Slaxx has a lot of fun with its ridiculous premise and also surprises with a smart message
It’s interesting to see how the slasher genre has endured while still sticking to the same basic formula. A killer is on the loose and characters get picked off one by one, usually culminating in a lone survivor making a brave final stand against them. What has changed are the killers themselves; at this point they’ve gone from masked men and monsters to everything from evil animals (ThanksKilling) to dolls (Child’s Play) to inanimate objects (Rubber).
Slaxx, the latest Shudder exclusive from filmmaker Ella Kephart, is about a possessed pair of jeans that kills the staff of the store it’s meant to be sold in. Like an R-rated version of the “When Pants Attack” episode of Jimmy Neutron, the murderous jeans strangles and disembowels people, slits throats with its zipper, and even cleans up the scenes of its crimes. It’s unapologetically silly – the jeans can also hypnotize people and at one point breaks out into a Bollywood dance – but surprisingly sharp, both in its sense of humor and its larger thematic ideas on free enterprise and consumerism.
The film follows a young and idealistic girl named Libby (Romane Denis) who has just been hired as a salesclerk at her local Canadian Cotton Clothiers store – a trendy, H&M-like company that pushes a philanthropic and inclusive image. It’s a dream come true for Libby, despite the apathetic moods of her new coworkers and the fact that she has to buy her own uniform from the store (no discounts!). Her first shift just so happens to be a rather important one – CCC is about to launch their brand new Super Shaper jeans, which supposedly adapt to your unique body size using cutting-edge technology.
But as the likely underpaid and definitely overworked employees go about preparing the store for the morning, one pair of Super Shapers makes its way off the racks to begin a murderous rampage. Before long, only Libby, her manager Craig (Brett Donahue), and lackadaisical coworker Shruti (Sehar Bhojani) are left standing. As Libby and Shruti try to determine the cause of the jeans’ bloody crusade, Craig is still determined for his store’s presentation to go perfectly; he’s eyeing a regional management position after all, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get it, killer pants or not.
Slaxx immediately establishes itself as far wittier than one might expect from such a ludicrous premise, but that’s all part of its charm. The script is clever and laugh-out-loud funny, and just as much credit has to go to the actors for playing things up when needed. Donahue especially is a riot from his very first scene, playing Craig with an extremely practiced, wider-than-life customer service smile and a can-do attitude that endures even as bodies start to pile up. Likewise, Denis’ performance as Libby makes her a protagonist that’s easy to root for, going from bright eyed and hopeful to disenchanted and outraged over the course of a single long and violent night. It’s a sentiment that many viewers can probably relate to.
What’s most admirable about the film is how Kephart and co-writer Patricia Gomez use a fun and humorous setup to make several not-so-subtle points about the culture of consumerism. There’s a real price to be paid for those mass-produced pairs of jeans that everyone rushes to buy, and if Slaxx has any particular goal in mind with its story, it’s to remind viewers of that immoral – and often human – price. The H&M comparisons aren’t merely aesthetic. There’s much to be said about the company’s labor practices in foreign countries versus how they brand and market themselves, much like how the fictitious CCC is shown to preach about diversity and inclusion while still dealing in shady business overseas and still being run almost entirely by white people. But the film doesn’t let regular folks off the hook either, implying that you and I are just as complicit in the wrongs that big business commits one way or another.
Horror fans will be delighted by the film’s self-indulgence when it comes to its insane kills and copious amounts of gore. If anything, you have to watch it just to see how exactly a pair of pants manages to take out a store full of people by itself. There’s a good amount of fun twists and turns that the story takes, but it still feels like it runs out of steam halfway through. Only going for an impressive hour and 16 minutes, Slaxx is a fast, easy, but most of all highly entertaining watch, one that actually has a point to make. Come for the homicidal pants, stay for the anti-establishment attitude.
Slaxx is now streaming on Shudder.