Runtime: 77 minutes
Director: Elza Kephart
Writer: Elza Kephart and Patricia Gomez
Stars: Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani, Hanneke Talbot, Jessica B. Hill, Kenny Wong and Erica Anderson
By Harris Dang
The thing about good horror movies that makes them stand out of the proverbial landfill of mediocrity is that the filmmakers know that the stories need more than just gore and jump scares to satiate audiences. Filmmakers know that you need a striking premise and solid ideas behind the tropes of horror in order to make a standout film; ideas that are reflective of factors of life that audiences are either familiar with or have a chance to be illuminated by something they are unfamiliar with.
In the case of the horror comedy “Slaxx” (2020) by Elza Kephart, we certainly have those in check. A premise that involves killer pants that eat people sounds entertainingly ridiculous. However, the ideas behind it including exploitation of labour laws, views in toxic workplace practices and corporate greed lend the film some much-needed substance. All under the scant runtime of seventy-seven minutes, “Slaxx” (2020) delivers exactly what it says on the label.
The film takes place in a single location at a chain clothing store (barring some flashbacks) within a single night. It follows the story of Libby (Romane Denis), a young go-getter who is an admirer of the chain clothing brand CCC and is enthusiastic about working her first shift for the chain since it is the launch of the newest line of jeans called the Super Shapers.
“Slaxx” (2020) delivers exactly what it says on the label.”
She is treated like dirt by her co-workers who are clearly occupied with their own selfish means and her boss Craig (Brett Donahue), the store manager of CCC, does whatever he can to get her into shape while trying to impress in order to usurp the position of regional manager. However, the work shift is about to turn into absolute pants when the co-workers disappear one by one, leading Libby to believe that the jeans are the one that are behind their absences.
“Slaxx” (2020) follows the horror tradition of showcasing the murderous intent in inanimate objects. Audiences were given wonderfully bonkers sights of killer pianos, killer sofas, killer dolls, killer dresses; just about anything can be seen as monstrous creatures that will do nothing but kill. Now we have the concept of killer jeans who eat humans for sustenance.
On that simple note, Kephart delivers the requisite blood and gore with aplomb; opting for practical effects that bring on the splatter as well as the grisly gore and offal. The line of jeans is surprisingly adept at showing menace and Kephart does a good job in balancing the tension and humour in her portrayal of the sentient creatures. Again, they are shown through the use of practical effects and puppeteering (via crew members in green costumes).
Speaking of humour, the script by Kephart and Patricia Gomez targets social media, capitalism, greed, cultural appropriation and exploitation (not the way that you think) to cumulative effect. The film reaches inspired heights when the monstrous jeans dance to Hindi music like they are participating in a dance number. The production design is simple yet effective; especially in the store setting which showcases the sterility of how lacking companies are in individuality and personality.
“Slaxx” (2020) is an enjoyable horror comedy that is a relaxed fit for horror fans thanks to its inspired premise, sharp satirical humour and its fun lashings of blood and gore.”
As for the cast, they play their roles with both a hint of self-awareness and sincerity that adds fun to the experience. Denis plays the naivety of Libby well while Donahue brings out the unhinged demeanour of Craig in an entertaining way. The supporting cast of Sehar Bhojani, Hanneke Talbot, Jessica B. Hill, Kenny Wong and Erica Anderson play their roles to the hilt with their exaggerated portrayals as they reach levels of pantomime that is greatly appreciated.
As for its flaws, the film does become a bit sanctimonious with its message that may feel quite jarring; considering the tone shifts of horror and humour involved. In addition, the seams of the low budget intermittently show as the sets feel a bit repetitive.
Overall, “Slaxx” (2020) is an enjoyable horror comedy that is a relaxed fit for horror fans thanks to its inspired premise, sharp satirical humour and its fun lashings of blood and gore. The film is absolute pants and that is a good thing! Recommended.
“Slaxx” (2020) is currently streaming on Shudder.