ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MARCH 30, 2006
By Steve Newton
James Gunn had no intention of waiting until he was a Hollywood director to helm his first horror flick. Inspired by George Romero’s pioneering zombie opus, the young Gunn made his splatter-film debut at the tender age of 12.
“Night of the Living Dead scared the crap outta me,” the director recalls from his L.A. home, “and I could tell it was made for a very low budget. So I started to make my own films, most of which were about some sort of zombies, which were usually my brothers eating my other brother.”
Gunn says that one day he may scour his mom’s basement for those early cinematic efforts, but in the meantime he’s happy to be touting his gruesome horror-comedy Slither. It’s the type of campy, over-the-top bloodfest you’d expect from a writer-director who cut his teeth at New York’s low-budget horror factory, Troma Entertainment.
“Troma gave me a great education about the basics of prosthetic effects,” Gunn says, “but it also gave me an idea about what it’s like to make a film during every stage of filmmaking. So I got an idea of how to do preproduction, with finding locations and casting, and all the way through marketing and dealing with the NPAA and all the other issues that happen in postproduction. Film school may give people part of that education, but at Troma I was able to get all of it–without the artiness.”
You won’t find much artiness in Slither, either, but you will find references to David Cronenberg’s early horror outings, in particular Shivers (aka They Came From Within and The Parasite Murders). That twisted flick comes to mind while watching local actor Tania Saulnier getting attacked in a bathtub by the same type of sluglike parasite that menaced horror queen Barbara Steele in Cronenberg’s 1975 debut.
The audience Gunn is aiming for may be a little young to recall that scene, though.
“What we found is that young people/teenagers and people in their 20s-love the movie. But we also found that a lot of people who are my age, in their mid-30s, also love it because it sort of reminds them of the fun they had watching horror movies of the ’80s like Tremors, The Fly, Basketcase. These were all movies that just had a sense of fun to them.”
Slither is far removed from most of the fright flicks to come out of Hollywood in the last little while. For one thing, it isn’t rife with brutal sadism and torture. But Gunn denies that Slither‘s wildly comic bent is a response to the grim and punishing horror that has been packing theatres of late.
“I don’t think it’s a backlash,” he says. “In fact, I think Hostel and Saw and Devil’s Rejects are probably the best horror movies of the past few years. The things we have been seeing have been either roughies like those or PG-13 horror for little girls, so it’s good to be going out there with a movie that just does its own thing. Slither is its own animal. And listen, most people who like Hostel seem to like Slither too. They’re very different films but they’re both made by directors who love horror movies, and that’s a rarity these days.”