Monday, April 03, 2006

Horror continues to "Slither" away


Slither
Directed by James Gunn
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks


There is a divide that continues to bridge between myself and the majority of film critics and moviegoers as either my taste is maturing or slumping, because I simply can’t understand why some movies are loved and adored and others are forgotten and lost.

So it is that I gave Slither a chance. It looks like a Netflix movie, which is what many movies look like. (A Netflix movie is one that is not worthy of a trip to the movies to sit through…it’s worth a Netflix rental where you can fast forward through the whole thing if it sucks major balls or if it’s a movie that is so obviously bad you’d be too embarrassed to be seen in a theater watching it, let alone say the movie title aloud at the ticket counter).

However, many critics, namely those that call themselves horror fans, and even a few ‘name’ critics, gave the film a positive review, noting that the gore and sci-fi/horror element is played up nicely.

I saw a few clips online of the gore and thought that it looked very intriguing. Boy, was I duped.

Now, not only do trailers show the best parts of the movies, but the “exclusive” online clips show the only worthy two minutes of the movie. What a shame.

Now, those that know me, or my writing style in particular, know that I lean towards the R-rated world of work, not out of sheer shock value, but because it’s the world we live in. The real world is actually the unrated director’s cut, 24 hours a day. That’s a no-brainer. So, I’ll never write a Spy-Kids sequel. I’m fine with that.

What I’m getting at is, and I believe I’ve brought it up before, is that if you’re going to have an R-rating, then make it worth it. For Gods sake, your movie is practically doomed with an R-rating as it is, you may as well make it worth it…you’ll bring in a bigger audience with word-of-mouth in doing so, especially if you do it right.

I remember the old school horror and action movies of the 80’s that generally delivered on the gore, violence, nudity, and language of an R-rated movie. Where, oh where, have they gone?

Martin Scorsese saturates his films with as much of the R-rated glory as he can (for applicable movies) and lets the MPAA work with that so that the subtle cuts he makes after they shoot him down allow him to retain as much of the original content as possible. This is admirable.

A great model for the R-rated filmmaker would be Paul Verhoeven, who directed the original Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, and Basic Instinct. This is a man that OWNED his R-rating, as should all filmmakers. Starship Troopers isn’t a great movie by any means, but it lives up to the gore and nudity that makes an R-rated movie an R-rated movie. Robocop, especially the director’s cut, is a powerhouse of an R, eclipsing most modern hardcore R-rated movies. Total Recall is on the same playing field as Slither (or could be) thematically, but plays the camp and the gore quotient the way it should be.

Slither, on the other hand, is the opposite of this technique. Even with its few seconds of decent gore, it still never touches the realms that it could have. And you may say, “Well, maybe not everyone has the same limits of what is excessive or not.” And to that, I say, there’s only one way to find out…and that’s to push it.

Slither teases us, both with its ad campaign and with its actual presentation that it’s going to be a good gore-fest, but it fails…miserably. It fails to live up to the R-rating it’s been sentenced with.

I don’t think that all horror movies are the same or that they should all have the same level of gore/violence/nudity/language (GVNL…I’m not gonna type it out every time I reference it, so remember this acronym). However, for those that fall into an excessive area of GVNL, due to its subject matter/story/effects, etc., the envelope should be summarily pushed.

Slither gives us plenty of ‘icky’ moments, but nothing that lived up to what it could’ve been. I’m sure on the set they were like, “Yeah, that’s good, man, this is gonna be so gross onscreen,” but I think that they were too busy giving each other hand jobs that they forgot to look at the dailies and see that, “Oh shit, man, maybe we should go a little further…that’s kinda tame.”

Do it right, horror-filmmakers. You’re fucking it up. That’s my message to the current trend of horror filmmakers (with the exception of a rare few). I have yet to see “The Hills Have Eyes,” but I was very impressed with Alexandre Aja’s “High Tension” which is that rare horror film that pushes it just enough to shock you and scare you instead of giving you a hand job without the orgasm.

Own your work. That’s one thing, as an artist, I was always told. Don’t apologize for it and don’t change it because it offends a few people. Stick to your vision. I understand that studios get involved on many films, but come on, Slither could not have cost enough to make for a studio head to freak out about. That’s the beauty of lower budget horror films. Take advantage of it.

Oh, sorry, did you want to talk about the movie? Fine. A meteor carrying slug-like aliens lands on earth, infects humans, turning them into zombie-like aliens and it’s up to a small-town police officer to stop them. Simple.

The script is playful and witty and I thought that it might turn out to really be fun, but instead it self-destructs with its own satisfaction. They must’ve really thought that they nailed it without letting someone else take a look first.

Nathan Fillion (Serenity) is just fine as the cop and the beautiful Elizabeth Banks (The 40-Year-Old-Virgin) is completely underused as a woman whose husband is infected by the slug aliens.

By underused, I mean, she is filmed in such a way that we see how beautiful she is, the camera tilts down to give us a sixth grade view of her ass and we get small, subtle peeks, the kind that you’d find in a PG-13, giggle-inducing vomit fest.

Banks is perfect for the role, but its not explored or revealed enough. It’s an R-rated horror movie. We have the shower scene with the fog inside the glass encased shower covering up all the bits we want to see and of course there is the nightie she wears that teases us even more. It’s a horror movie. The nudity is expected. It’s what makes a horror movie raw, to see characters at their most vulnerable in the most extreme conditions.

Yes, I enjoy the sight of female nudity. As a red-blooded HUMAN MALE, yes, I’m fucking guilty. Shoot me, stab me, burn me at the stake, I confess.

Now, I remember as a kid, when I wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies. The prospect of actually seeing one was that I’d see the stuff that was supposedly too much for my young eyes, such as boobs, bush, and blood. (The Three B’s) Oh, and the word “Fuck.”

Not all R-rated movies need to have these equations in them, but generally, I think many moviegoers will look for that rating in hopes of the prospect of the three B’s + Fuck. Mostly male moviegoers, but still…I honestly don’t know what you ladies want in your movies. I constantly ask my wife what kind of movies she’d like to see but I don’t get much in response.

I think most women want to see deeply involved emotional films or comedies (romantic or not). Although I’m not pigeonholing the female audience because they account for a huge portion of box office, but I do claim to be out of touch to their needs…and lets face it, with horror films…the audience is predominantly male. So be it.

However, with all that said, what we have in Slither is a film that has failed on all fronts to bring forth an R-rated Sci-Fi/Horror film that delivers on its R-rating and its story potential. Too simple, too dumb, and too toned down. I’m sure the filmmakers would balk at me saying that, but it’s true.

I yearn for the Evil Dead/High Tension/Dawn of the Dead/Robocop ETC, ETC, films that can bring out the sheer horror, gore, and violent titillation that makes horror films scary and enjoyable. We don’t need campy b.s. horror that doesn’t deliver on the level that it’s applying for.

And please, enough of the lead villain getting blown up and splattered all over the place…it’s quickly becoming the now clich├ęd “drop the villain to his death from high altitudes” ending. Screenwriters and filmmakers alike that work in these genres need to be working overtime in creating something new and exciting…because I’m giving them a run for their money the second the opportunity comes my way.

No one will ever write a review of my films saying there wasn’t enough GVNL. In horror, the expression of “having too much instead of not enough” is paramount.

Movie Grade: F