Friday 19 March 2021

SLAXX review

The night before the launch of the new eco-conscious Super Shaper jeans, the staff of the Canadian Cotton Clothiers store are locked in overnight to stock the shelves ready for the Monday Madness sales. Designed to make everyone who wears them look fantastic, the temptation to try them on proves too much for many of the workers; but when a pair of the new jeans turns out to have murderous intent and starts knocking them off one by one, new girl Libby (Romane Denis) must find a way to defeat the deadly denim before dawn arrives.

It's rare that a film asks you to question "I wonder what the motivation of that pair of jeans is?", but Slaxx does just that. As the staff members meet their untimely demise at the hands feet legs of the new clothing line, Slaxx veers from a tame workplace comedy into a delightfully silly splatter-fest. And of course, this is on Shudder, so the level of gore is beyond anything in Quentin Dupieux's Deerskin, or Peter Strickland's In Fabric - the other two notable recent entries into the 'killer clothing' horror sub-genre - and when it gets bloody, it gets real bloody, real quickly, chomping limbs off the unsuspecting fashion victims who were just hoping to try on the latest must have item.

From the same producers as the 80's throwback Turbo Kid, they've not strayed too far from their wheelhouse, delivering an often broad, exaggerated comedy that's never laugh out loud hilarious but knows the appeal of seeing obnoxious characters meet their doom in comically overblown set-ups. They're  for the most part all expendable, barring Denis's admirable go-getter Libby, Sehar Bhojani's nonchalant Shruti and Brett Donahue's increasingly exasperated store manager, Craig - truly a magnificently self-centred, career-minded yuppie in the vein of Paul Reiser in Aliens - who's so focused on saving the launch and landing a big promotion that he starts to dispose of the bodies rather than call the police.

Arriving hot on the heels of Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man and with audiences accustomed to seeing everyday objects move around the screen without explanation, with Slaxx being a Canadian production (on a wildly different budget scale) the VFX has had to be more ingeniously used, varying from ominous shots on the jeans on the shop floor to CCTV footage of them creeping along a corridor to simply some gung ho acting from the cast as they find themselves facing off against the sentient slacks. The highlight of these scenes is the puppetry used to give the trousers life (stick through the end credits for a revealing behind the scenes look at how this was achieved), including, bizarrely, a brief Bollywood dance routine that is hmmm... questionable in its inclusion, to say the least.

Efforts to give the film a deeper satirical edge don't always deliver the impact they're hoping for, with the eco-friendly, socially conscious consumerism of brands like the Gap and Apple appropriately low-hanging fruit; and the fair-trade, sweatshop-free 'know what you're buying' message that's covered in the pants' origins plot strand could have been handled with more subtlety than what's on show here, which at best is poor taste and at worst puts the (literal) ass in crass. But hey, horror is here to push boundaries, and I won't fault them for giving it a shot.

Will Slaxx be the trend-setting 'must have' horror film of the season? Well... it's unlikely, but as a wonderfully, willingly stupid jean-ocidal horror with some gloriously gruesome set-pieces, Slaxx has got legs.



SLAXX will stream exclusively on Shudder from March 18th in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.

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