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April 04 2006

(SPOILER) Was Slither Purposefully Sinked? Did word of mouth through the Internet ruin the chances of Slither's success, because small minds didn't like members of the production staff? "..Sw-what?"

Despite the approval of the professional critics, the film suffered from outspoken negative word-of-mouth from the internet message board community, many members of which are attempting to claim credit for "sinking" the film. Among the complaints voiced by genre fans were the film's similarity to Night of the Creeps, as well as their personal dislike for the careers of various members of the production crew.


The overall critic rating according to Rotten Tomatoes is 86%. So the critics were raving, over a horror comedy. That's rather rare, if not unprecendented. And yet its response is lackluster. So, if whoever wrote wikipedia up is correct, where's the smashmouth? Who's the pied piper with the forked tongue convincing people that Slither isn't worth the popcorn?

Ebert and Roeper both gave it a thumbs down, wonder who the 'professional critics' are ..
It's called marketing - I saw exactlly 1 TV ad for Slither and really nothing about the ad made me want to see the film. Just the opposite of Ice Age 2 which was had an ad on every show I watched, and it was always funny.
The link to Rotten Tomatoes above lists a vast number of favorable reviews. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave a favorable review, and he's Ebert's contemporary.
Random rumours on the internet would not impact a box office significantly. Put simply, what killed Slither was Ice Age 2 (which opened much, much bigger than anybody believed it could). Plus, it had nowhere near the advertising budget of IA2 I suspect.
I didn't see any TV ads for Slither. I think the poster is brilliant. I saw people stop and look and talk about the street displays ("Is that a movie?), but that's not enough. I doubt the Internet had much to do with the boxoffice.
I can't help but remember that Wikipedia is not the bastion of truth that most people think it is. But seeing as I can't actually get to the site right now, I can't check the validity of the claim.

Oh now I can. I think the claim is rubbish. I haven't seen any rumblings of a backlash.

the film suffered from outspoken negative word-of-mouth from the internet message board community, many members of which are attempting to claim credit for "sinking" the film


That's just nonsense. The internet message board community? That's like oh a rough guess over 30 million people posting at umpteen trillion message boards that cover a myriad of subjects. If I take this to the ridiculous conclusion: people at Oprah Winfrey, low fat cooking, John Steinbeck, Liverpool F.C. and early Asian art form message boards are taking responsibility for the poor box office performance.

I don't think so.
Ebert's review wasn't EXTREMELY negative either, despite the 2 stars and thumb's down. Basically he said that if this is your kind of movie you will know it, and like it.
Gossi I agree Ice Age 2 dominated the theatres, though I did see a lot of previews for Slither (could be the city supporting local talent?). Ice Age 2 really hits almost all ages where as Slither's market is much smaller and more defined.
Slither actually had ads the past two weeks during LOST (granted, a genre show that might attract folks who would like Slither). The ads did not make me WANT to see the film though - the fact that Nathan was in it did. I liked Nathan. I did not like the film.

[ edited by SoddingNancyTribe on 2006-04-04 02:05 ]
I've seen a fair amount of TV ads for Slither, but they are just of people screaming and of slimy slug things. Not that interesting-looking. And you can't tell at all that it's a comedy.

There were also ads on AIM which were highly annoying because you couldn't turn them off. I had to mute my computer so I didn't have to listen the the Slither preview over and over.

So I don't know if it's the amount of advertising as much as the quality.
I actually saw more than a few commercials for 'Slither' on TV over the past couple weeks. You just had to be watching networks and shows that have the demos that they thought would go see the movie.

And as far as bad word of mouth on internet message boards, I didn't see any of it as I surfed around the various movie news sites. I can say that CHUD.com was huge supporter of the movie and they were very dissapointed that it didn't do better.

chud link 1 and chud link 2

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2006-04-03 23:48 ]
I think the first time I saw an ad for Slither was last Wednesday, which definitely isn't far enough in advance to the opening. People need a couple weeks for something to set in before they see a movie. Two days is really short notice. I believe I heard radio ads before I saw any tv ads. I don't plan on seeing it, but it had wonderful radio ads, which is a lot to say for a movie. I guess I should've bought a ticket for Slither and gone to see Ice Age. I didn't think it would make that much the first weekend. I also thought Slither would open at least in the top 5. Sigh.
There have been plenty of TV ads for Slither, but I think Ice Age 2 got most of the business because it's a family film. If we keep the buzz going on Slither, people will find it.
I saw far more ads for Slither than I saw for Ice Age 2, but the ads for Slither didn't appeal to me at all, despite Nathan's appearance in them. I don't think it was the number of ads or the timing that was the issue.
If there had been a campaign among message boards to "sink" Slither, a campaign big enough to make a difference at the box office, wouldn't one of us have run across it at some point? Besides, Slither still did well enough to beat Basic Instinct 2, which had a very visible publicity campaign.

Speaking of publicity, there's ads (paid blurbs and such) and there's publicity (people chatting on talk shows, entertainment news, etc.). Ads, as others said earlier, may not have told people what Slither was about (that is, no mention of the comedy aspect), but there was at least some awareness that a film named Slither existed. OTOH, Slither's publicity seemed pretty limited to newspapers, the Internet, and to Canadian outlets, as far as I could tell (which was just by monitoring reports here on the black, I admit). Ray Romano and John Leguizamo were on every chat show there is, and even Sharon Stone was on all the "ET/Access Hollywood"-type shows. Slither didn't get that same exposure, so the only people who knew about it, IMO, were horror fans and people who get their entertainment news from genre sites on the Internet. (At least Nathan and Alan were on Best Week Ever when Serenity opened!) IMO again, I would bet that these facts add up to about $4million at the boxoffice, since I'm also betting a lot of the same group wait for DVD.

A long rant, but what I'm saying is, I don't think there was a conspiracy, just low ad/publicity exposure for a specialized product that was up against a widely-advertised/publicized picture with a track record and appeal across the board (kids, families, etc.).

BTW, how did the film do in Canada? Is that information calculated separately from the American boxoffice returns?
I've just seen it, and it's funny, but I don't think it needs a conspiracy to not blow away the box office. It's an amusing spoof, but not really block buster material.
Ebert's review wasn't EXTREMELY negative either, despite the 2 stars and thumb's down. Basically he said that if this is your kind of movie you will know it, and like it.


This is precisely why I like Roger Ebert so much. He does admit to his personal tastes which is perfectly acceptable, but he knows better than to assume just because he likes or doesn't like something, that isn't an objective accessment. He doesn't pass off his opinion as fact, which so many lesser critics do. He describes the film without giving away the ending, and whets the palette of the reader.

He's like a food critic: "I went to a restaurant. If you've had Italian food before, and expect a certain level of traditional flair, this place might not be for you. If you actually enjoy a lot of tobasco sauce in your linguini, then you've found heaven. Enjoy!"
I've seen plenty of ads for Slither (for a few weeks now) and my other half and I both laugh out loud each time they're on - it looks just like the critic quotes they're showing along side the commercials - deliciously creepy, funny and gross. Of course, it's my kind of movie, obviously, not everybody's. Haven't seen it yet, plan to though. Of course Ice Age 2 was going to trounce anything it stood up against. For me, that goes without saying. Poor timing for Slither, unfortunately, although would that really be the same audience?

I agree with everyone else, don't think any online commentary was likely to make or break the movie. And, as someone else mentioned, wouldn't we have heard of this "alleged" chatter? Also, not sure what the budget was, but I'm sure it was nowhere near IA 2s, so I wonder what Slither would need to make a tidy profit?

[ edited by Grace on 2006-04-04 01:17 ]
I've seen lots of ads on television for Slither. If it weren't for Nathan, I wouldn't have any interest in the film based on the ads. I doubt any negative campaigning on the 'net, if such campaigning actually took place, had any impact at all. Its genre film that appeals to a niche market - many members of whom probably have kids who wanted to see Ice Age. Heck, I'm part of that niche market, don't have any kids, and I went to see Ice Age. For the record, I didn't think it was as good as the first one.
Canada is considered part of the North American market, so no separate data from us.
I saw it at a 4:00 p.m. showing on Saturday where there were a bunch of us browncoats and 7 others in the audience. So, I can't speak to how well it was doing up here.
Well, Ebert's reviews are usually too noncommittal for me (he's a terrific writer, and he often tells interesting stories, just not necessarily about the movie in question; this one is more about the star-rating system his paper demands than about SLITHER) but this one made me wonder if he's seen the same film I did. If he did, he must have gone off on his personal tangent right after the opening scene -- because if he got any of the film's black humor and its tongue-in-cheek approach to horror films, his review surely doesn't show it.
I'm wondering whether the person who edited the wikipedia entry did so on Saturday.

It may no longer be AFD but after all the hoo ha when Browncoats thought Nathan had been badly treated by a comics guy the writer will have known they'd get a few people talking.
I dunno, I saw a lot of ads for Slither and I'm presumably their demographic... I think the thing is that it's a pretty small wide-release (not as terrible as foreign films get though! -_-), people forget it ever came out since it's been a slow burn publicity thing where I've heard a ton about the movie ever since a couple months ago when Jenna Fischer from The Office would keep announcing promotional screenings and articles, etc.

I'm still surprised that Ice Age II got 70 million though or such a huge release...
There aren't nearly enough people who care about what's written on message boards to seriously effect the box office of a film. I think that the masses on the internet often think they have more power than they do.

That being said, I've seen only positive buzz on the few message boards I go to. Where did this conspiracy theory come from?
I put a blurb in the wikipedia entry's discussion page, pretty much calling whoever said that on the carpet. If he can prove the statement, fine. I don't think he can.
Thanks for the Canada report, Lioness. And I agree with you, ZachsMind, I don't think the wiki author will be able to prove a thing. I'm glad you challenged him or her!
I agree that if this conspiracy was big enough to kill the film some folk here might have heard of it before now. I'm sure there are people on line who'd love to take the credit for just about everything that happens. It doesn't mean they are responsible for anything though.

I don't see that "Slither" was really hit by "Ice Age 2", they seemed to be going for a very different demographic to me. It also may reflect the TV I watch but I caught plenty of ads for "Slither". They weren't particularly good ads in my opinion but they were out there.
I'm in Vancouver and was surprised that when I went to the 7:00pm showing on Saturday night, it was like, me and my friends, another group of 7 or 8, maybe 5 or 6 couples and that was it. Less than 30 people in the theatre.

Adding to that, though, is that it was showing at the crappy movie theatre (though I notice it was playing at the nice multiplexes in the 'burbs) which is practically becoming a 2nd run theatre.

I think I just thought there would be more people who actually worked on the movie there. I mean, they had a preview screening last Friday, but you'd think they'd want to show their friends and family. I loved it. I thought it was hilarious. And I'm totally shocked that it didn't open huge.
SLiTHER had a built-in audience and that audience is just big enough to garner a 7th place opening weekend.

Also, a good percentage of that audience is under 17, which means that they have to find sneakier ways to see it, such as, I dunno, buying a ticket for another G or PG-rated movie playing around the same time.

There is no conspiracy, just that people would rather see Queen Latifah starring as a mammoth (genius casting) than see yucky, bloody, gooey 'ness.
There aren't nearly enough people who care about what's written on message boards to seriously effect the box office of a film. I think that the masses on the internet often think they have more power than they do.

I'm sure that there are many of us posters and plenty more lurkers who were thinking this too, so a big thanks to MindPieces for saying it out loud. Sometimes this echo chamber (just so we're clear, I'm referring to the 'net in general) gets a bit too thick and deafening. Also, good job ZachsMind on calling out this MiniTrue revisionist and his or her dubious claim.

Switching gears now, but hey dshea, too bad you weren't able to make it to the early Friday evening show (though you're spot on about Granville 7; should've been at the Paramount instead), as it was a pretty good turnout, I'd guess maybe 70% full. The Vancouver Browncoats were out in force that night to cheer on our captain and enjoy a splendid afterparty shindig. Check it out sometime if you like, we're good folks (as one of the assistant organizers says, "We don't bite; we nibble.").


I saw the ads for "Slither" and wasn't even looking for them. Ads are simply not enough to get people to movies. Movies are expensive, so most people pick and choose a small handful they might venture out to see in the year. With the likes of "The Da Vinci Code," "X-Men: The Last Stand," and "Superman Returns" coming out, few people are going to go see an "R" rated unknown that is likely to be just another slimy horror flick. Ice Age 2 is also a "family film," which Slither is not. People are more likely to spend money on taking their kids to the movies for a nice day out than on a movie where the F-bomb is choreographed with the muck and gore.
Isn't this basically what people were saying about Serenity?
few people are going to go see an "R" rated unknown that is likely to be just another slimy horror flick.

Actually I think had it been an out and out horror movie and marketed as such it would have done better. Low budget horror movies have actually been doing quite well recently.
Pretty specialized genre. There's b movie horror and then there's gross out b movie horror. The ads played up the humor and gross out elements. I remember when Cabin Fever (an even grosser film) came out the ads played up the sex and horror, and that opened to about 8 million.

[ edited by smog on 2006-04-04 06:28 ]
I'm contemplating going to see Slither after work Tuesday night. Again, I usually wait for DVD for these kinds of films, but tonight I drove by the movie house near where I work and if I hadn't had other plans I woulda done it tonight. Maybe I should wait and do it at the end of the week on my last work night. Not sure why. Maybe I like to root for the underdog.

I didn't see Ice Age 1. Have little desire to rent the DVD. I don't plan to see Ice Age 2. I'm holding out for the sequel to The Incredibles. Finding Nemo was nice. Ice Age? Doesn't prick my thumbs.

Commercials don't often affect my buying patterns, at least not on a conscious level. I'm disturbingly aware that commercials are often designed to stick in your head and echo back when you go shopping. Annoying jingles are annoying because the fact they annoy you sticks in your head longer. They only have thirty seconds to grab you.

Frankly I'm surprised that the commercial concept still works at all. I've seen no conclusive proof that commercials improve sales. Name recognition maybe is all it helps, but does anyone actually seriously purchase anything or go to anything based on the commercial?

There's a commercial where this guy shows his friend he built into his apartment a hideaway fridge. He pushes a button and his fridge full of beer spins around and is replaced by a table and chairs. Then the camera pans to the other apartment where four other guys react to this magic fridge full of beer suddenly appearing in their apartment. I think it's funny. I laugh every time I see that commercial, but it doesn't cause me to go buy Bud Light. Admittedly, I'm creeped out that I remember the name of the brand. There's been other commercials I've seen where I loved it, but I couldn't tell you necessarily what the commercial was barking for.

Without commercials, we'd have no free tv. You'd have to pay for every program that you watch. That'd be the ultimate Nielsen rating. You money would be your vote. If programs like Firefly were able to go direct to DVD and be successful, that'd be the end I fear of commercial television. As terrible as commercial television can be sometimes, I've lived my whole life with it there. Only a few decades before my birth, entire programs were sponsored by corporate entities, and the corporate entity had direct reactionary input on what the creative spirit could engineer for the broadcast signal. Less than a century ago there was no television at all, but throughout my life there has been commercial television, which people can see for free, and they tolerate the commercials. Just as I have never known a world in which we had not touched the moon, I have never known a world without commercial television. I don't know if I'd like to wake up tomorrow and discover that television no longer exists. As annoying as it is sometimes, I still like TV and I still have hope in a resurgence of creative spirit on television.

That corporate input in the creative spirit of television is still there in more indirect ways, and in more detrimental ways than positive ones. I fear ultimately that's what killed Firefly. If FOX had figured out how to sell Firefly to the corporations, you bet your ass it'd still be on the air, but Whedon's Blue Sun concept was a direct middle finger to corporate advertising. Why would any corporate entity support something that was biting it?

Serenity was wonderful entertainment, objectively speaking. I'm sure the same can be said about Slither. However, in thirty seconds, how could you possibly convince the great unwashed out there of that simple fact? How can one do it in such a way as to stick in the craw of a listener or viewer and convince them to give it a try? Buy the DVD. Buy a ticket. Go see it. I have heard people diss advertising executives and give them a hard time, even demonize them.

You got thirty seconds to grab them. That's all you get. You gotta give your best in that thirty seconds. If it's even possible to make a commercial successful, that's gotta be the toughest of jobs to accomplish. I only wish they wouldn't resort to annoying you in order to force you to remember. Behind every annoying commercial, is a desperate person trying to make that thirty seconds count.
Something that was lacking and this is true for Serenitytoo, is that none of the actors appeared on any talkshows to promote the film. One thing that this movie has is the charismatic cast which could draw in the audience. It could be that actors are not big enough stars, but I have feeling Universal didn't even try to push them on. I don't want to start another Uni bashing thread, but thats just the way it seems to me.
I've seen no conclusive proof that commercials improve sales.

You mean other than the fact that companies continue to spend millions on adverts. I think if their market research showed it didn't have any impact they'd have stopped.

For me ads for films tell me such and such a film is opening near me. I don't recall ever seeing a movie merely on the basis of an ad but I do remember first seeing the posters for "Reservoir Dogs" and being sufficiently intrigued to seek out reviews and then going to see it. Without the ads I'd probably never have even noticed it.
I've beaten this drum many times here, there and everywhere, but the real villain in all this is the release patterns. It's plain absurd to expect movies that are not pre-sold in some way (big stars, well known property, huge publicity push, etc.) to find millions of viewers in today's fragmented entertainment landscape. In a way, it's the very idea that some pathetic internet dweeb can even claim credit, however inanely, for destroying a film a mere 24 hours after it's release demonstrates the problem.

I was just listening to an old NPR interview with the exec behind "March of the Penguins" and he talked about how the movie first opened in just 400 art house theaters nationwide and how that might just as easily have been the end of it, but very gradually as theaters filled up (but with numbers that would have been considered pathetic if the movie had opened in 2000 theaters) and slowly grew -- eventually far beyond even his own wildest expectation.

If studios want to release movies like "Slither" and "Serenity" without spending the big bucks and PR/publicity work neccessary to get the word out to the mainstream, this is the probably the only way to give a non-star-driven movie non-high-concept movie half a chance of succeeding with a mass audience.

Even "The Forty Year Old Virgin" had to have a pretty large pre-publicity campaign, despite having a title that basically sold the film to a good chunk of the audience.
I didn't see Ice Age 1. Have little desire to rent the DVD. I don't plan to see Ice Age 2. I'm holding out for the sequel to The Incredibles. Finding Nemo was nice. Ice Age? Doesn't prick my thumbs.


You're missing out. The first Ice Age was, and still is, one of my favorite CGI movies. It's comedy is more slapstick (especially the 'scrat moments'), but it works better, I'd say, than the latest batch of Pixar movies, which, to me, were never 'laugh out loud' funny, just very charming. Haven't seen Ice Age 2 yet, but I'm sure to see it in the theatre, possibly even more than once (since pretty much all my friends are looking forward to it as well).

As for Slither: obviously the conspiracy thing is nonsense, and as for it not doing as well as hoped? It could be the marketing (although I remember reading good stories about the marketing here on the black before the numbers came in), it could be Ice Age 2 (which I think is very true. Not a lot of people go see two movies in one week - and a lot of people went to see Ice Age), but frankly I don't care as much with Slither as I did with Serenity, and this thread reminds me a whole lot of the old Serenity box office threads here on whedonesque ;-).

I do agree with what bobster said above: it is absurd to expect movies with a small marketing budget and little pre-known status to do a huge opening weekend. But I don't think that'll change much in the years to come.
I saw "Ice Age 2" this weekend and while I enjoyed it, it had nowhere near the charm and appeal of the first movie. I did love Queen Latifah in it though!!!

Yesterday I saw "Slither" and enjoyed it quite a bit. I can't decide whether or not I would have enjoyed it as much if another person had been in the lead, but luckily I don't have to decide that. I have not seen "Night of the Creeps," but I was blown away by the number of unusual devices and plot twists the movie had. I commented to my viewing partner that the guy who made "Sliter" managed to get across that it was, in fact, a horror-comedy which was something Eli was not able to do well enough with "Cabin Fever."

I can't believe I am saying this, but I think Ebert got it right- if this kind of movie is your thing, you will love it and if it's not, you simply won't!
The internet message boards responsible...what a pile of nonsense. The vast majority of the population of the US, let alone the world, has no clue what goes on on internet movie message boards! And I did see plenty of Slither trailers, more than Ice Age 2, so it depends on what channels you watch I suppose.

The thing is, horror movies, even cheap ones, have been performing rather well last few years (even that dreadful Fog remake) but they were all more about suspense and/or ghost like scares. More in the direction (style-wise at least) of the Japanese horror movies, or at least of the US remakes of those movies. Slither is looking back at the old gross-out-but-funny horror of the late 70's/80's. I just don't think that's 'in' right now for the genre.

Hey I love the old Evil Dead movies, but if it wasn't for Nathan, I wouldn't really have looked twice at the Slither trailers myself, I have to confess.
But, OzLady, how can "this kind of movie be my thing"? I see a lot of horror, mostly because I have to -- it's definitely not my kind of thing. SLITHER, I enjoyed, but it reminded me more of the comical horror in BUFFY or ANGEL than the things you usually see at the movies.

I hate it when a reviewer damns something with this kind of faint praise instead of taking a clear position.
I think word of mouth has alot to do with ultimately deciding a film's fate at the boxoffice. My 18 year old son saw "Slither" this weekend with some of his peers (the targeted demographic, I believe)and their opinion: "it sucked". They were disappointed because they usually enjoy that type of irreverent satire. If internet message boards had anything to do with sinking the film, it would probably be more like my son's casual opinion being expressed across a gazillion 'myspace' exchanges than any organized campaign to hurt the flim.
I'd really curious to know what they thought "sucked" -- not scary enough? Not funny enough? (I understand that was Ebert and Roeper's complaint on the show. I'm a fairly tough audience and laughed plenty but, as recounted above, I was a bit tipsy.)
I remember when Cabin Fever (an even grosser film) came out the ads played up the sex and horror, and that opened to about 8 million.


I've got Cabin Fever on DVD and love it. Its very funny and gross but the sex scenes aren't really that big in the movie. The rest of the nudity/sex is for creep-out bloody factor.
Hrm, I never get why Americans respect Ebert so much. He's never really said or written anything to turn my head, and even makes a lot of stupid comments with respect to certain films. I'm wondering if it is a cultural thing, maybe I was spoiled with good old Bill Collins.
Back to the original link, the Wikipedia reference to 'Reception' that instigated this thread has been edited and removed. It now has been altered to a one or two sentence paragraph that notes critical acclaim compared to lackluster box office. The accusation that any 'word of mouth' over the Internet had more than the usual average affect has been removed. Hooray for mediocrity.
I suggest that people read this Hollywood Reporter article as to why Slither did not do well at the box office.
Thanks for the link Simon. I hadn't realised that "Slither"'s budget was that high. No wonder the producers are disappointed with the box office. I thought the dig at the horror fans was a little unfair. I suspect the online horror fans did go, it's just for a film to be a hit it has to bring in a more general audience and I think they're the ones who are attracted to the remakes as they know what they're getting then which makes them an easier sell.
That was a very good analysis, Simon. Very interesting to see the producers to talk about what they think might have happened!
I find it most depressing that in Simon's linked article the producers seem to think it's because Slither was different that it didn't do well.

Once again proving that despite what people say, the great unwashed masses don't really want originality. They want films that fit into nice, easily categorised packages, preferably with a neat little bow on top.
Thanks for the link, Simon. (And so much for "if this is your kind of thing, you'll love it". It can hardly be different _and_ fall under the "your kind of thing" header, now, can it? *s*)

Oddly enough, the folks who have said it best so far are the US Conference of Catholic Bishops: "Directed by James Gunn, tongue firmly planted in cheek, the film's affectionate nods to B-horror movies like 'Dawn of the Dead', wry flashes of twisted humor and clever social commentary are eclipsed by its pervasive vulgar, nauseating and grisly elements."

It _is_ an entertaining flick, but in the end, it leans a bit towards the gorefest without being really scary, and the irony gets buried under that.
Once again proving that despite what people say, the great unwashed masses don't really want originality. They want films that fit into nice, easily categorised packages, preferably with a neat little bow on top.


Uh, which part of Slither looked like originality? After seeing the first commercial, I was surprised it wasn't this Saturday's offering of the SciFi Channel's monster-of-the-week made-for-TV movie.

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