Fantasia 2020 – Slaxx (2020)

Directed by: Elza Kephart. Starring: Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani. Runtime: 1h 17 min. This film had its World Premiere on August 24 at the Fantasia International Film Fesitval. 

(Minor spoilers follow.)

Joining the likes of other killer inanimate objects like the killer tire in Rubber, Slaxx is about a retail company called Canadian Cotton Clothiers who is releasing a new line of jeans called the Super Shapers, a pair of jeans that fits any body size. However, one of these jeans is killer and gets unleashed on the retail store as the employees are on lockdown overnight preparing for the morning’s Monday Madness sale. The lockdown’s vaguely explained but it’s designed to keep them in with the jeans and if that vague explanation is what it takes, It’s designed to keep them in with the jeans and if that vague explanation is what it takes, that’s fine by me.

The largest comp for this film would be Peter Strickland’s In Fabric, a satire about retail stores, a film with dry humour and its horror was made by its mood. Slaxx takes the more direct horror-comedy route, with an emphasis on the comedy and the extent of the horror is a lot of gore. This film doesn’t take itself seriously and therefore is much more up my alley. Also, come on, this film is about a killer pair of jeans and would be awful if it took itself seriously. Director Elza Kephart does wonders with this material and finds a great balance between comedy and horror.

By the way, if you’re hearing “killer jeans” and just rolling your eyes, this film isn’t for you. But if you can buy into the idea of a pair of killer jeans tormenting a retail store, this works surprisingly well. It’s also doubles as a very funny satire about retail stores, and has something intriguing to say about the people who make these clothes for large companies and the ethics that surround that. About the retail, the sharp satire is at its finest in how it depicts Craig (a hilarious and sleazy Brett Donahue), a character so corrupted by retail that he’ll rather hide the fact that there are dead bodies piling up than risk the success of the upcoming sale. This brings a fun side, and the opposite version of his character is brilliant.

That’s the star of the film, Libby (Romane Denis), the newest employee at the CCC who has not yet been corrupted and wants to do good in this world. She’s so charming and a well-meaning teen who has picked a horrible place to try to improve the world. Denis perfectly captures the excitement and innocence, too.

Slaxx 2
Sehar Bhojani and Romane Denis in Slaxx. (Photo courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival.)

Another strong character is Shruti (Sehar Bhojani) who is integral to the plot as we learn about the pair of jeans, who surprisingly has a backstory. It’s awesome that the jeans, who I’ll just call Slaxx for simplicity sake, actually has motive and the backstory is smartly written. About the jeans, it’s puppeteer-operated by Marie-Claude Labrecque and her movements make the jeans feel like it has personality and attitude. This pair of pants feels like something real and not just something you throw on your floor at the end of the day.

Writers Patricia Gomez and Elza Kephart (who also directs) also have time to poke fun at social media influencers with a great character called Peyton Jules (Erica Anderson). The film works because it’s so smartly written for this premise that knows exactly what it is and it’s never too ambitious, and it could be so silly in different hands. Instead, this is a damn hilarious film and I counted a couple full-on belly laughs.

I just had fun with the film and bought into the idea of a pair of jeans coming to life and killing people.  It’s extra hilarious when it does things a pair of jeans definitely couldn’t do, like putting away a body in the cabinet. The visual of someone finding the corpse and me thinking, “The pair of jeans hid the body?” was priceless. The gore in the film is also fantastic with some fun FX by the Montreal-based Blood Brothers FX (Jean-Francois Bruneau, Jean-Mathieu Bérubé). Every kill is gnarly and awesome and put a smile on my face. Slaxx is Canadian exploitation horror at its finest and most fun.

Score: 88/100

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