Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, December 29, 2008
      ( 12/29/2008 07:42:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"YOU WILL BE REPLACED/YOU WILL BE. . . RE. . .PLACED." So I'm watching a DVD of James Gunn's Slither this weekend, and I get a brief object lesson on the perils of bringing political criticism to a horror flick. The movie, for those who haven't seen it, is about a plague of outer space "worms" that infest most of the inhabitants of a small town. Serving as one hive mind, they enter humans (and animal) bodies through the mouth and transform their victims into mutated raw-meat-eating zombies or bloated living egg sacs filled with even more worms. ("It's a conscious disease," one of the characters notes.) Though each victim shares the consciousness of the worm's first victim, a balding rich geezer played by Michael Rooker, they also display flashes of their own former personality - which the writer/director plays for some unsettling comedy.

The movie is good gory fun, though it did have a joke in it that I kept thinking about once the end credits finished rolling. In a later scene, one of the still-surviving characters comes across a group of the transformed townsfolk, all of which are devouring raw meat and the bodies of unfortunate former pets and possums. "Are you trying to judge me?" a bloody-mouthed biddy demands. "Damn Republican!"

The line made me laugh when I heard it, but, afterwards, I started wondering whether scriptwriter Gunn wasn't trying to squeak a satiric point into the movie about the ditto-headed nature of liberals. This is a man, after all, who helped to layer a Biblical End Times motif onto the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Perhaps he was trying to slip a little ideological joking into his popcorn picture?

If so, the nature of his material worked against this intent. Much like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be viewed as both a comment on the dangers of Communism and McCarthyism, the group think dramatized in Slither works as a play on any form of thought-free collectivism. (It wasn't a liberal, after all, who came up with the phrase "ditto-head.") It may be a case of story and characters being bigger than the writer's own narrow political perspective; it may be I was reading more into Gunn's little joke than he intended. Either way, I still dug the movie. . .


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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