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Today’s selection is a horror comedy that serves up plenty of laughs and biting social commentary on the evils perpetrated by soulless corporations. Slaxx benefits from an outrageous setup, a strong cast of characters, brutal effects work, and the perfect amount of camp.
Slaxx follows the overnight crew at trendy fashion retailer, CCC. As the team prepares for the launch of the hotly anticipated Super Shaper jeans, they are presented with an unexpected obstacle. A pair of designer dungarees has become possessed and is sucking the life out of unsuspecting CCC employees. Further complicating matters, the store is on lockdown in preparation for the launch. So, no one can get in or out of the building. Can the staffers survive the night or will they fall victim to a killer pair of pants?
The very fact that this film works is a testament to co-writer and director, Elza Kephart. She leans into the utterly ridiculous nature of the film’s narrative at every opportunity. This is the kind of premise that would be nearly impossible to play straight. So, Kephart opts to have fun with it and imbues the proceedings with the right amount of campy energy and plenty of carnage, to boot.
Amongst the film’s greatest gags is Erica Anderson as insufferable social media personality, Peyton Jewels. Anderson steals the show with a scenery-chewing performance that encapsulates everything wrong with influencer culture. Anderson isn’t in the film for long but she makes the absolute most of it, strutting on the scene and weaponizing her influential status to get what she wants. The character has a great, albeit brief, arc that makes me chuckle every time I revisit this under-seen offering.
Though Peyton Jewels steals the show, she’s far from the film’s only source of witty comedy. Another comical standout comes by way of the portrayal of the Super Shaper jeans. They are depicted as having a hypnotic effect on those that come into contact with them and it’s often hilarious to watch.
The film uses the pants to speak to the way corporate entities employ shady practices like subliminal messaging embedded in their advertisements and manufacturing false scarcity. Such endeavors really do leave consumers under a spell of sorts.
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On a similar note, themes of corporate greed are present throughout. Slaxx delivers a scathing commentary on soulless corporations keen to tell you how benevolent they are while building an empire off the backs of underpaid laborers.
The film also effectively speaks to the ways in which trendy corporations rely on their image to recruit starry-eyed teens to work for peanuts. So many companies seemingly expect the luster of being employed in a menial role with a celebrated brand to be its own reward. Slaxx calls out the exploitative hiring practices of that ilk, speaking to that kind of hypocrisy in a comical way that gets the message across clearly without being preachy or heavy-handed.
It’s not just the film’s messaging and sense of humor that impress me, however. The flick also does a remarkable job of selling an outlandish premise. Much of that success can be attributed to the cast. Each of the key players does a commendable job of selling the tension associated with being attacked by a pair of jeans. And that’s no small feat. The gag is only as effective as the cast members make it. Fortunately, each victim that succumbs to the sentient slacks manages to convey that conceit as believably as possible.
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Equally noteworthy is the way the pants move. They manage to appear imposing thanks to natural-looking movements and sound design that helps bring the killer jeans to life convincingly. That’s pretty impressive, especially for an indie production that was likely made on a modest budget. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the killer jeans are frightening. But Kephart doesn’t really seem to be going for super scary here, more so than darkly comedic with ominous overtones. And she pulls that conceit off remarkably.
All in all, Slaxx is a darkly comedic romp with a message. The film is fun, silly, and packed with commentary. What’s more, it clocks in under 90 minutes, making it a minimal time commitment. If you’re interested in checking Slaxx out, it’s available to stream on Shudder.