Hollywood Gothique
The Archive

Wither Slither?

This Hollywood Reporter article by Borys Kit, entitled “Slither leaves gloomy trail at the box office,” seems to have been syndicated to several outlets — which is too bad, because it’s a total crock.

Basically, Kit tries to pinpoint the reason that the much-hyped horror comedy bombed at the box office and decides that it was because horror comedies don’t sell.

The article quotes Paul Brooks, president of the film’s production company, saying “It’s the first comedy-horror in a long time, and maybe the markeplace just isn’t ready…”

The article then goes on to cite TREMORS and EIGHT-LEGGED FREAKS as examples of horror-comedies that failed at the box office. Somehow, the mega-successful SCREAM franchise goes unmentioned in all this, as does its spin-off, the even more successful SCARY MOVIE franchise.

There really is little reason to think that combining horror and comedy is a hard sell; if anything the combination has been with us from the beginning of the sound era. Look back at Universal classics from the 1930s like the James Whale-directed THE INVISIBLE MAN and THE OLD DARK HOUSE, and you will find lots of laughs mixed in with the scares.

Further down, the article quotes an anonymous “Universal insider” to the effect that, “Nobody knew if there was an auidence for a horror-comedy. What this essentially proved is that there is no audience for horror-comedies.”

No, what it proves is that SLITHER is neither particularly funny nor scary, and it was victimized by a bad campaign that prevented the film from even fooling an opening weekend audience into wasting their money.

The early teaser trailer for the film quoted the titles of several classic horror films and bragged that they were all for sissies, implying that SLITHER was the real deal. This smug self-contratulator tone was annoying to say the least, and the fact that the film is intended to be funny only made it worse — it was as if the filmmakers were saying, “Hey, we’re scarier than all those other films, and we’re not even taking it seriously — we’re just joking around.”

The article also quotes the apparently ubiquitous director Eli Roth. When last we left Roth, he was dubiously asserting that low-budget horror films, like SAW II and his own HOSTEL were outperforming $200-million Hollywood productions. This time, he’s predicting, “In fifteen years, nobody is going to be watching ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN. Everybody is gong to be watching DVDs of SLITHER.”

Of course, it’s an easy prediction to make, because no one is going to be around in fifteen years calling on Roth to admit his error. Somehow, I suspect even Roth himself doesn’t believe this; more likely, he’s just happy to supply a good-sounding quote so that his name gets in print. Why else would entertainment reporters keeping citing him, when he says things that are just empty boosterism?