As a horror fan, how could I pass this up?
They say necessity is the mother of invention. This precept applies to movie monsters as well. Horror cinema has given this world some out-of-the-box creations to grab viewers. In a film genre that has been explored so thoroughly, horror has left virtually nothing untouched. From the routine (Dracula, Night of the Living Dead) to the ostensible extreme (Basket Case, Killer Klowns), Slaxx fits the mold perfectly, with its big bad being a walking, eating, killing pair of jeans! As a horror fan, how could I pass this up?
I feel it is only fair to grant a bit of leniency to a film where the premise is a pair of murderous pants. The lady behind the lens is Elza Kephart, and Slaxx is her third feature. She directs with the confidence of a pro; she knows what story she is telling. The premise of this film is completely ridiculous. Kephart's direction is ripe with the precise awareness of this fact. I would fault other directors for trying too hard to subvert expectations. There is no need for that here.
A young woman named Libby cheerfully accepts a staff position at the fictional retail store, CCC. The store fancies itself as an elite option for clothing. Think H&M and Old Navy having a child bathed in pretentious arrogance. Libby’s fellow staff members are tired and annoyed, indirectly and slowly dousing Libby’s spirit. These retail warriors are over the facade of their store. Their floor manager is obsessed with the company image, micro-managing much to the chagrin of everyone else. It’s Libby’s first day (or night, actually), and the store is rolling out new merchandise, a special form fitting pair of jeans. There is Black Friday-esque anticipation which calls for an all-nighter to anticipate the morning crowd. The crew locks down the store, with vigor. They seriously shut the premises down tight with reinforced doors and lighted panels reminiscent of air locks in sci-fi films. A snarky crew member grabs a pair of the new product and slips them on early. The pants, nay the slacks, possessed with a murderous spirit kills this hapless employee. It isn’t long before these garments of death wind their way through a few players, ramping up the body count.
Libby begins to put pieces together but the manager, also aware of the rising death toll, subdues her with a, “This can all be handled later” attitude. A small chance to exit the store before morning happens when a YouTuber enters the store at midnight to live vlog the new product. Unfortunately, that door literally closes before word can get out, and more people are killed. Libby’s only true acquaintance in the store, the apathetic and sullen Carly, uses her Indian heritage to avoid certain death. The two girls then unravel the reason for everything that has happened. They talk to the pants via Carly’s native tongue and learn that CCC’s virtuosic manufacturing methods are anything but. I won’t reveal the final act of the film, but I will say that the story here can be summed up simply: exploitation is bad.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The majority of the characters are awful and their demise is well-earned. In many ways, their unlikeable appearance is part of the charm. In a film like this, it is expected that they are chum for the death pants. Ironically, I found them all to be just who the movie needed them to be: the over-stressed irritating manager, the burned out and surly retail clerks, and the vain and imperious Youtube influencer. The actors leaned heavy into their characters’ shoes. Obviously, the strongest point is Libby. Isn’t it lucky that the most grounded, relatable character is the one we root for?
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Those viewers who find themselves helplessly in love with silly horror effects will find a great landing spot in their hearts for Slaxx. There is a lot of blood, whether there needs to be or not. Fans of old horror cinema might see the correlation between the effects of this film and the original The Invisible Man. How else do you make clothing look lethal? When the seemingly sentient pair of jeans begins running laps around the store and stock room killing its prey, it bears a level of cheesy fun.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I wish I had more words for the music used. It is lovely, but tragically short. I feel given the background of the story’s plot, there could’ve been a bit more context given because the music becomes so integral to the plot. Contextually, we are treated to wonderful cultural music from India. I understand why it was used so little. It was just disappointing as it was one of the better parts of the film.
When I finished watching Slaxx, I went two ways with my concluding thoughts. Yes, it is cheesy with its effects, sloppy with its character development, and preachy with its message. But I had to understand that this film was meant to appeal to fans of underground, grassroots horror, and it totally does that. In contrast, from a place of respecting powerful storytelling of remarkable, rewatchable classics, my intuitive respect for the craft assures me that Slaxx will never land in that camp. But that is ok, as Slaxx doesn’t belong there anyway. The pocket niche of Shudder-subscribed horror fans will be the ones to put on Slaxx (no pun intended), and they will enjoy every minute of it. Even though I will never have that level of devotion to this brand of horror, I must respect it.