Follow TV Tropes


Film / Slither

Go To

Slither is a 2006 horror/comedy film written and directed by James Gunn. It is a Homage to gory B-Movie horror films.

The plot is essentially an Alien Invasion film mixed with a Zombie Apocalypse. An alien parasite lands in rural America, infecting and taking control of local man Grant Grant (Michael Rooker). The alien impregnates a local woman, who gives birth (by having them eat her from the inside out) to thousands of "slugs", that share the original alien's mind. The slugs then enter a person's body through the mouth, killing them. The aliens then take control of the corpse. It's then up to the local police sheriff (Nathan Fillion), Grant's wife (Elizabeth Banks), the foul-mouthed Mayor, and a local teen to stop the alien before it can infect every living thing on the planet.

While the film was a critical hit, it flopped in theaters, with Universal reluctantly distributing the film because of their contract with its production company, Gold Circle Films. Thankfully, it has became a Cult Classic, launching Gunn's career as both a writer and director.

Not to be confused with the 1973 heist film of the same name starring James Caan and Peter Boyle.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Action Survivor: Kylie. Over the course of the film, she manages to: grab one of the alien worms as it enters her mouth and pull it out again; burn said worm to death with a curling iron; escape a massive horde of worms by jumping off the roof of her house; take down a couple of worm-zombies (including a zombified deer) more or less by herself; and, ultimately, survive a flying couch to the face with nothing worse than a broken arm. Not bad for a kid with fake nails and a penchant for taking long baths.
  • Alien Invasion
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The parasite wants to assimilate all life in the universe into its being.
  • Anti-Villain: Grant. He's immediately established as wealthy and actively worried about other men showing active interest in his beautiful wife, and he has his controlling side that is definitely inching towards the wrong side of turning ugly, but, in the end, decides not to cheat on Starla with Brenda. Word of God is that he died as soon as he was infected, but the resulting entity retained much of his personality, including his genuine love for Starla.
  • Arc Words: Several including; "Don't you look at me", "Hey there, killer", "Meat"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Not having packed Mr. Pibb is the straw that breaks the camel's back for the mayor. He lists off all the crazy things that have been happening and caps it off with screaming about being out of the drink.
  • Anyone Can Die: And everyone in the whole town but Kylie, Bill, and Starla does.
  • Badass Teacher: Starla.
    MacReady: Bitch is hardcore!
  • Bathtub Scene: Kylie gets one, although it quickly goes from Fanservice to Fan Disservice when she's attacked by the slugs.
  • Bald of Evil: Grant after he gets infected.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted, quite grotesquely, for Brenda after Grant pumps her full of worm eggs.
  • Berserk Button: The mayor isn't exactly a calm guy to begin with, but he really throws a tantrum after he discovers that no one has brought any Mr. Pibb, which is the only soft-drink he likes. This is after everyone's started turning into alien parasite-infected zombies, mind you.
    Pardy: Jesus Christ, Jack, let me get right on it!
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: After being turned into a breeder for the parasites, the Mayor begs Pardy to kill him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Pardy shows up in a big blaze of glory, ready to save Starla, blow up the alien and kick some parasite ass. Subverted, since the alien knocks aside his grenade, it gets dropped in the pool and explodes there, and Pardy promptly gets his ass kicked.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The invasion is stopped by Bill, Kylie, and Starla. However, they are the only ones who have survived the invasion which will probably start all over again due to The Stinger.
  • Body Horror: Oh so very much of it. Brenda, Grant...
  • Bury Your Gays: Played straight with Margaret. While nearly everyone in the film dies anyway, most just get killed by the alien slugs taking over their bodies. She, on the other hand, gets sprayed with a slug zombie's Acid Attack and has her face melt off.
  • Captain Obvious: "Something's wrong with me."
    • "Um, yeah."
  • The Cameo: Lloyd Kaufman briefly appears as a civilian at the police station.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Subverted with the grenade. They make a big deal of showing the viewer the single grenade that the Sheriff's department owns, and the camera lingers on it for a moment. Later, when Bill attempts to use it, Grant casually swats it aside and into a swimming pool, where it uselessly explodes.
    • Played straight with Kylie's nails, which provide her with the grip she needs to yank out the worm trying to crawl down her throat.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The whole film, but especially anything the Mayor says.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Grant does not like the idea of other guys getting close to Starla. It's bad enough before he gets possessed by an alien death-worm.
  • Creator Cameo: Director James Gunn shows up in a single scene early in the film, as a fellow teacher talking (and, according to Grant, flirting) with Starla.
  • Decoy Protagonist:
    • Bill's something like this. The audience is set up to expect him to become the ass-kicking Action Hero when the moment calls, but while he's not that incompetent and certainly not cowardly when the action really kicks off, it is pretty clear that he's completely out of his depth. Almost every moment that's set up to make him look like a badass ends with him either running away or getting his ass kicked. He also needs to be rescued more than once by Starla and Kylie.
    • Nathan Fillion certainly confirmed that one of the things he really enjoyed about playing Bill was his bewildered and terrified "what the fuck is going on?!" reaction to almost everything that happened, rather than reacting like a standard Action Hero would.
  • Deep South: The film is set in Wheelsy, a small town in South Carolina.
  • Diagonal Cut: When a single guy tries to stop Grant, the latter casually whips a tentacle at him. He looks, confused, for a few seconds, while blood starts pouring out of a perfectly vertical cut from his head to his groin, before he splits apart.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The scenes where the alien worms possess and impregnate the townsfolk are treated as parallel to rape and sexual assault. The alien even has an "o-face" when it implants someone.
    • Grant's descent into alien-possessed Body Horror monstrousness is a pretty clear metaphor for a jealous and controlling husband graduating into a Domestic Abuser.
  • The End... Or Is It? / Sequel Hook / The Stinger: Keep watching after the end credits.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The entire town is killed except Bill Pardy, Starla, and Kylie.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The alien, despite still planning to assimilate all life into himself, does end up falling in love with Starla and genuinely caring about her, even managing to resist from infecting her. Later on in the film, he outright tells Starla that he didn't want to lose her and later on tries to live with her in her and Grant's old house, and doesn't hurt her even when she angers him by joining up with Bill later. This all culminates in him only giving Starla a sad look when she prepares to finally kill him. This is said by the creators to be a result of the alien taking on many of Grant's personality traits.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Or belly full, at any rate. The alien uses humans as living incubators for its progeny, implanting them via impaling them with a pair of tendrils which deliver the "seed" into the body. The host then is driven by an insatiable hunger for meat, no matter the source, and eventually bloats into an enormous immobile blob as the slugs grow inside of them. They are still awake and aware during the several days this process takes.
    • On the bright side at least; it seems that both tendrils are required for the impregnation process to be successful since (despite some obvious discomfort) Bill Pardy doesn't seem too injured by Grant's tentacle.
  • Final Girl: Two of them plus a Final Guy. Only Starla completely fills this trope, however.
  • Gay Euphemism: Mayor Jack MacReady asks a deputy if his coworker Margaret is available. The deputy tells him not to bother because Margaret "packs a box lunch."
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: A redneck attempting to stop a fully mutated Grant gets bisected by a whip-like tentacle.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Grant Grant decides not to cheat on Starla with Brenda, but mere minutes after changing his mind, is attacked by and functionally killed by the parasite when it takes over his brain.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Margaret being a lesbian is only brought up twice and briefly, so you'd be forgiven for not knowing she's a lesbian.
  • Hive Mind: The parasite has the mind of every living creature it has ever infected.
  • Hive Queen: Grant.
  • Hollywood Acid: The acid-spitting attack that the slug zombies use is green and instantly dissolves flesh.
  • Homage:
    • To Night of the Creeps. Starla teaches at Earl Bassett Community School, the mayor's name is R.J. MacReady, there's a store in town called Max Renn's and Bill mentions the Raglan and Castevet farms.
    • The Henenlotter's Saddle Lodge is a homage to director Frank Henenlotter of Basket Case and Brain Damage fame.
    • The scene of Kylie getting attacked by a slug in the bathtub is a reference to a key scene in David Cronenberg's 1975 horror Shivers, a film about humans being taken over by parasite alien worms. Director James Gunn is on record as saying Shivers was a major influence on his movie.
  • Horror Hunger: Brenda really, really wants some meat.
  • Hope Spot: MacReady wakes up after seemingly being mistaken for dead by the horde and despite being scared shitless by the dozens of 'wombs' eating corpses in front of him (and chasing him around) he escapes, only to get greeted and impregnated by Grant the moment he opens the door.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Those turned into breeders want meat. Any meat...
  • I Am Legion: Those infected and turned into zombies all share a collective hive mind, and speak in unison when talking to Starla.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Non-alcoholic version with the Mayor. After witnessing and barely escaping from all sorts of bizarre and frightening things, he reaches into the case to get a Mr. Pibb soft drink...only to have a bit of a meltdown when he discovers there isn't any.
  • Incongruously-Dressed Zombie: One of a mob of worm-possessed corpses is a black-robed clergyman with a handbell.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Zigzagged. Brenda asking Pardy the whereabouts of her baby and him reassuring her that he's fine confirms that Grant didn't feed the infant to his own mother. Averted with Kylie's little sisters, who get infected by the slugs and become Undead Children.
  • Keystone Army: Killing the head parasite (Grant) causes all the slugs and the still living slug breeders to drop dead despite none of them being harmed themselves. The white slug that started this whole mess is just fine though, assuming it wasn't just a new one that escaped Grant's carcass.
  • Mayor Pain: Subverted. MacReady is loud, profane, and abrasive, but he harasses Pardy to solve the Grant case, not cover it up. And when Pardy raises a posse to lay an ambush for Grant, MacReady takes up a rifle and volunteers.
  • Mercy Kill: Bill delivers this to Mayor MacReady after the discovering that the latter has begun to get all "womby."
  • Mistaken for Disease: Upon hearing of Grant's ongoing transformation into an alien monster, the Mayor attempts to dismiss it by claiming it must be the result of Lyme disease. The police officers - who actually saw the partly-transformed Grant in person - laugh uproariously at this, much to the Mayor's annoyance.
  • Morality Pet: Starla could probably qualify as this for Grant before he got infected. Definitely qualifies for him (and the Hive Mind as a whole) afterward in that she's the only human he/it/they cares enough about to not infect.
  • Mr. Exposition: Kylie fills this role, thanks to having mind melded with one of the worms.
  • Noble Bigot: The Mayor implicitly has some homophobic beliefs, but as he tells the lesbian cop Margaret during his rant in the aftermath of Brenda's slug-induced explosion:
    Mayor MacReady: You can sue with me. I don't care if you're a lesbo, you don't deserve this shit.
  • Oh, Crap!: Bill Pardy when he stumbles upon an infected deer eating some human corpses in the police station.
    Bill Pardy: Fuck me.
  • Omnicidal Maniac
    ''I'll keep growing till I'm everywhere. 'Till I'm all that is."
  • Orifice Invasion: The slugs enter a host via the mouth.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The slug-infected people fit the Parasite Zombie type, with a corrosive spit and the ability to speak, albeit only what Grant wants to say due to the Hive Mind. They also don't feed on flesh, which is what the Horror Hunger-driven slug incubators do instead in order to generate more alien slugs.
  • Planetary Parasite: As one character discovers during a failed attempt at infestation, this is the life cycle of the aliens. They take over a being on a planet, turn other beings into slug-breeders, take over more people with the slugs, integrate all those hosts into one large super-organism, then launch seeds at another planet to eventually repeat the cycle.
  • The Power of Love: Subverted, but not how you think. After being infected, Grant tries and succeeds at resisting the urge to eat Starla, and has his drones bring her back home and dress her in silk and comb her hair lovingly. At the end she even manages to prey on his love for her to get in close and stab him. Pity it wasn't in a vital area... which, considering he/it was a mass of alien blubber, tentacles and human bodies, he may not have had one other than his brain.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Attempted by Bill at the film's Climax, after Grant angrily asks Starla if she thinks she can fuck with him. Bill replies "Yep," pulls out the grenade, only for Grant to swat it away into the swimming pool, where it explodes harmlessly.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: the parasite controls its hosts like puppets, but absorbs their personality and memories. So while Grant Grant dies at the beginning of the film, the parasite feels Grant's love for his wife.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: MacReady has been through a pretty awful night, and he's been reasonably stoic about it (i.e., he's been no more of a profane loudmouth than usual), but the lack of Mr. Pibb in the cooler was just the last straw.
  • Raising the Steaks: Pardy gets attacked by a slug-infected deer, proving that humans aren't the only species that can be infected by the alien. And then the cat in the after credits scene...
  • Rule of Cool: The whole film runs on this.
  • Rule of Funny: Or this.
  • Rule of Scary: Or this.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Mayor MacReady runs into a cranky old woman in Grant's basement. She harangues him for as long as he's in earshot.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage: Grant is tempted by Brenda (an ex-girlfriend's little sister) at a bar and they head into the woods, drunk and giggling, but consciously chooses to remain faithful to Starla, his wife.
  • Self-Serving Memory: "You tried to kill me and leave with Pardy!" Grant isn't lying, but he's leaving out some...important context.
  • Sexless Marriage: Grant and Starla's marriage has apparently been this for a while. Frankly, after seeing Grant's "seduction technique", it's easy to see how Starla might be a bit turned off.
    • Pardy also pretty heavily implies that it's a loveless marriage.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Blob (1958): alien menace arrives through a meteorite and starts its invasion in a small town.
      • MacReady suggesting that the slugs are a secret military bio weapon unleashed by the Government could be a nod to the 1988 remake.
    • The camera moving rapidly through the dark woods before stopping at the alien parasite hatching from the meteorite is reminiscent of the demonic entity's POV scenes from the Evil Dead films.
    • The film is a Whole-Plot Reference (kinda sorta) to Night of the Creeps.
    • The Toxic Avenger is on TV at Brenda's house, in reference to James Gunn's past with Troma studios.
    • Two shout-outs to Predator: when the slimy alien is about to shoot the parasite at Grant Grant, it emits the same clicking noise the yautja makes; when Pardy's group gears up at the police station, the score of the film becomes suspiciously similar to Alan Silvestri's iconic theme.
    • The Thing the funeral home on main street is run by RJ Mac Cready.
    • Tremors the town's high school is named Earl Bassett Community School.
    • Did anyone else think of Serenity upon learning that they had a grenade, and Nathan Fillion decided they leave it behind?
    • Kylie's little sisters are seen reading Goosebumps books, "You Can't Scare Me!" and "The Girl Who Cried Monster".
    • The alien slug swimming towards Kylie in the foamy bathtub is also a nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) when Freddy's bladed glove emerges between the legs of a sleeping Nancy while she's taking a bath.
    • According to an interview, Slither was inspired by Uzumaki.
    • In the final stages of his mutation, Grant strongly resembles The Master.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: It's a blend of both.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • Grant horribly infecting a panicking Brenda is intercut with the rest of the characters dancing to Corb Lund's "(Gonna) Shine Up My Boots" as hunting season opens.
    • MacReady giving in to the infection and eating human flesh to "Every Woman In The World".
  • Stealth Pun: Pardy taunts the Butch Lesbian by bringing up "'gina" in front of her... and this kid.
    Kid: What's 'gina?
    Pardy: It's a country. It's where the 'Ginese come from.
  • Sweetie Graffiti: Earlier on in the film Brenda takes Grant to see an old heart with their initials that she craved onto a tree when they were kids, to prove that she had (and presumably still has) a crush on him then.
  • That Poor Cat: At the end of The Stinger. Overlaps with Gory Discretion Shot as it cuts to black.
  • Truth in Television: The Long One's complicated, multi-host lifecycle is generally in keeping with how parasites work in the real world.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Bill Pardy (until the end).
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Of the few uninfected, Deputy Margaret is quickly taken out while the much more feminine Starla and Kylie survive the movie.
  • The Virus: Not exactly a virus, per se, as it's spread by alien slugs, but it works pretty much the same way.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Nobody's safe here. Played even straighter than usual given that the alien parasites, after infecting Kylie's sisters, drive them around as foul-mouthed undead children that are genuinely creepy.
  • Yandere: Grant and the entire alien Hive Mind pretty much become this for Starla.
  • Zeerust: A run-down welcome billboard shown in the opening scene presents Wheelsy as the "Wheels of the future" depicting a flying vehicle in a retrofuturistic city backdrop.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Potentially. They're able to prevent the scenario from spreading beyond the town, luckily.
  • Zombie Puke Attack: "Wormbrains" are able to spit flesh-dissolving acid at people.