panned, cult favorite film, Super, to making the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best trilogy in Guardians of the Galaxy, to now becoming co-CEO of DC Studios and even has a Superman project up his sleeve.
I bet you’re wondering where James honed his craft to become the director he is today. Well, his tenure with Troma Films is well documented but it really all started with his directorial debut, Slither (watch it HERE). It’s a film that pays homage to The Blob and feels like a mix of Dawn of the Dead as well as Ridley Scott’s 1979 Sci-Fi epic, Alien. At the time of its release it was a huge flop when it came out in theaters but has since garnered a cult following. Since James Gunn is a critical darling and box office gold, how could his directorial film flop so hard? On this episode we’re going to dive right in and find out WTF Happened To This Horror Movie.
In the early 2000s, James Gunn’s career was marked by his involvement in various projects that showcased his talent for blending dark humor with different genres.
In 2002, Gunn made a foray into mainstream filmmaking by co-writing the script for the live-action adaptation of Scooby-Doo. The film featured Gunn’s signature mix of comedy and horror elements, making it a commercial success despite receiving mixed reviews from critics. Gunn continued his collaboration with the Scooby-Doo franchise by co-writing the script for its sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed in 2004. Although the sequel didn’t replicate the same level of success as its predecessor, it maintained Gunn’s comedic touch.
He wrote the script for Zack Synder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, which brought him considerable attention and acclaim. The movie helped to revitalize the zombie genre and showcased Gunn’s ability to infuse humor into a tense and terrifying narrative. The film was a critical and commercial success, solidifying Gunn’s reputation as a talented writer in the horror genre. Following the success of Dawn of the Dead, Gunn wanted to take a step further with directing. In 2005, he began writing his script for Slither. Gunn’s script caught the attention of producer Paul Brooks, who saw potential in the unique blend of horror and comedy. Brooks believed in Gunn’s vision and partnered with him to bring the project to life. The duo secured financing from Universal Pictures and were given a budget of $15 million.
The film follows the residents of a small town called Wheelsy, who find themselves under attack by a parasitic alien organism. In the movie we see Grant Grant, played by Michael Rooker, become infected by a mysterious creature from a crashed meteorite. Grant undergoes a grotesque transformation, turning into a hybrid creature with a voracious appetite. As Grant starts to consume local animals and humans, his wife, Starla, played by Elizabeth Banks, becomes suspicious of his strange behavior. With the help of the town’s sheriff, Bill Pardy, portrayed by Nathan Fillion, they uncover the terrifying truth behind the outbreak. As the parasite spreads, more townsfolk are infected, turning them into mindless zombies controlled by the alien organism. The survivors must band together to fight off the relentless horde and find a way to stop the alien menace before it consumes the entire town and potentially spreads beyond.
In terms of storytelling, Slither follows a familiar creature-invasion plotline but injects it with fresh and entertaining twists. It effectively builds tension, punctuated by gruesome and creative kills, while keeping the audience engaged with its witty humor. It strikes a good balance between horror and comedy, offering genuinely creepy moments alongside laugh-out-loud funny scenes.
Gunn assembled a talented cast, including Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, and Nathan Fillion, who embraced the film’s dark humor and over-the-top nature. The performances added an extra layer of entertainment to the story. Production on Slither began in the fall of 2005. Filming took place primarily in and around the town of Hope, British Columbia, Canada. The shooting schedule lasted for several weeks, with the production team working to bring the script to life and capture the horror-comedy elements that James Gunn envisioned. Slither encountered a few production issues during its development and filming.
Not all was positive regarding this film’s production. It ran into several challenges including budget constraints. It had a relatively modest budget of around $15 million, which posed limitations on the scale of the production. With a lower budget, the filmmakers had to find creative solutions to bring their vision to life while maintaining the desired level of quality. Slither also suffered from a tight shooting schedule, which added pressure to the cast and crew. With limited time, there was a need for efficient planning and execution to ensure that all scenes were filmed within the allotted timeframe. Filming took place in Canada, where weather conditions can be unpredictable. The production had to deal with challenges such as rain, which could disrupt shooting schedules and affect the overall production timeline.
Slither utilized practical effects extensively to bring its grotesque creatures and special makeup effects to life. Director James Gunn aimed to create a retro and campy feel, and practical effects played a crucial role in achieving that aesthetic. The film features various types of creatures, including the parasitic worms, the mutated Grant Grant, and the numerous infected townspeople. Practical effects were employed to create the physical appearances of these creatures. Makeup artists and special effects technicians crafted detailed prosthetics and costumes to bring the creatures to life on set.
For the transformation of Grant Grant, the practical effects team created intricate prosthetic pieces that were applied to Rooker’s face and body to depict the stages of his transformation. These practical effects allowed for a more tangible and visceral portrayal of the creature’s physical changes.
The film features scenes of bodies being ripped apart, grotesque tentacles, and oozing substances. Special effects teams created practical blood effects, prosthetic limbs, and animatronic elements to enhance the visceral and graphic nature of these scenes. The film also utilized puppets and animatronics to bring certain creatures to life. These practical effects allowed for more dynamic movement and interaction between the creatures and the actors.
By relying on practical effects, the movie aimed to capture the charm and craftsmanship reminiscent of classic horror films. The use of practical effects added a tangible and visceral quality to the creatures and gore, contributing to the film’s distinctive style and created an immersive experience for the audience.
After Slither’s filming was completed, the movie entered the post-production phase. During this stage, various elements were refined, edited, and finalized to create the final version of the film. James Gunn worked closely with the film editor to shape the final cut of the movie. Visual effects artists worked on CGI and digital enhancements that were used to refine and enhance the practical effects and add additional creatures or visual elements. The sound team worked on creating the right atmosphere through sound effects, adding eerie and unsettling sounds, and enhancing the impact of the creature movements and actions. Tyler Bates, a regular composer of Gunn’s, created the score for the film as well.
Slither was released in theaters on March 31, 2006. The film was distributed by Universal Pictures who gave it a wide release to reach a broad audience.
Upon its release, Slither received generally positive reviews from critics for its unique blend of horror and comedy, as well as its throwback to B-movie creature features. It was praised for its entertaining and over-the-top style, which delighted fans of the genre.
However, it struggled to attract a wide audience. The film’s box office gross was relatively low, earning around $12 million globally during its theatrical run. The reasons for its box office failure can be attributed to various factors. For one, its unique blend of horror and comedy may have limited its appeal to a niche audience, preventing it from attracting a broader mainstream viewership. Additionally, its R-rating and graphic content might have further narrowed its potential audience, as it targeted a more specific demographic.
Slither was released on DVD and HD-DVD on October 24, 2006. The DVD contains two making-of documentaries, one being solely dedicated to the visual effects. The DVD also contains deleted and extended scenes, a blooper reel, visual effects progressions, a set tour with Fillion, and an audio commentary by Gunn and Fillion.
Shout Factory released a Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray on July 25, 2017. In addition to new case artwork illustrated by artist Justin Osbourn, it includes new special features such as a new audio commentary with James Gunn and cast members, new interviews as well as all the special features found on the original DVD video.
In 2006, the film was awarded Fangoria’s “Chainsaw Award” for Highest Body Count and was named “Best Feature Film of the Year” by horror magazine Rue Morgue. In 2007 it won The Filmmakers Showcase Award at the Saturn Awards.
While Slither may not have achieved significant commercial success during its theatrical release, it has since gained a dedicated cult following. The film’s unique style, memorable characters, and blend of horror and comedy have solidified its status as a cult classic within the genre. It became popular among horror enthusiasts who appreciated its mix of gore, humor, and campy charm. The film’s reputation grew further through word-of-mouth and subsequent home video and streaming releases, solidifying its place in the horror-comedy genre.
Since its initial release, Slither has continued to entertain and attract audiences with its distinctive style and dark humor. It remains a notable entry in James Gunn’s filmography, showcasing his talent for crafting unique and memorable genre films. While not being as memorable as Guardians of the Galaxy or The Suicide Squad, it’s still a fun and gory time. I’d give this film a solid 7 out of 10.
Overall, Slither is an enjoyable and satisfying horror-comedy that offers a gory and hilarious ride for fans of the genre. With its clever writing, impressive practical effects, and talented cast, it stands as a testament to James Gunn’s ability to create entertaining and distinctive films.
A couple of the previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? can be seen below. To see more, head over to our JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!