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Movie Review - Slaxx

Yes, you could just as easily call Slaxx ‘Little Clothing Shop of Horrors’…but that would really sell it short.

The trailer for the film would lead you to believe that this is a horror comedy and, well, it is. I mean, come on, it’s a movie about killer pants…but in a world that is seeing more than its fair share of entries into this genre, more than just a few prominent horror fans have been wondering if the scales have become a bit more unbalanced, where ultimately the comedy aspect ends up trumping over the horror parts. For a lot of horror comedies, this has been true more often than not lately. Slaxx however goes out of its way to show you that yes, there’s comedy, sure, there’s even a message, but first and foremost…it IS a horror film, and if you’re anything like me, you’re going to be more than just a little surprised by how that funny little killer pants movie has you sitting on the edge of your seat more times than you’d care to admit!

Let’s take a break from showering the film with praise and look at the synopsis:

Libby picked a hell of a day to start working at her favorite clothing store. The newest fashion line is being unveiled. One of the top fashion bloggers will be there to plug the merchandise. And, most important of all, the hottest item will be revealed: the Super Shaper jeans! What no one in the store knows is that these are no normal jeans…even more so than the company would have you believe. The sales pitch might tell you that they’ll give you a killer body, but who knew the jeans themselves would take it so literally? Now Libby has to try and stop a rampage that no one thought possible and the secret to doing so might just be in her company’s dirty laundry itself!

I’ll be honest, within the first ten minutes, I was ready to write this film off, as it hewed extremely close to typical horror movie tropes: the final girl was easy to spot, all of the supporting cast were varying shades of unlikeable and thus setting the table for the bloodbath of shitty people that the viewer would enjoy. What was pushing me even further down this negative mindset was that our candidate for final girl, Libby, well, she just seemed so cliché: she was nice, she was naive, she was trusting, she was lost in her circumstances…in over her head. Everything was set up to follow your standard horror movie formula. And yes, the first half of the movie plays out about how you’d expect it: the people who were a jerk to Libby get their comeuppance at the hands of some bloodthirsty pants. Of course, the comedy comes from not only witnessing these kills but also the reactions of the characters when they finally realize what’s picking them off one by one. And as you’d expect, there are some sillier moments, for example, when the pants dance to Bollywood music, thus sparing one of the characters as well as taking our first steps as an audience into finding out what’s really going on here.

This is when the film turns the corner, ditches the comedy and, yes, goes full horror. You will not be expecting to genuinely feel dread and concern for the remaining characters as the pants decide to take off the kid gloves and go full-on revenge mode. I certainly wasn’t expecting it and when it rounds that corner, it will not let you go until the very end. By the time the cheery melody of the closing credits hits your ears, you’ll be sitting there slack-jawed wondering how what was supposed to be your cute little killer pants horror comedy turned into a tense, atmospheric thriller with an ending you did not see coming. Not only is this the result of some damn fine writing and direction from writer/director Elza Kephart and her cowriter Patricia Gomez, but every aspect of the film has to be firing on all cylinders to make this work. Yes, the actors portraying the early victims do an excellent job making you despise them, but those that remain as the movie’s tone shifts are also able to remain at the top of their game. Romane Denis’ Libby sheds her naivete to become the voice of reason, Sehar Bhojani’s Shruti rises up to the challenge before them so well that the viewer could be forgiven thinking that she should be the final girl and not Libby. Lastly, Brett Donahue conveys store-manager Craig’s ambition and how it leads him spiraling into madness so well that while you’ll likely see it coming, the performance never devolves into cliché or farce.

Lasting only a little over an hour at 76 minutes, the film is tight, conveying much while not proving to be overbearing or preachy…and I say that because yes, there are some commentaries here: on the obsession with fashion, the emergence and prominence of social media ‘influencers’…how they can make or break products and how corporations use them for free advertising…the corporate retail culture and their almost cult-like devotion to the company and, most prominently, the gulf between the first-world nations that buy the products and the third-world countries and their people who are exploited to produce them.

Horror comedies these days tend to be horror comedies, sure there’s some gore, but ultimately you’re going to laugh more than be scared. Slaxx’s premise would lend itself well to this concept and just when you think it is indeed going to live there, it flips the script. And it does so in such an unexpected way that by the time you find yourself at the end credits, you’ll hardly believe the journey you’ve been on…just because of a pair of pants. Yes, I could be critical of the seemingly weak start, but it’s that start that gives you that false sense of security which ultimately leads to this film’s strength: it has no problem letting you know that this is a horror comedy…sure, you’re gonna laugh a few times…but you’re also never going to look at your jeans the same way again. For taking such a bold path, I’m very pleased to award Slaxx our highest honor: the Hypno Cat!

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