Elza Kephart’s Slaxx is the kind of a film that’s right at home at a festival, in front of an audience eager and keen for gore and easy laughs. This tale of a pair of killer jeans – yes, really, stay with me here – is fun, breezy and filled with chuckle-inducing jokes, but the film never reaches the cult-like status it clearly strives for.
Libby (Romane Denis) has just been hired at the hip and trendy CCC clothing store, on the eve of their new product launch. CCC is the kind of place where cashiers have to repeat the company’s cringey mantra to every customer buying their overpriced clothes, and where employees have headsets and oversee their own ‘ecosystems’ within the store. Libby’s night takes a turn when employees start dying in bloody and gruesome ways. While her supervisor Craig (Brett Donahue) is more concerned with hiding the bodies and having a successful launch than the possibility that it’s the exact product the company is launching that is responsible for the increasing pile of corpses.
If nothing else, Slaxx and director Kephart get points for sheer audacity; there’s no attempt to elevate the material, this is simply a fun little horror comedy about killer jeans and as such, very entertaining. At a breezy 76 minutes, Slaxx never outstays its welcome. It’s a rare film that gets right to it; it’s not long before the first kill happens and it’s just as imaginative and bonkers as you’d expect and most certainly hope for in a film like this.
The kills keep coming too, and in terms of pacing, Slaxx moves fast, as it should. There is no room for logic here and it’s best not to try and apply common sense to the film. The scenario and the characters exist completely outside of such mortal issues. On one hand, the film is so inherently silly it doesn’t really need logic to be enjoyable, but on the other hand, Slaxx feels a little cheap, like it never takes itself seriously as a valuable, entertaining film.
The film’s biggest weakness is its characters. The script, co-written by Kephart and Patricia Gomez, is full of smart one-liners and purposely bad dialogue. But unfortunately, the characters are so underdeveloped and bland it’s difficult to feel the true consequences of being killed by denim. Characters don’t have to be likable nor do they need extensive backstories for their individual storylines and in the case of horror films, their deaths to be effective. However, they do need a personality, something to grab a hold onto and either relate to, or at the very least, recognise, for scenes to play out to the maximum effect.
Romane Denis’ Libby is the closest we get to a protagonist, but she mostly floats from space to space, passively and without engaging with much. Brett Donahue is brilliantly awful as Craig, but it’s Sehar Bhojani’s uninterested and sarcastic employee who is the true highlight of Slaxx. Bhojani’s deadpan line deliveries and energy keep Slaxx moving even when it occasionally goes a little overboard. Progressing from corporate satire to cheap schlock.
While Slaxx has plenty of bite, and its pure intentions of saying something meaningful about virtue-signalling, big corporations and work ethics. It needed that small extra push of something special for everything to click and make this a cult classic. This is still a wildly entertaining ride, filled with plenty of chuckles and most importantly, fun, bloody kills for the gore-hungry horror fans. You’ll think twice next time you’re looking at a pair of jeans for sure.
Slaxx streams on Shudder from March 18. Check out our interview with director Elza Kephart here.