As I was fighting to stay awake through Silent Hill: Revelation last night, I was wondering where the fun was. Why was I being served this as entertainment? And then I remembered… it’s partially my fault.
I mean, every community has its upsides and downsides. Do you want to know what the downside to being a horror fan is? We bitch and moan about how we’re never given anything original, fresh or inventive. That’s not true. We’re typically given a few great wide releases each year. Do you want to know why we’re not given more than that? Because we don’t go. Not until it’s too late, anyway. Sure, there are lots of variables. Perhaps a film doesn’t have the best or most extensive P&A campaign. Or it’s opening on a crowded weekend. Or the economy’s bad (even though the entire success of the Paranormal Activity franchise occurred after the bottom fell out). Whatever the excuse may be at the moment, it’s almost a constant. Remember how John Carpenter’s The Thing tanked in 1982? We’ve been dodging gifts for decades. And in this day and age, we can be savvier than that.
Case in point? James Gunn’s Slither. Most of you have probably seen it by now, but I bet hardly any of you saw it in a theater. It opened to a $3.88 million weekend in early 2006. Its domestic gross topped out at $7.8 million. In a world where some of the worst – and most boring – horror films can make $30 or $40 million on an opening weekend, one of the best horror comedies of the decade made only a fraction of that during its entire run. Don’t worry, I’m not pointing the finger just at you. I wasn’t there either (I lamely caught up with it on DVD in December of that year).
Slither has almost everything you could ask for. It’s gross. It’s funny. The characters go beyond being merely likable and relatable and into legitimately compelling territory. Sure, Elizabeth Banks extolling the virtues of marriage to a monstrous Michael Rooker is funny, but it’s also played so straight that it’s almost wrenching. The narrative is perfectly paced, the tone perfectly pitched (incredibly hard for this sort of thing) and it has a wide variety of creatures (including the ever-popular zombie) at its disposal. More than anything else, it’s fun.
And it’s now a classic, albeit one that most of us will never get to see on the big screen. Almost every wide-release horror film that year performed better including The Omen remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The Grudge 2, Pulse and the f*cking Black Christmas remake.* Are you more likely to watch any of those this Halloween than the misadventures of Grant Grant?
We give ourselves tons of excuses for our oversights when we should be owning up to the fact that we can do better. We can demand better. We can have the self control to skip sh*tty movies and wait for good ones. In the case of Slither, if you haven’t seen it you can fix that problem right now. It’s available to rent right here for a fair price. And if you’ve got Netlfix Instant, it’s on there as well.
*To be fair, Hostel, The Descent and Pan’s Labyrinth (the latter of which had some awards momentum) did well in 2006 and those are actually good movies. Still, why do you think we so often miss the good stuff in theaters?