Fantasia Review: 'Slaxx' Is a Lovably Silly Horror About Killer Jeans with a Surprising Social Critique Directed by Elza Kephart
Starring Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani, Kenny Wong
Published Aug 31, 2020Killer objects are pretty en vogue when it comes to slashers: we've got killer beds, killer lawnmowers, killer tires, killer gym equipment, and now, a literally killer pair of jeans. Slaxx, a Canadian horror-comedy directed by Elza Kephart from a concept originally launched during Fantasia's 2017 Frontières Co-Production Market, is mostly as goofy and fun as you'd expect. The film has a stellar sense of humor about its bizarre premise and even gets in a few great digs at capitalist retail culture and fast fashion ethics. Its final act leans a little too hard into social commentary and feels jarring after such a solidly silly first half, but Slaxx is still a delightful and thought-provoking ride.
Enthusiastic new hire Libby (Romane Denis) is thrilled to be starting her first shift at Canadian Cotton Clothiers, an ethically-sourced, non-GMO, fair trade retail brand. But most of her new coworkers are dreading this Monday Night Madness overnight shift, in which they'll have to prepare the store for a new product launch. The Super Shaper jeans, which thermally adapt to any body shape, are all the CCC head honchos can talk about, and they're poised to change the denim world forever. One pair of Super Shapers, however, seems to have deadly sentience, and it won't rest until it rips through the CCC team one employee at a time.
Slaxx really nails the unique terrors of working in a mall, and the hollow corporate-speak of glossy brands that try and sell activism as a marketing tool (and not much else). The set is an on-point recreation of every Uniqlo/Gap/H&M-type "ethical" fast fashion brand, right down to the glossy white shelving towers of neatly folded t-shirts in primary colours. Even its characters reflect the same type of colleague you'll encounter as a retail worker: the eager newbie, the jaded veteran, the corporate ass-kisser.
While pretty clever at times, dialogue occasionally doesn't come out as funny as the joke probably looked on the page. Joke structure aside, Slaxx has an incredibly good time with its ridiculous premise. It introduces its denim villian immediately (Slaxx knows 77 minutes is the perfect runtime for a slasher about evil pants) with a great first kill, although the proceeding ones are, disappointingly, mostly offscreen. But where Slaxx has the most fun is its green-screen effects used to animate the Super Shakers. The jeans slink menacingly around corners, on all fours like an aggressive dog, lapping up blood, strangling Instagram influencers, and, in one very memorable scene, dancing.
As the film builds to a conclusion, it takes aim at the performative activism of gigantic corporations that secretly take advantage of cheap labor overseas with exploitative practices. It's not presented very subtly, and the reveal of what's really fueling these bloodthirsty jeans is a little on the nose (but not totally unaffecting). Even if it's handled a little preachily, it's an ambitious and important message to pack into a killer jeans movie, so credit where it's due to Slaxx for going there.
Fantasia International Film Festival is taking place online from August 20 to September 2. (EMAfilms)