After being struck by a clawed tendril, a man develops a cut down the center of his forehead. He seems fine enough until the mark inexplicably grows, graphically splitting him in two. The scene is vulgar, crass and unremittingly explicit – and exactly the kind of film moment that needs to come around more often.

Morgan Morel
Dude, that farting game has been lame since the third grade. (Courtesy of Universal)

“Slither,” as a whole, deserves a second chance. Brimming with grossness, guffaws and good old-fashioned thrills, this movie is a fine rarity: a grade-A B-movie.

A meteor has crash-landed in the small town of Wheelsy, and it’s no ordinary rock – it contains a dangerous creature within that could very well bring about the destruction of mankind.

Too bad the town doesn’t even notice its landing. Wheelsy is the definition of backwards, where police only use their speedometers for birds and the beginning of hunting season is the town’s biggest day.

That pasttime actually proves appropriate, since the film is built upon the killing and eating of others. Dogs, cats, deer and eventually humans are mouthwatering treats for the film’s central monster, a local fellow named Grant Grant (Michael Rooker, “The 6th Day”) turned flesh-eating fiend. After a tiff with his wife, Grant goes out prowling for women only to find the meteor’s slug-like creature in the woods. Here’s a lesson from the horror movie industry regarding unusual looking creatures: don’t agitate them.

The town discovers Grant altered and deformed, necessitating a manhunt that eventually leads to his secret nest of orifice-infatuated leeches. “Don’t let ’em in yer mouth!” the police chief screams, an unusual line delivered with perfect camp by lead actor Nathan Fillion (“Serenity”).

Eventually the film enters autopilot as the leeches terrorize the town, turning those unfortunate enough to ingest them into zombie-fied minions for Grant’s ultimate super-squid. Like any other creature feature, the uninfected heroes must stop the evil from spreading.

At first glance, this seems like a generic monster mash, but “Slither” stands out. For one, it has laughs. Mocking the conventional idealism of the American people (as well as our insatiable appetites) the film has an absurd sense of humor. After a horrific ordeal, the town’s mayor maintains calm until he finds his Mr. Pibb missing.

The film balances its thrills and spills unusually well. With PG-13 ratings quietly ruining horror movies, “Slither” takes pleasure in showing some guts (literally). There’s something comforting about seeing people spit green acidic slime and develop into amorphous monsters. It’s a throwback to the gory glory days of George Romero, David Cronenberg and even director James Gunn’s (writer of 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake) Troma film roots.

As an added bonus, the DVD features have some teeth, too. There’s a documentary about the process of getting the movie made that is, for once, actually engaging, recording the hunt for a distributor and the actors’ gory makeup – and making moviemaking look noble again.

A mockumentary on the acting abilities of lead Fillion (cast and crew sarcastically testify that he sucks), a light commentary with director Gunn and a diary from schlock-father Lloyd Kaufman (“The Toxic Avenger”) round out the surprisingly decent DVD features.

Could the film be an allegory for America’s insatiable appetite and weight problems? Maybe. Is it commentary on the adulterous nature of man? A little. Is “Slither” pure entertainment? Definitely.

Movie: 3 out of 5 stars
Special Features: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Slither
Universal

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