On concept alone, Slaxx seems absurd and daft. However, underneath the seams of this concept is a horrific story of the faults of ‘fast fashion’ and the harsh price of the fast-paced demand of the fashion industry. Although, the film may encourage debate about whether the different tones it carries work or not. Slaxx follows Libby (Romane Denis) as she starts a new job at a high-end fashion retailer. However, after a pair of possessed jeans goes on a murderous rampage, it’s up to the new hire to stop the clothing’s bloodshed.
The film serves as a horror-comedy for the majority of its runtime, and immediately feels comfortable with the deadpan humour that it showcases. It also understands the environment that the story is set in and relishes in this, from the strict staff wardrobe standards to the ‘family’ culture of the workplace to the manager. These are all evident in the first ten minutes of the film, when Libby enters the store on her first day and is told the clothing that she’s wearing is from three seasons ago (despite her purchase of these items being a month ago). She also meets some of the staff, who are too preoccupied with their own jobs that they don’t have the time to train her. And then there’s the manager, Craig, who is so obsessed with the store’s perfect reputation that he’s willing to put staff at risk when the film takes a turn for the worst. A standout in particular was this character, played by Brett Donahue (Radius). He portrays the obsessive, strict manager perfectly and makes him seem untrustworthy right from the start. The addition of the POV shots whenever he’s interacting with Libby also further emphasises his fast-talking and claustrophobic nature and is a perfect detail to include.
The lead character Libby is also a standout. As portrayed by Romane Denis, Libby serves as the audience surrogate – she essentially has the viewer’s perspective, watching the strange workings of this store and experiencing these events with innocent eyes. And, while the audience know what’s going to happen later in the film, we do not learn the reasoning behind it until Libby and the remaining staff learn about it; they are finding out new information along with the audience, which is comforting in a film as absurd as this. Romane Davis is fantastic as Libby, and her character arc is an aspect that I particularly enjoyed – she starts the film as a quiet, innocent new hire, and ends up becoming the strong leader of the remaining group and is comfortable in taking charge of the situation. While this character growth may sound unbelievable and could’ve been jarring to watch, it is anything but that. The film is happy to let her develop seamlessly, despite the running time, and that is one of Slaxx’s strong assets. It’s attention to characters and their development is fantastic. And, even if a character doesn’t last very long until their unfortunate demise, the film still shines a light on them to the point where they felt like a valuable part of the film and not just a character to kill.
However, Slaxx is a horror film, and is happy to let the blood flow!
Despite the 75-minute running time, it’s surprising to see how quickly the kills start – for example, the first one occurs within the first twenty minutes. With a premise like this (a possessed pair of jeans killing staff members), Slaxx was inviting the opportunity to create interesting and unique kill scenes, as well as convincing the audience that a pair of clothing could be a murderous creature. And Slaxx achieves this for the most part. The portrayal of the jeans is genius: when they’re crawling around the store, the back pockets serve as the eyes while the opening is the mouth. These aspects then move freely, as if they were blinking or trying to speak and it’s surprising and hilarious in the best way. The writers (Elza Kephart and Patricia Gomez) had an absurd idea and ran with it confidently, making this not only a unique ‘monster’, but also a delightful one. However, Slaxx also shouldn’t be afraid to show some of these kills, especially in the third act. A couple of these type of scenes occur and, at the peak moment, the camera moves away from the action, immediately deflating the tension. Furthermore, some of the editing is odd: more time should be dedicated to showing horror fans what they want, instead of flashbacks of things they have already been shown.
Like previously mentioned, Slaxx starts as a horror-comedy and does this well. However, once the lead characters learn the reasoning behind the possession, the film takes a more serious tonal turn. And it’s debatable as to whether this portion of the film works or not. Personally, this change essentially divides Slaxx in half: the horror-comedy and the film serving as a social commentary on child labour, sweatshops and the price of fast fashion. While the interaction between the lead characters and the jeans is interesting, this also felt like Slaxx wanted to be a silly, absurd horror and a film with an important message, but wasn’t sure how to achieve both. While I liked both aspects, they ultimately didn’t blend well together, which is a shame because the film does carry an important message which should be heard.
Over all, Slaxx is a hilarious and absurd film in one half and an important commentary in the second half of its running time. The film takes pride in its practical effects and silly plot, whilst also wanting to get an important message across. And, ultimately, this creates a clash in tones that can be debatable amongst viewers. However, despite this and some editing issues, Slaxx shines in its comedy, kills and characters. Despite its short running time, Slaxx’s pacing and character development is delightful to watch, and evenly paced to make sure its audience can sympathise with the lead characters, or learn to dislike them due to their actions.
If you missed this at last year’s Frightfest Film Festival, I would recommend this despite its clashing tones. It’s a unique film and, even if the two halves don’t connect together perfectly, separately they are strong and memorable. Although it’s also debatable whether Slaxx will do for jeans what Jaws did for swimming pools!
Streaming Exclusively on Shudder from March 18th 2021