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Friday, March 31, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Slither": Horror-buff bait? Outer-space slugs!

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Slither," with Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry. Written and directed by James Gunn. 96 minutes. Rated R for strong horror violence and gore, and language. Several theaters.

Good news, fright fans: "Slither" is the best horror comedy since "Shaun of the Dead" — but that won't comfort the folks of Wheelsy, S.C.

In writer-director James Gunn's gonzo valentine to the gross-out horror films of the '70s and '80s, Wheelsy is under siege by slugs from outer space. Before long they've mutated the local yokels into redneck zombies controlled by slimy parasites with a hearty appetite for red meat. Preferably rib-eye steak, but human flesh will do in a pinch.

Local businessman Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) is victim No. 1, destined to become the parasitical host with the most (tentacles, that is). While Wheelsy's mayor (comedic scene-stealer Gregg Henry) floats dimwit theories about the growing infestation ("maybe it's Lyme disease!"), newly promoted police chief Pardy (Nathan Fillion, star of "Serenity") joins Grant's wife (Elizabeth Banks) in an effort to stop the invasion before Wheelsy turns into Slugville.

If you're not hooked, move along and let us horror fans have some fun.

As a former colleague of Z-movie king Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Films infamy, Gunn wrote trash classics like "Tromeo & Juliet" before penning 2004's "Dawn of the Dead" remake. He's got a gift for combining throwaway gags with the kind of gloppy gore that reached its pinnacle in John Carpenter's 1982 remake of "The Thing."

With additional nods to directors like David Cronenberg (a local shop is named after "Videodrome" antihero Max Renn) and Frank Henenlotter ("Basket Case"), "Slither" is a movie only true horror buffs can love. Its greatest strength is that it never aspires to be anything more than it is: 96 minutes of good laughs and retro-splatter.

Of course, there's a little something extra for those who sit through the credits.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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