[Fantasia 2020 Review] 'Slaxx' is a Great Fit for Those Seeking a Gory Horror Comedy with Something to Say
People always talk about finding that one perfect pair of jeans...
...The pair that fits you better than any others and are actually comfortable, and it doesn’t hurt if they make you feel good about your appearance either. So, when I heard about a horror comedy about a possessed pair of jeans, I expected a silly slasher with nothing but blood and over the top comedy. While Slaxx, having just made its World Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, certainly allows itself to be goofy and fun, the humour is also quite dark and dry at times, and there is a very real and important message in its well-paced and entertaining story.
Slaxx is a Canadian film directed by Elza Kephart, who co-wrote the screenplay with Patricia Gomez. In it we follow Libby (Romane Denis), the newest employee at Canadian Cotton Clothiers, also known as CCC and is famous for its fresh designs and sweatshop free clothing. But when a possessed pair of jeans begin to kill the staff off one by one, it is up to our young and idealistic salesclerk to figure out what is going on and put a stop to the bloody rampage.
Libby, a bright eyed and fresh-faced newcomer, is balanced out well by her co-worker Shruti (Sehar Bhojani), a sarcastic and experienced employee who rolls her eyes at the company she works for and steals every scene she’s in. This juxtaposition is surely a sign of what's to come for our main character and that’s only emphasized even further by the other employees. Jemma (Hanneke Talbot), someone that no longer cares about doing a good job, and Hunter (Jessica B. Hill), who’s always annoyed by something, or the tired and apathetic cashier (Aris Tyros). And on the other side of that coin, the management. Craig (Brett Donahue) is the store manager and speaks as if he’s reading directly from the corporate manual, and it’s made clear that he’ll do whatever it takes to escape by climbing up the company ladder. And then there’s the owner of the company, Harold Landsgrove (Stephen Bogaert), who has the qualities of a cult leader as he and his employees chant “Be to be! Belong! Believe! Be love! Become!”
The story takes place on Libby’s first day of work, when the shop is on lockdown in order to get it ready for the launch of the new jeans the next morning. They're said to be Fairtrade and made from organic materials that mold to the shape of your body, and they are also advertised as ‘gender inclusive’. Though for those of us who identify outside of the binary, clothing has no gender anyway. But this is an ‘all hands-on deck’ situation and requires everyone do their best to make the company look amazing, and Libby is happy to do the work, because CCC is a company that she has admired for a long time because of how ethical they are, and the owner is someone she considers a ‘humanitarian icon’. But we’re all aware of the dangers that come with putting someone on a pedestal...
The store itself is like any of the big brand clothing places that can be found on the high street, with an interior that is predictably minimal and sleek looking, it’s a business that’s always focused on the newest trend. As Lord tells us “Last month?! That was three seasons ago!”
Most people will be able to see themselves in one of the many types of people that work at the shop, depending on their experience in the retail industry. They may be a Craig or a Hunter or even a Libby. And while there is something in this for everyone it will be particularly relatable for anyone that’s ever been a retail worker. Maybe a little too relatable... Slaxx perfectly captures the passive aggressive atmosphere laced with tension and apathy that is often found in corporate work environments. As someone who has spent years working in a place like this I immediately identified more with Shruti, but that could have also had something to do with her amazing style and taste in music.
Denis and Bhojani deliver excellent performances as our protagonists, while Donahue and Bogaert are incredible at playing the corporate leaders that turn out to be the true villains of this story, but for me the star of the show was the possessed pair of jeans that both delivers a Bollywood dance number and demands justice for a victim of capitalism and exploitation.
Slaxx is a fast paced and enjoyable watch, with more of an emotional punch than I’d expected, and a message that more people need to be aware of and is very prevalent to society today. It’s a great example of making something fun and sincere at the same time, and it does this by allowing itself to be extreme and sometimes wacky, but at the same time it is always played as serious to our characters in a way that I appreciate in my slashers.
Another thing I appreciated was the skillful and arresting cinematography by Steve Asselin, that perfectly captured the somewhat sterile environment in a visually pleasing way, especially when it was combined with the buckets of blood and impressive gore created using practical effects. The first few kills didn’t seem like much at first, because we don’t really see them, but once we’ve gotten a look at the aftermath the carnage never really stops.
In the last act the comedy becomes a lot darker and mostly takes a back seat to make room for the somber point of the story, which is to explore the problems that come with capitalism and consumerism, to confront the greed and performative ethics that we see every day, and most importantly bring awareness to the exploitation of child labour. It takes sharp and effective jabs at the performative ethics and ‘wokeness’ that is rampant in big-business today, but it does so without being pretentious about it, using many different types of humour to break the tension and make us feel like we’re in on the joke instead of being sternly lectured.
Slaxx poses the question, who is really responsible in these situations, the seller or the consumer? And what is justice? It will leave you wondering how your own clothes were made and you'll definitely think twice the next time a clothing store advertises the newest perfect pair of jeans.
By Danielle Vanderstock