If you're the type of person who would enjoy Slither, you likely don't need me to tell you to see it, because you already know who you are. I don't mean to absolve my critical responsibilities, but facts are facts, and B-movie fans don't need to be told, "hey, there's an awesome new movie about killer space slugs!" If you enjoy movies about killer space slugs, you have known about Slither for weeks or months, and you have likely already seen it.

That said, I enjoy movies about killer space slugs.

For a reason that is not particularly clear to me, horror films with a good sense of humor tend to be more effective than deadly serious ones, and Slither has such a sense of humor that I would almost tend to call it a comedy; it follows in the tradition of Tremors (which is better) and Eight Legged Freaks (which is much worse). The story in brief: a meteorite of some sort crashes in the woods near a small southern town, and a beastie crawls out. Said beastie manages to inject local horndog Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) with a larval worm, slowly turning him into something resembling a squid. Grant's wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) and her old flame Sherriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) tear ass across the countryside trying to stop Grant from overtaking the world with foot-long slugs that turn people into zombies. Along the way they save a teenage girl (Tania Saulnier) with a psychic link to the slugs. Vast quantities of reasonably realistic gore effects ensue.

See, that's why I started the way I did. I should feel ashamed that I was capable of writing the phrase "foot-long slugs that turn people into zombies," and yet I'm not. The fact of the matter is, Slither is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

This is because writer-director James Gunn (writer of the Dawn of the Dead remake, and the atrocious Tromeo and Juliet) does not commit the sin of nearly every horror film of the last 25 years: he respects the genre. It is easy to watch most splatter films and come to the conclusion that the makers not only hate their film, but also the audience. Gunn clearly does not. His camera lovingly glides over images of carnage and blood and gore without seeming to sneer at the audience (you want fucking gore? Here!), but instead with joy: isn't that cool? Ew! Wow! Not only does this make the film easier to watch, but scarier, as well - it's the first horror movie that I actually found creepy in a rather long time.

The cast is also important in making the film work, especially Fillion. More and more, cult movie fans are calling him the second coming of the indispensible Bruce Campell, and while this is impossible (there can be only one), it's also true that Fillion shows a flash of what Campbell brings to his best films: a sense that the only way to handle death and destruction and unspeakably grotesque scenes of Hell is too laugh at them; because dammit, you're going to die anyway. And the script gives Fillion plenty of perfect one-liners, and a couple of morbidly funny bits of slapstick. I will not give these away, nor any of the film's other significant pleasures, because they are so rarely found in contemporary horror. I will merely restate that the film is full of respect - for its audience, its plot and even its redneck characters - and that makes all the difference.

So that's that. It's pretty empty (want a good time? Check out the Village Voice review that soberly calls this "a critique of the American heartland's boundless gluttony") and a lot of fun, and probably the only genuinely scary thing that will get theatrical release in this country in 2006. It also has my new all-time favorite onscreen vivisection. If you're into that sort of thing.

7/10 (and not for lack of wanting to give it 8)