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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Support Your Local Captain Tightpants

M and I ventured out this evening to see Slither, Nathan Fillion's latest fillum. I would like to say that from the perspective of my great love for puppies, kittens, and fluffy woodland animals, it is THE WORST MOVIE IN THE WORLD.

It's completely formulaic. It's completely predictable. The plot doesn't bear thinking about. In other words: It's the perfect homage to gross-out horror movies.

According to M, IMDB lists this as an explicit remake of Night of the Creeps. (Ladies, the good news is your dates are here. The bad news is they're dead.) Dunno how accurate that is, but the plot (such as it is) certainly crosses the homage line and sets up an outpost in rip-off territory if it's not meant to be a definite remake. But The Blob, Two Thousand Maniacs, Serpent and the Rainbow and, of course, every zombie movie ever made (including the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, which James Gunn [Slither's writer and director {as well as the namesake of Angel's Charles Gunn}] also wrote) also get exactly the right loving treatment.

It works for a number of reasons. First and foremost because the writing is top notch. There's exactly the right touches of corny dialogue, but the script never attempts to parody the stilted, nonsensical writing that is the meat and potatoes of an MST episode. There's also, if you can believe it, some genuine subtlety and depth to the characters and their interactions.

Second, of course, is the acting. Bill Pardy is difficult to distinguish from Malcolm Reynolds, which is in no way a slam on Captain Tightpants or the writer/director. It's an archetype that is positively required in this kind of movie. That said, you can't ask for better than Nathan Fillion to get the job done. He's a smartass, a charmer, a dumbass, and a loveable blue-collar redneck. He and Gregg Henry (the asshole mayor) don't get enough time to play off one another, but they achieve shades of Andrew and Jonathan when they do.

Elizabeth Banks as the heroine, Starla Grant, has a tough row to hoe. In many ways, she has to be the straightest of the straight in how she plays everything. But she does get to kick a bit of ass, and her storyline has a handful of refreshingly nonstock elements to it. Yeah, she and Captain Tightpants have it bad for one another, but she also genuinely cares for her husband and is determined to make the best of it, squid or no squid.

The supporting characters only look like they've been hauled out of their parents' basement with the promise of free donuts and pizza, but to a man, they're also great. The deputy, in particular, gets a good opportunity to do one of genuinely creepy scenes.

Overall, the movie is done with absolute sincerity. It doesn't approach the bug-fucking insane brilliance of a Christopher Guest movie, but it has the same affection for the world of bad filmmakers and the characters that inhabit them. That kind of admiration without slavish, self-conscious attempts at parody results in a great scary, nasty, creepy, entertaining night at the movies.

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