They say “never judge a book by its cover,” but any horror fan knows that half the fun of choosing a film is being taken in by a hilarious title or cool poster/cover art. Seeing the poster for SLAXX at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival was like falling in love at first sight. From the get-go, SLAXX looked wacky, fun, and perfectly in step with the slashers that we all love. And it absolutely lived up to expectations.
SLAXX begins in a yuppy clothing shop that touts its organic, ethically sourced, and overpriced apparel under the motivating slogan “make a better tomorrow today.” The staff is eagerly looking forward to the arrival of a brand new, revolutionary line of Super Shaper jeans. These high-tech pants are activated by the wearer and perfectly adapt to the shape of their body. New hire Libby is thrown into the thick of things on her first day as a major social media influencer arrives for a private promotional event of the collection. Things take a turn for the insane when one of the pairs of Super Shapers comes to life and begins wreaking bloody chaos on the captive staff. Can Libby get to the bottom of things? More importantly, will she survive to reveal what she learns?
The film is directed by Elza Kephart, a Fantasia regular who has had other feature films selected for the festival, and stars Sehar Bhojani, Stephen Bogaert, Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, and Kenny Wong. SLAXX got its start in the 2017 Fantasia Frontieres market and was presented in the 2020 Fantasia Festival scope.
A proverb that this critic, as a horror lover, has come to accept is “monster maketh movie.” Sometimes all you need is a fantastic baddie to take a film from 0 to 60 in no time at all! The devilish denim monster of SLAXX is easily one of the wackiest and most inventive monsters this critic has ever seen on film. The effects that bring the killer pants to life are surprisingly smooth and it’s a real joy to see something so unassuming and tame rain buckets of blood on its victims.
SLAXX uses its unusual pants monster to the maximum effect by way of increasingly inventive kills. These pants are smart and with each victim, we get a new glimpse of its malice delivered with bone-crunching, blood spurting glee. It’s a delight to watch these pants get down to business and the entire film rides this wave of self-aware fun. SLAXX is, to put it plainly, super cool and super funny. It’s a film that understands its audience and sets out to be a good-time worthy of any midnight movie programming.
Goofy, gory antics aside SLAXX is much more than its pulp attraction poster and slasher sensibilities. In an impressive third act, SLAXX slides in that the true villain of the film is… wait for it… CAPITALISM!!! In an impressive, but not pretentious, exploration of the origins of these killer pants Kephart works in a straightforward confrontation of sweatshop labor and the exploitation of foreign workers. The monster is created by way of corporate greed, ethics as a marketing ploy instead of a promise, and the tragedy of children around the world being used in near-slave conditions, forgotten by hipsters across the world that are taken in by feel-good messages.
It would be a disservice to the film to focus solely on its ridiculous and fun concept. There’s a real story, a real tragedy that SLAXX begins to explore. It’s politically without being pretentious, confrontational without chastising. To strike that balance, while still keeping true to the excitement of the slasher is impressive.
SLAXX is no doubt a hot-ticket at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. Smart, funny, and inventive, SLAXX is easily one of the most innovative, well-done horror films I’ve seen this year. A perfect fit for genre fans everywhere.
SLAXX was recently acquired by Shudder, so stay tuned for future announcements about when you can catch it on the streaming service!