(2006)3.5Jason BuchananA rowdy crowd pleaser that more than makes up for its lack of genuine scares and real tension by offering an amusing barrage of gooey, gory thrills that are sure to have even squeamish viewers giggling with queasy delight, James Gunn's Slither perfectly captures the wild-eyed, B-movie spirit so sorely lacking in sterile modern megaplexes. Its tentacled roots planted firmly in Tromaville and its tongue stuck firmly in cheek, Slither's sole goal is to entertain. Writer/director Gunn certainly seems well versed in the conventions of sci-fi and horror, and when watching Slither it's plain to see just how much fun he enjoys having with them. As much of a tribute as Slither is to previous horrors, though, the charm of Gunn's creepy-crawly horror comedy is that you don't have to be a die-hard genre fan to be in on the joke. Sure horror fans will relish the opportunity to pick out the many visual references cleverly scattered throughout the film and see Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer star Michael Rooker ham it up while wearing a living-room-sized prosthetic piece that must be seen to be believed, but as entertaining as those aspects of the film may be, it's Slither's squishy manic energy and giddy unpredictibility that are likely to win over those just looking for a fun night at the flicks. Of course, the "Browncoats" (read: Firefly fans) coming out to see former Firefly star Nathan Fillion in his first major post-Whedon role will no doubt take joy in seeing the uptight Serenity captain cut loose a little in the role of the good-humored town sheriff, and Fillion's one-time Firefly co-star Gregg Henry offers a hilarious turn as the alien-besieged town's skeptical, self-absorbed mayor. With contemporary horror films so readily willing to fall back on the tried-and-true formula of dunderheaded teens being chased by slash-happy maniacs brandishing pointy shiny things, it's refreshing to see a filmmaker who's willing to break the mold a bit. Though Slither clearly draws on such lesser-known horror flicks as Shivers and The Deadly Spawn for inspiration, Gunn comes out a winner in the end by choosing to parlay his influences into something original instead of simply emulating them. Sure, Slither may not be 100-percent original, but in a creatively devoid cinematic cycle in which a new horror remake seems to open at the box office each week, it's good to know that there are still a few filmmakers out there looking for a way to get under viewers' skin on their own terms.