Review by Sean Boelman
The “killer clothing” subgenre of horror is rapidly growing, and honestly, there’s no reason to complain. Elza Kephart’s wicked horror-comedy Slaxx is both a darkly hilarious satire of consumerist society and a gnarly slasher flick, making it an all-around satisfying late-night genre treat.
The film follows the staff of a trendy clothing store who are locked in overnight in preparation for a massive sale, soon discovering that one of their hot ticket items is a possessed pair of jeans with a thirst for blood. On paper, this premise sounds absolutely ridiculous, and to an extent, it is in execution as well, but the world that Kephart and co-writer Patricia Gomez build is so tongue-in-cheek that it works.
It is clear from the opening moments of the movie that Kephart and Gomez have set their eyes on the hypocrisy of giant corporations as the target of their satire. Ultimately, a few of the twists end up being somewhat predictable because it’s obvious where they are heading with their “Big Business is evil” commentary, but the script comes from such a place of sincerity that it is refreshing nonetheless.
The film isn’t very long, and that definitely works in its favor. Once the mayhem begins, it keeps going, and there’s never a point in which the movie slows its roll. The laughs start early and come frequently, and the kill scenes are both shockingly brutal and impressively creative. It achieves that right balance between scares and humor to be a great horror-comedy.
And while the film may be a B-movie at heart, Kephart does a lot of interesting things with the visuals. The effects that were used for the kills are excellent. Copious amounts of blood and gore cement its campiness. And the use of spatial geography is strong as well, making the confined setting feel a lot more expansive than it actually is.
If the movie does come up short in one area, that is its character development, although the shallow nature of the characters is almost fitting. In a film that is all about superficiality, it makes sense that all of the characters are archetypes. Even the protagonist, a plucky virgin (in this case a new hire in the world of retail) is part of this material world.
The cast really gives it their all, though, giving performances that are gloriously hammy. Brett Donahue is probably the biggest standout as the flustered manager trying to keep everything under control, nailing the artificial smile that rules the service industry. Also great are Romaine Denis and Sehar Bhojani, who nail it as the heroes.
Slaxx revels in its absurdity, making it one of the most enjoyably zany horror-comedies of the year. Insightful despite its unabashed wackiness, this is a cult classic in the making and will certainly be a favorite of genre fans for years to come.
Slaxx screened as a part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 2.