Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: Nyla Innuksuk
Writer: Ryan Kavan, Nyla Innuksuk
Cast: Tasiana Shirley, Nalajoss Ellsworth, Chelsea Prusky, Alexis Wolfe
By Tom Moore
With her feature directorial debut, “Slash/Back”, Nyla Innuksuk delivers an incredibly fun original sci-fi horror flick that manages to mostly work past its shortcomings through some good satirical bite and awesome alien horror.
The film takes viewers into Pangnirtung, locally known as Pang, an Inuit hamlet located in the Canadian territory of Nunavut to follow a tight friend group of female teens as they juggle some strained dynamics in their lives as well as the strange alien force that’s entered Pang. Aside from the beautifully captured landscape of Pang that’s shown through these big sweeping opening shots as well as Guy Godfree’s cinematography, the first thing that sticks out with “Slash/Back” is its comedic style. The drier approach to humor and the personalities of the characters can be a little off-putting as a first impression, but once you get settled in, the film and its characters become loveably hilarious.
The film’s central group of friends evoke that same kind of satirical vibe of a teenage friend group from something like “Mean Girls” and their snark is absolutely hilarious. They have this confidence to themselves that’s really fun and the issues they have within their group, which generally involves them butting heads or dealing with crushes, end up being solid story threads throughout that are either incredibly funny or worthwhile towards personal arcs. The chemistry within the group can be a total blast with Tasianna Shirley and Nalajoss Ellsworth giving memorable performances as feuding friends Maika and Uki, respectively. Overall, there’s such a good vibe with this group that worms your way into you heart and makes them coming together as the “Girls from Pang” to take on these grotesque aliens a total treat.
“Slash/Back’s” aliens have an amazing body-horror design that results in a tentacle-filled nightmare that makes your stomach turn when you see what them possessing people and animals looks like. Seriously, the creepy contortionist movements and flesh tearing look of these aliens is skin-crawling body horror at its finest and will leave you shook just from the first glance. The mystery surrounding them is equally intriguing and you’re constantly left wondering how the Girls from Pang are going to take this monstrous force down. The fights between the girls and these aliens are a ton of fun with the traps they set up, Innuksuk’s good action direction, and the great alien design these tentacles creatures have under those they invade.
Overall, once the aliens start to invade Pang and become a nightmare for the girls, the film maintains its sense of fun with the personal strife in the group adding some good conflict in between all the alien horror and the comedic style rarely faltering. It’s fun to watch this group do pretty much anything honestly and it’s nice how their personal issues become mended during this time and for them to be able to take care of things on their own without any adult help. It shows the maturity and strength these characters can have, and it makes them more engaging and relatable as a result. Unfortunately, the film’s ending leaves a lot to be desired.
Just as things are rising towards its peak, the film kind of just ends super suddenly leaving things on kind of a perplexing and unsatisfying note. The aliens aren’t given much of a big finale moment and truthfully just suddenly leave at the first big sign of trouble. It’s so anticlimactic that the film feels unfinished, and it almost feels like a result of budget limitations. For the most part, the effects and visuals with the aliens are strong, but the lack of an ending really makes the film feel cheap in its experience and leaves things on an underwhelming note.
Despite some of its clear limitations, “Slash/Back” is the “Slither” meets “Mean Girls” movie you didn’t know you wanted as it features an incredibly enjoyable group of teen characters and awesome looking aliens that make the film a treat for any horror fan looking for a solid genre-blender.