The setup for this screamy-squirmy horror comedy is nothing new. A small town is attacked by a deadly alien menace and a microcosm of society battles back. We've seen the idea in "Jaws" and "Tremors," but it's been years since it's been presented so cleverly and energetically.
"Slither" takes place in a hick town where deer season commences just as a meteorite bearing carnivorous space slugs lands in the forest. The none-too-alert sheriff (Nathan Fillion, "Serenity") is slow to see the menace, and doesn't spring into action until his high school sweetheart (Elizabeth Banks) is endangered by her mutating husband, who, half-transformed into a giant squid-thing, assures her: "It's only a bee sting, honey." Before you can say "zombie," half the town is drooling and hungry for fresh flesh.
Writer/director James Gunn has Frankensteined his film together with bits and pieces borrowed from fright classics, sprinkling in-jokes throughout, but you don't have to be a horror film junkie to savor Fillion's fine work as the hapless hero. His look of chagrin as his battle plans fizzle is pure gold. There is a huge amount of bloodshed, but it's so comically tongue-in-cheek that it's hard to take offense -- it's more gross than gory. Gunn is a graduate of the Troma film factory, the studio that made the zany "Toxic Avenger," and he understands the pleasures of well-crafted trash. His shamelessly entertaining directing debut is smart, full of solid scares, and probably a cult classic in the making.
*** out of four stars
Rating: R for strong horror violence and gore, and language.