GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by a Elza Kephart.
Starring Romane Denis, Sehar Bhojani, Brett Donahue.
Horror comedy, Canada, 77 minutes.
Reviewed as part of Arrow Video FrightFest Digital Edition 2
In her introduction to her debut film at the FrightFest screening, director Elza Kephart claimed “Slaxx is a political film.” A bold claim for a film about a pair of blood drinking killer jeans. All it takes though is a single viewing to see that she has what it takes to back up her claim with this horror comedy that takes dead aim at the supposedly ethical face of corporate culture, hitting it straight on in its own skewed way.
Young and idealistic Libby is elated to start work at The CCC (Canadian Clothing Company), a chain fashion store that makes much of its ethical, humanitarian and environmentally friendly methods in procuring and selling clothes. With the Black Friday like event Monday Madness imminent, Libby gets a rude awakening to the true face of retail with its bitchy and/or disinterested staff and the two-faced nature of the corporation she so helplessly adores and hero worships. With a highly coveted pair of fitted jeans about to make its debut on the shelves, the pressure is on to make every sale count. The problem is that one pair of these highly coveted jeans has a mind of its own and a taste for blood.
It is a concept that is reminiscent of such 80’s horror as CHOPPING MALL, in that it places a retail centre as a staging ground for bloody carnage at the hands, or in this case legs, of a seemingly ridiculous object of destruction. Kephart embraces the inherent daftness of her concept by making SLAXX a horror comedy with the emphasis placed on comedy. The trouble here is that her directorial comedic skills lean far too much on obvious jokes and stereotypical characters.
Aside from Libby, every other character is as mentioned before either bitchy or sullen or both. It makes for a first act that is a slog to get through until the murderous jeans turn up. Even then as the film embarks on its body count it is hard to engage with as we have zero sympathy for the cast. Where SLAXX does work however, showing promise for Kephart’s directorial future, is in the political and downright cynical nature of the film.
The tone has been nailed right and the story of how this particular pair of jeans develops such a homicidal nature is interestingly played out. Its lack of subversiveness in its message makes SLAXX downright polemical in its takedown of corporate culture and capitalism. The likes of Apple and Amazon are taken down a peg or two with The CCC’s cult like devotion from shoppers and vloggers queuing around the block for the latest product and for the bare faced lies in caring for their staff who bring the products to the consumer at such a cut price rate.
While it may be more interesting as an outspoken genre film than a comedy it still manages to raise a smile with its neatly realised and expertly anthropomorphised killer pair of jeans. The films greatest highlight being its reaction to hearing Bollywood tunes being both the films high point and one of the most original sights you will no doubt see o nscreen this year. The fact that what could have been a lightweight piece of nonsensical fluff concludes with a pitch-black closing scene confirms that Kephart definitely has the guts to go all the way with her horror instincts. Maybe with a more grounded premise and a more subversive edge she will able to give the horror audience a product that no one will be able to resist.