Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"A consistently smart, well-structured film with well-drawn characters, superb performances and a serious point to make." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

When you choose to watch a film about a pair of jeans that kills people, you're probably not expecting great art. Whilst films of this sort can be fun, they usually have a single idea, throwaway characters and nothing to sustain the pace but weak jokes and gore. Prepare to be surprised. Slaxx delivers on the puns and the ridiculous kills, but it's a consistently smart, well-structured film with well-drawn characters, superb performances and a serious point to make.

We begin with Libby (Romane Denis), a sweet, wide-eyed young thing on her very first day at CCC, a company she deeply admires for its professed commitment to ethical business practices, protecting the environment and ending exploitation in the fashion industry. Because CCC is about to host a big launch event for jeans that adjust their shape to suit every type of body ("Whether you're five pounds underweight or five pounds overweight!"), she will get the chance to meet the head of the company. She can't understand why seasoned employee Shruti (Sehar Bhojani) is so unexcited by it all - and so unenthused by work in general.

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One person who shares Libby's excitement is manager Craig (Brett Donahue), who dreams of becoming a regional manager someday and is determined to make sure that everything goes to plan. There's an endearing innocence about Craig, small though his ambitions are, but his confusion of virtue with being a good servant to his company will take him to very dark places before the night is out.

So, the killer jeans: suffice to say that they have a reason for doing what they do, and it's a good one, making them part of a long tradition of sympathetic cinematic monsters. This does not means that they're gentle about it, nor particularly discerning. Director Elza Kephart is of the show less, fear more school of horror, so we don't witness everything directly, but there's plenty of blood splashing around and some memorably unpleasant glimpses of the aftermath. Kephart cleverly builds up the tension and our belief in her scenario so that by the mid-way point, the mere sight of a pair of jeans lying in a corridor can provoke alarm, even though the idea remains comical. It's an impressive balancing act. She also makes good (and appropriate) use of some of the structures of Bollywood hits, including the conflict between love/sympathy and duty/justice.

There's some beautiful detail work here that captures both the look and the culture of fashion companies of this sort perfectly. Of course, nothing looks as good behind the scenes as it does up front. Kephart has acknowledged that the outlet's warehouse is bigger than it would be in reality, but there would seem to be some room for suspension of disbelief. This is, after all, a film about a pair of jeans that kills people.

To say more would be to risk giving too much away, and might dilute the impact of the real horrors in which the film is rooted. Slaxx is part of the Fantasia 2020 line-up. It's is one of the best films of its ilk for many years and if you are a fan of the genre, you should see it as soon as you can.

Reviewed on: 25 Aug 2020
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When a possessed pair of jeans begins to kill the staff of a trendy clothing store, it is up to Libby, an idealistic young salesclerk, to stop its bloody rampage.
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Director: Elza Kephart

Writer: Patricia Gomez, Elza Kephart

Starring: Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani, Kenny Wong

Year: 2020

Runtime: 77 minutes

Country: Canada

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