23 May 2007


Recommended for colorful small-town creepiness and old-fashioned visual excess.

This is a film from first-time director James Gunn, a Troma Entertainment veteran who (among other things) wrote the screenplay for the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. I rented it partly to see what Nathan Fillion was like when he wasn't playing Malcom Reynolds, Captain of the Serenity. And in fact, he’s a lot like Mal, even when he’s the sheriff of Wheely, a little town someplace in the heartland.

Wheely is the kind of town where they welcome deer season with a beer fest, and where the police have a hand grenade in their arms locker (taken from someone who was going to use it to do a little trout fishing). The lonely hearts hang together at the karaoke bar, and the high school is named after Earl Bassett, one of the heroes of Tremors. These folks are average in an aggressively average, inbred way.

There are few surprises as far as the plot. Strange meteorite lands in woods, little slug-like thing crawls out, local is infected and proceeds to lay the foundation for general world domination. In that sense, you’ve seen it all before. What makes it lovable and different is the way the characters take things in stride. The way the local's lovely wife (Elizabeth Banks) still looks at him fondly when he’s more squid than human. ("You’re just sick, is all, honey...)

Since they went for the R rating, we also have the kind of language that’s appropriate to the situations, instead of the usual PG-13 stuff. So when the sheriff is confronted with a particularly horrific moment, he can express himself with great honesty: "Now that is some fucked-up shit."

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