By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Starring Romane Denis, Brett Donahue and Sehar Bhojani
Directed by Elza Kephart
Written by Elza Kephart and Patricia Gomez Zlatar
We horror fans have had our fill of killer dolls, cars, and houses. After the cinematic gift of Peter Stickland’s IN FABRIC, the door to killer clothes movies was busted wide open. To follow this emerging trend we now have SLAXX, which is far funnier and bloodier than a movie about pants has any right being.
Taking place on a single night at a chain clothing store, SLAXX (which premiered last month at the Fantasia International Film Festival, where it tied for the Audience Award for Best Canadian Feature, and opens across Canada this Friday) is all about the rollout of a new kind of jeans. Labeled as “Canadian Cotton,” though we have seen the Indian laborers who picked that crop and they were decidedly not in Canada, this is the night of their big debut. These are extra special pants. According to the marketing they are plastering around the store, these “Super Shapers” would meld to any body type, of any gender. Think of them as the magic used in SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, but with a thirst for blood. Add on top of this the CEO and a fashion influencer both stopping by the store during the overnight changeover and there is plenty of room for things to go terribly wrong.
This very special retail night also happens to be Libby’s (Romane Denis) first night on the job. She is so excited to work for a company with a conscience, but the rest of the crew there are clearly way past her level of excitement for folding clothes for a living.
SLAXX spends very little time mincing its words and gets to the killing right away. Sales associate Jemma (Hanneke Talbot) puts on a pair of the new wonder jeans a little ahead of schedule, only to be devoured by them in the bathroom stall. Yup. The pants bite into her flesh and do not let go until she is dead. As the jeans begin to work their way through the rest of the staff the blood keeps flowing and these pants grow stronger.
While the individual characters are largely disposable and the plot thin, SLAXX is the rare gem of a film to not take itself too seriously but still never manages to undermine the fun it has. It is in on the joke of how preposterous it is to be running and hiding from killer pants, but never thinks less of the audience for their investment into seeing what happens next. It is silly and fun, all while there are buckets of blood and a variety of severed body parts flying around. This embrace of the absurd even goes so far as to have a Bollywood-style dance with the pants. That particular scene goes to show that their Indian origins are built into their motivation, and not an accessory, but is the most joyful break in an already charming slaughter.
SLAXX also looks pretty great. The pants themselves move around and walk all on their own, lurching and occasionally mimicking humans. It would be preposterous to criticize them for moving unnaturally because there is no real way to know the natural moments of animated pants, but these look pretty authentic. The gore and other effects are convincing enough to sell the idea of murderous clothes, without distraction. We all know who the real start is here.
It is possible to have a ton of fun watching a pair of haunted, autonomous pants on an overnight killing rampage, and SLAXX shows us how it is done right.