It was John R.’s birthday back at the end of March, and to celebrate, I took him to a movie on Tuesday night.

Now I’ve known John since high school — we were debate partners (State Champions, in fact) and also went to college together. We’re best friends, and he’s one of the smartest guys I know, but I hardly get to spend much time with him these days. He has two boys, Isaac and Adam, and works at Cisco, so all that combines to keep him as busy as me. He does join in for the biweekly Tuesday night poker games from time to time, but it was good to be able to catch up.

After our sons were all asleep, John came over and we first went over to Red Rock Cafe on Castro. I was surprised to find (and didn’t recognize) a contractor working for my team, Emily, behind the counter. She had been working for us for a few weeks but out of context of seeing her at TiVo she looked like a different person.

We were able to drink hot beverages and warm chocolatey desserts, then headed over to the MV Century 16 for some pre-movie “House of the Dead” video game action that was a perfect mood-setter for Slither.

Slither is a horror comedy movie. It is very far from high art, but it was intelligently written, well-paced, genuinely funny when it wanted to be funny, and genuinely tense when it wanted to be tense. Nathan Fillion (Captain Mal Reynolds for Firefly fans) was very enjoyable to watch — maybe too many notes of that performance were similar to Mal, but a police captain in Virginia does have a lot in common with a starship captain in a frontier setting, right? No? Hell, I just like the character.

There is a line dividing homage and plagiarism, and I think this movie, while definitely derivative, managed to successfully stay on the homage side. I picked up on a number of nods to several different horror movies (there’s the beginnings of a list over at imdb), and the director has confirmed his intentions in an interview.

A raging debate concerns whether or not this movie is really a zombie film. (Forget about immigration or nuclear proliferation; here at Zeigen Inc. we focus on the true important matters of the day facing our society.) Certainly one should score the point that in this movie there are flesh-eating humans shambling around, converting others to their state. The writer/director here (James Gunn) was the screenwriter for the so-so 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. But after those two facts, the zombie points break down. These zombies can talk, and there are other differences I won’t disclose due to my anti-spoiler policy. I conclude Slither is not really a zombie film. But despite that grave point against it, and the serious case of false advertising one might therefore be able to make, I actually do recommend this film to horror movie fans, since it’s fun and well-made.

Also, if you do see it: Stay until after the credits are done.

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