This has been a long-standing favorite of mine. I watch it at least once a year, usually in October when I start gearing up with my Halloween-spooky-let’s-stroll-down-memory-lane-and-revisit-the-horror-movies-from-my-past ritual. This is a horror fan’s horror movie! This was actually the first movie where I made the connection that if the writer/director were one in the same then the odds are pretty damn good that the film will be inherently more enjoyable. Fred Dekker pays homage to so many wonderful directors and films, he goes above and beyond here; it’s hard to believe this is his directorial debut. I think the big reason that this film appeals to every genre fan I’ve ever met is because it’s an amalgam of sub-genres. It’s part ample-budget b-movie, part space invasion sci-fi, part zombie and part slasher but made with enough heart and love that it dips its toes respectively into the slightly romantic but thoroughly enjoyable comedy. Beyond that, it’s a chance of a lifetime meshing of great talent; every actor involved brings their own brand of special to the table that makes the end result one of the finest horror films to come out of the 80s. And we’re talking multiple-repeat-viewings kinda awesome. Yes, I’ve been watching this movie for 27 years.
Wow. Twenty seven years and I still get just as excited as the first time I sat down with it. I still laugh at the “It’s all Greek to me” joke and I’d seriously love to have a nickel for every time I’ve said “Johnny? I’ll even let you fondle my breasts” whenever I’m thrust into a situation where I’m left waiting in a car for someone.
Ok, so in broadstrokes the movie begins with a rogue alien sending a canister of mind-munching space slugs to land on Earth in the 1950s. It’s the classic story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl to new boy, new boy meets space slugs, space slugs invade his brain, girl gets killed by axe-wielding escaped mental patient, ex-boy finds ex-girl hacked to pieces, ex boy hunts down mental patient and gets revenge – shotgun style.
Cut to 30 years later and now our ex-boyfriend is a tough-as-nails detective played by none-other than the man himself, Tom *motherfucking* Atkins. Seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t LOVE this guy? Tom gets called in when a few kids (Jason “He’s gonna pork her, Dad” Lively and Steve Marshall as Christopher Romero and J.C. Hooper) unwittingly release the slug-infested corpse (that’s been on ice in the college basement since the 50s) as part of a fraternity-prank gone bad. So now we have zombified bodies on the loose shooting slugs out of their mouths all over campus. What do you think will happen?
I’m not gonna sit here and keep rambling about the plot because I’m willing to bet pretty much everyone has seen this movie. If you haven’t you must’ve spent the 80s not being born or licking rocks in the backyard. This is absolutely essential viewing, essential ownage. I have such a hard on for it that I tracked down a tv edit from the Netherlands that has additional footage. We’re talking 4thgeneration shitty VHS quality so I can see a few extra seconds. That’s how good this movie is. When they released it on dvd (finally!) with alternate endings, commentaries, bells and whistles it was like Christmas morning when you’re 8 and still believe that Santa busted his ass to bring you everything that your selfish little snot-nosed heart desired.
The writing and direction are both top notch, the acting is well above the bar, the soundtrack is perfection (Stan Ridgeway makes this kitten purrrr) and it’s just….everything *good* about my childhood wrapped up in one flawless film.
(Sidenote: I was actually angry when I read about Slither and knowing that James Gunn was naming characters after horror directors and it had slugs with the sci-fi/horror/comedy slant, I was initially so upset and it felt like he was blatantly stealing from Dekker. Turns out I actually enjoyed Slither and since it’s kind of an amalgam of a bunch of ideas rolled into one Gunn production it has since stopped upsetting me. No one wants angry nerds on their back!)