Years before sharing his vision of superheroes in Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad, James Gunn surprised the audience with his directorial debut, Slither, a comedy horror movie packed with Easter eggs and references to some classic horror movies – and here’s every one of them. Gunn’s career in the film industry began in the 1990s working with Troma Entertainment, for which he wrote the independent movie Tromeo and Juliet.
After learning the basics of the industry during his time at Troma, Gunn moved on to bigger projects, with his first major Hollywood screenplay being Scooby-Doo in 2002. After writing the screenplays for Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Gunn made his directorial debut in 2006 with Slither, a sci-fi black comedy horror movie starring Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, and Nathan Fillion. Slither was a box office flop, but it received mostly positive reviews and was well-received by the audience, amassing a cult following over the years.
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Slither follows Grant Grant (Rooker), a wealthy resident of Wheelsy, South Carolina, who is infected by a sentient extraterrestrial parasite that lands inside a meteorite. This creature takes over his body and absorbs his mind, putting its plan of controlling the human race into motion. Slither has many influences from various horror classics and was even involved in controversy as it was very similar to Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps, and there are various Easter eggs and references to some of Gunn’s biggest inspirations. Here’s every horror movie Easter egg in Slither.
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter has contributed to the horror genre with various titles, and among the most popular ones is The Thing, based on the 1938 John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There?. The movie follows a group of American researchers in Antarctica who come across a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates and imitates other organisms. The group is overcome by paranoia and distrust, making way for a lot of tension. Among the members of the group is R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), and Slither’s Mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) takes his name after him. Another reference to The Thing in Slither is during the bathtub scene where Kylie (Tania Saulnier) is attacked by the creature and has visions of it taking over various living beings, and the creature seen in it looks a lot like the dog monsters in the scene of the kennel attack in Carpenter’s movie.
Tremors is a monster movie that follows repairmen Val McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward), who along with seismologist Rhonda (Finn Carter) come across giant wormlike monsters looking for human flesh. Tremors is subtly referenced in Slither through the town’s high school, Earl Bassett High, named after Fred Ward’s character.
Frank Henenlotter is a screenwriter, director, and film historian best known for his horror comedies, with his most notable works being Frankenhooker and Basket Case. In the streets of Wheelsy, a banner for Henenlotter’s Saddle Lodger can be seen, and it’s a nod to Frank Henenlotter.
David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is also referenced in Slither in a subtle way. Videodrome centers on Max Renn (James Woods), the CEO of a small UHF TV station who finds a broadcast signal that features violence and torture, which hides a mind-control conspiracy. In Slither, there’s a store named “Max Renn”, just like Woods’ Videodrome character.
The Blob (1988)
The 1988 version of The Blob was co-written and directed by Chuck Russell, and it follows an acidic, amoeba-like organism that crashes on Earth in a military satellite and soon begins to devour and dissolve anything that crosses its path as it grows. The Blob stars Kevin Dillon as Brian Flagg and Shawnee Smith as Meg Penny, this last one referenced in Slither through a place named Meg Penny’s Diner.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby centers on Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a pregnant woman who begins to suspect that her elderly neighbors are members of a Satanic cult and are grooming her so they can use her baby for their rituals, but the truth is a lot worse. Among her neighbors were the Castevets – Minie and Roman –, and the farm where the group finds the mutilated dogs in Slither is named after them.
Shivers (1975), A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Shivers is a sci-fi body horror and David Cronenberg’s directorial debut. It follows the investigation of a murder where the killer had been carrying on experiments involving deadly parasites that take over their victims and turn them into erotically obsessed maniacs who pass the bugs on through violent sex. Now, in the scene with Kylie in the bathtub (mentioned above), the image of the creature coming at her is a nod to the parasites in Shivers, but that same scene also references (and in a more obvious way) Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. The movie follows serial killer Freddy Krueger as he haunts his victims in their dreams, so if they die there, they also die in real life. The way the bathtub scene is shot in Slither mirrors the one in A Nightmare on Elm Street where Nancy falls asleep while taking a bath and is attacked by Krueger.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Of course, there’s a lot of influence from Night of the Creeps. Dekker’s sci-fi horror movie (which was also his directorial debut) is all about an alien experiment with slug-like creatures that crashes on Earth and infects a fraternity member. The basic premise of Night of the Creeps was taken and used in Slither’s concept of alien worms taking over human bodies, which is why it drew some criticism.
The Fly (1986)
Yet another nod to Cronenberg’s work can be found in Slither, though this time it’s about the psychological body horror movie The Fly. Loosely based on George Langelaan’s 1957 short story of the same name and the 1958 movie adaptation, The Fly follows scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), who after one of his experiments goes wrong, he slowly starts to turn into a fly-hybrid creature. Grant’s slow transformation into a monster in Slither is a subtle nod to Seth’s in The Fly.
Society is a body horror movie starring Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, and Ben Meyerson. It follows Bill Whitney (Warlock), a teenager who discovers his wealthy parents are part of a gruesome cult for the social elite. During the final act in Slither, many town residents become part of Grant’s alien mass and seem to “melt” into his body, which is reminiscent of the “shunting” in Brian Yuzna’s Society.
Rob Zombie & Lloyd Kaufman cameos
Last but not least, Slither counts with the cameos of two of James Gunn’s friends: Rob Zombie and Lloyd Kaufman. Rob Zombie is a singer, songwriter, filmmaker, and voice actor known for his music career and for directing horror movies like The Devil’s Rejects and the Halloween remake (and its sequel). Zombie has had cameo roles in all movies directed by James Gunn, and in Slither, he’s the voice of Grant’s doctor, Karl. Lloyd Kaufman is a film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor, best known for being the co-founder of Troma Entertainment and the director of The Toxic Avenger and Tromeo and Juliet. Kaufman appears in Slither as the “sad drunk” in the police station.
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