Directed by Elza Kephart and written by Elza Kephart and Patricia Gomez, Slaxx is a movie with a message. That message is “Did you ever stop and think about how these astoundingly cheap clothes you find on the high street were actually made?”. This moral is delivered with all the subtlety of the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster – “like a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick”.
It’s the run up to “Monday Madness” (a thinly veiled allusion to Black Friday) at clothing shop CCC, and bright-eyed, bushy-tailed new starter Libby (played by Romane Denis) is there to help with the launch of the latest fashion revolution “Super Shapers”, jeans that can adjust to perfectly fit your body. So far, so fashion week. There’s just one little, teeny, tiny problem. The jeans are alive. Evil. And thirsty for blood. They also seem to have a bit of a love for Bollywood music, but then who doesn’t? It’s barely over ten minutes before the first kill of the movie and from that point on the claret is splattered all over the walls with grisly abandon and the body parts start to mount up in disturbingly large piles while corpo-speak-spewing store manager Craig (played by Brett Donahue) does his best to cover things up and make sure the launch goes ahead without a hitch.
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And this is where this film hits its first and biggest problem. While the kills are certainly inventively gory – hats off to the puppeteers managing to imbue a pair of trousers with an aura of menace – I simply didn’t care about any of these people. Not one. Every single person Libby meets is a horrid, jaded, nasty piece of work that verges on a caricature of the burnt-out retail worker. But not in an interesting way. They’re all just mundane, boring, run of the mill horrid, like the rude and self-absorbed Hunter (played by Jessica B. Hill) who only cares about her “ecosystem” or the vindictive rival store manager Barb (played by Tianna Nori). When they die it elicits little more than a “Oh, that was interesting how the jeans did that. Anyway movie, what else you got?”.
What the movie has is a fairly scathing condemnation of the fashion industry, the assorted YouWhatInstaTikBook “influencers”, and even the public who buy these clothes, uncaring of what might have gone on in their manufacture, complicit in exploitation of foreign workers, child labour, unsafe working conditions and dodgy dealings. The problem Slaxx has is it’s just a bit too on the nose, a bit too heavy handed with its symbolism and imagery, to the point where there’s one shot near the end that’s simply gratuitous and is more likely to have a viewer yelling “Okay! Jesus! We get it!” than anything else. I suppose it’s maybe a bit much to ask for a light touch in a film where the story is literally all about child-labour produced jeans murdering people.
Slaxx is a decent enough way to spend a little over an hour, but while the core gimmick is chuckleworthy it feels like it spent a little bit too much time on hammering on about the evils of retail and the fashion industry rather than giving us characters we would care about when they died. It feels like a missed opportunity, like more could have been done with the concept. Even the moral could have been pushed a little harder.
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That all said, there’s fun to be had here. The Bollywood dancing scene is genuinely well done, and the end credits even show you how the effect was captured. There’s some lovely kills, bucket-loads of blood and gore, and while the characters are all loathsome caricatures, they’re well-acted caricatures. And the concept is certainly unique enough to make it worth a look.
Slaxx is streaming exclusively on Shudder in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand from 18th March.