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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Slither’ (2006)

A return to the killer ‘B’

You know what was ballsy about this movie? Someone saw Night of the Creeps and said, “I can make that funnier and scarier.” And maybe it takes someone like James Gunn to pull that off. If you’ve ever seen Night of the Creeps, you know it’s one of the all time greatest intentionally bad movie. In fact, it was one of the first. The late 80’s into the 90’s was all about revolutionizing horror as an industry. Movies like Critters and Leprechaun were proving that horror didn’t have to be good, to be entertainment. Directors like Mark Jones and Fred Dekker realized that half of the movies they enjoyed as kids, were actually garbage, and that’s half the reason for loving them. B-Horror helped define the industry.

So, while directors like Carpenter were taking the old classics and giving them a serious upgrade, directors like Jones and Dekker were defining the ‘New B.’ What made Slither so damn right, was that it carried the traditions of the ‘New B’ into the millennium. And THANK FUCKING GOD!!! 1999-2009 had to have been the worst fucking decade in horror! Gems like Dawn of the Dead and Slither were few and far between. They were keeping the industry alive, and, interestingly enough, they were remakes. And, like Dawn of the Dead, Slither was actually better than the original.

Don’t get me wrong, Night of the Creeps was fantastic. It was funny, cheesy, made fun of it’s own damn self, and still managed to be pretty good for horror. But Slither just had better acting, better FX, a more interesting plot, an even cooler creature, and was every bit as funny. The only thing Slither didn’t have, was the capacity to poke fun at itself and the genre as a whole. That was slightly disappointing. They had all the proper tropes that make for good riffing, it would have been kinda fun if it riffed itself from time to time.

I mean, the movie opens with a meteor crashing into the planet. And what did we learn about that? It’s the perfect signifier for the audience to suspend all disbelief. Basically, any movie after The Blob (1988), if your monster rides in on a meteor, everyone knows not to take the plot seriously.

Here’s the thing though. You don’t have to be a Riffer to enjoy this movie! Horror Heads and even general adult audiences will likely enjoy this movie.

SPOILERS!!!

So, what really sets this movie apart from Night of the Creeps, is the gestation of the parasite. Night of the Creeps went for simplicity and literally delivered the parasite as an alien biological weapon. But the little fucker in Slither is a planet killing hive mind. It’s almost cosmic horror. So the old parasites from the original just eat brains and reproduce like a normal parasite. This one is fucking interstellar. It has to get off planet and out into space. That means the main parasite -the hive mind- has to operate in several stages. There’s the hive mind itself, which takes a host and alters its biological chemistry, mutating the host to start producing it’s secondary function. The secondary function is to add minds to its collective. It does this by impregnating a secondary host with worm like parasites which are an extension of its consciousness. These are exactly like the worms from the original Night of the Creeps. They enter through the mouth and take over the host’s brain. Unlike the original, they don’t eat the brain, they simply zombify the host, using it to collect new secondary hosts, and food for biomass. The primary host then begins to collect biomass by either eating, or reabsorbing secondary hosts, as sort of a third stage. This leads us to the fourth and final stage, collecting enough biomass to expel itself into space.

That, is some fucking fascinating National Geographic shit right there. James Gunn didn’t just shlock out some lame B movie excuse for brain eating zombie parasites. He created a whole damn system of parasitism. And that’s what truly sets this apart from Night of the Creeps. This might have been intentionally silly, it might have gone for all the feel of the ‘New B,’ but it was actually pretty serious horror. Gunn could have, in all honesty, made this a seriously dark horror movie. This could have easily matched John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). He chose not to. He wanted to make the ‘New B’ for the new millennia.

Listen, this movie deserves WAY more credit than it gets. It only barely pushed itself out of cult status back when it came out, and it’s better than that.

Give it a shot!

Thank you for you continuing support!  You can see more of my great horror reviews like this on horror.media.
https://horror.media/authors/reed-alexander

You can also pick of a copy of my new novella “Inhuman Error,” coauthored with James Lief.  Check out the sample below!  Pre-orders are on sale for only $2+tax!
https://horror.media/sample-inhuman-error-first-of-the-upd-series-by-james-lief-and-reed-alexander-2019

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A Rough Taxonomy of Evil Clowns (Part Two)

In my last post, I offered a rough taxonomy of cinematic evil clowns. I did not, of course, offer an exhaustive list of examples; although such a list would make a great coffee table book. It’s worth noting that film and television aren’t the only place that you’ll find these jolly gargoyles; they are also frequent visitors to the world of print.

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Michelle Lane on Vampires

Michelle Lane’s debut novel Invisible Chains dropped this summer from Haverhill House Publishing. It’s a story about vampires, so we’re going to talk to her about those bloodsuckers. Lane has also published several short stories and holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her specialty is writing dark fiction about women of color dealing with personal monsters and the creatures that lurk in our nightmares.

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A Rough Taxonomy of Evil Clowns (Part One)

Friday marked the release of It Chapter Two, the second half of the most recent adaptation of Stephen King’s epic, genre-defining 1986 novel. As I’ve frequently mentioned here, I’m a King fanatic from way back; I first read It when I was younger than the kids portrayed in it, and while the Dark Tower series is best considered King’s magnum opus, It is on my short list of all-time favorite horror novels and ranks higher in my affections than any of the Dark Tower books considered individually.

Continue reading A Rough Taxonomy of Evil Clowns (Part One)
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Book One of the UPD Series “Inhuman Error” Now Available

Inhuman Error by James Lief and Reed Alexander, the first book in the Unnatural Perpetrator Department series is available in PDF, MOBI and Paperback now! This series while pioneered by James and Reed will be open to any author who wants to dip their toes into the setting, a sort of open license for creating within this world.

Continue reading Book One of the UPD Series “Inhuman Error” Now Available
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Stars

“There’s something I have to tell you,” she said.

Junior high – lunch period, hiding in the school library. Surrounded by the smell of aging pages and the warmth of the heating system as it breathed its hot breath and kept the gripping frost at bay. I hid there because it was a reprieve from forced and miserable conversation, from anxiety with tearing teeth and horns, from the noise and haste. A reprieve – except when she was there.

“I wasn’t sure who else to tell,” she said.

Her name was B., B. for broken, B. for bruised.  Long dirty hair, ripped clothes in black on black on black. Wide eyes that would have been beautiful but for her cracked and empty thousand-yard stare. I loved to read, especially horror; she loved to watch movies, especially horror, most especially the gut-churning gorefests I wouldn’t grow to stomach, let alone love, for another couple of years.

“It’s a secret,” she said, her voice pitched just above a whisper. “You can’t tell anyone.”

I didn’t want to be B.‘s friend. I certainly didn’t want to be her confidante. In those days, I wanted little more than to be invisible, to be left alone to read during the one hour of solace I could eke out each hellish day. To be able to disappear inside of the horror novels that I consumed so voraciously. I’d made B.‘s acquaintance in home economics, when we’d been assigned pancake-making duties together. I was awkward and polite. She was lonely. Lonely and cracked somewhere deep inside.

“The thing is,” B. said, and her stare was a long steel fork that held me, a bleeding piece of meat, in place. “I’m a vampire. Like, a real vampire.”

I was the one she went to when the tattoo she gave herself became infected. She had kept her left hand wrapped in a bandage for a few days; when she peeled it back and showed me her handiwork, it broke my heart. B. had tried to give herself a pentagram tattoo – I say “tried” because out of some combination of ignorance and the misapplication of what little knowledge she did have, she had instead inked a small Star of David. The pentagram, for the uninitiated, looks like this:

…and is a widely used symbol in the occult. Satanists, Wiccans, and many others use some variant of this symbol, either two-points-up (“inverted”) or two-points-down.

This, on the other hand, is the Star of David:

…which has nothing whatsoever to do with witchcraft or Satanism. It’s the oldest and most widely-recognized symbol of Judaism. B., needless to say, did not intend to give herself the Star of David, and yet there it was, drilled into the pale flesh of her hand with black ink and a sewing needle. Her knowledge of religious symbolism may have been lacking, but I couldn’t fault her for cowardice or lack of commitment. By the time she showed it to me the skin had swollen taut and turned an angry, dangerous red. I was quiet but emphatic in my advice: she needed to go to the emergency room immediately. It was the right call, and she knew it. I think she just needed to hear someone else say it.

After that, it felt like I couldn’t shake her. It was a month or two later that she shared her secret with me. I thought she might have been joking, but I’m glad I didn’t force an awkward laugh. She wasn’t much for joking, and I realized moments after she told me that she wasn’t kidding, and either believed what she was telling me or – at the very least – thought I would believe her. I bumbled my way through some sort of tepid response; “well isn’t that interesting” being the upshot. I found a different place to read, even more secluded than the library, and I didn’t see much of B. after that.  I hope things worked out for the best for her, but my hope is tempered by the knowledge that her life sprang from a particularly rocky patch of ground and was watered by the herbicide of poverty beneath the burning, punishing wormwood sun of suburban despair. Star of David or pentagram, B.’s attempt to mark herself as different was unnecessary in a place where difference was viciously focused upon. There weren’t a lot of Jews where I grew up; there weren’t a lot of Wiccans or Satanists, either. If I could say anything to B. – if I could re-live that moment – I would tell her that it doesn’t matter which kind of stars illuminate the darkness of our lives. Only that they do.

Horror fandom has a way of connecting people who might otherwise have a hard time fitting in; misfits, dissenters, morbid dreamers, and those who have lived through crucibles of pain that would kill a normal human. We should embrace a sort of cemetery solidarity, a comradeship of outcasts and contemplators of darkness. In the darkness that permeates life sometimes, perhaps we can be light – stars in the night, if you will – for each other.

Editor’s note: As a Jew, I am always flabbergasted by the amount of times people connect the Star of David with Satanism and Witchcraft.