Fantasia Film Festival’s Slaxx was one of my most anticipated films heading into the festival, because who wouldn’t want to see a film about an animated pair of jeans killing people in a fashion clothing store, but as much as it delivered on the absurdist comedy, this Canadian horror also has a poignant message and sharp teeth!
We’re introduced to Libby (Romane Denis)who is an eager, wide-eyed teen starting her first day at her new job, a sales assistant for the extremely popular fashion company CCC on the eve of their much-anticipated and highly-secretive new product launch, a range of jeans that adjust their shape to suit every body type. We see Libby interact with many other employees in the store, including ambitious manager Craig (Brett Donahue) who wants to secure a promotion, the typically unenthusiastic Shruti (Sehar Bhojani) who doesn’t really enjoy working and a few other supervisors.
It isn’t long before we learn that the aforementioned shape-shifting jeans have a life of their own and a mind for bloody revenge as they slowly start killing off employees in the store one-by-one, before committing a mass slaughter of everyone present. The jeans themselves are actually quite a menacing figure, with the waistband serving as a mouth, the kills that the writers come up with are fantastic and suitably gorey, with one supervisor being cut in half, another losing their hands to the jean’s zip and one fame obsessed social media celebrity stereotype getting strangled and then her neck broken.
The script is full of sharp puns and conventionally modern zinging dialogue, but when the story behind the film’s killer jeans is revealed we quickly learn that director Elza Hephart who co-wrote the film with Patricia Gomez have a lot to say about serious issues by taking specific aim at the exploitation of the fashion industry, with child labour, high-mark-ups on cheap clothing, corporate negligence and the film even takes aim at vapid social media celebrity culture.
This makes the film’s decision to centre the wide-eyed and enthusiastic Libby at the centre of its narrative a great one, and Romane Denis offers a great performance as the young first-time worker keen to impress but still developing a moral centre, with an internal line that gets crossed in the film. Libby is ultimately a bit naïve and when she learns of the very real-life horrors of the fashion industry, through CCC’s sweat-farms resulting in the death of a child worker, we, as the audience, are also supposed to be shocked.
Another way that this is conveyed is through store manager Craig’s descent from endearing and put-upon loyal staff member just trying to get the credit he’s due, to full-blown uncompromised villain by the end of the film. This is done so well, that despite all of the people the killer jeans have killed, it is Craig who ultimately comes across as the bigger monster, and his eventual demise certainly feels cathartic.
But there’s no happy ending here. Slaxx gives us a gut-punch of an ending, with Libby desperately trying to save a horde of jean-thirsty fashion obsessed shoppers and the following delightful slaughter that ensues only to succumb to the masses and fall, hit her head and slowly die with the evidence of CCC’s exploitation presumably getting lost with her. The message is clear, we’re all complicit and we all deserve to be punished and until we all accept our responsibility towards this matter, it is inevitable and unstoppable.
As I’ve said, I went into Slaxx expecting a B-movie-esque thinly plotted horror film where thin characters are offed by an absurd inanimate object, and it absolutely delivers on this regard. But the additional and unexpected healthy dose of dark social commentary acts as a poignant and necessary warning to us all that we need to be better! I loved it.
For more reviews and interviews, check out our Fantasia Film Festival 2020 coverage here