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Slaxx [Video Review]

You Fit Me Better Than My Favorite Sweater: Kephart Gets Hemmed in by Killer Jeans

Elza Kephart Slaxx ReviewWho doesn’t like a pair of perfectly fitted blue jeans? Montreal based director Elza Kephart commits a crime of fashion in her third feature Slaxx, a department store thriller about killer jeans which tends to feel a bit washed out in its statements about capitalism, false advertising, cultural appropriations and industrialized privilege.

Still, there’s some fun to be had, especially with the special effects, the zaniness of which begs for more exaggerated tones than Kephart sticks to, especially in a third act stride which limps to an inevitable finish line. While Kephart and co-scribe Patricia Gomez don’t ever suggest there’s anything worth taking seriously in this exercise, there’s also an air of missed opportunity.

Trendy new department store Canadian Cotton Clothier (CCC) is about to unleash their much-hyped brand of perfect fitting jeans, Super Shapers, made from a new kind of cotton which molds itself to each and every body shape. The item has been hyped to drop during the store’s shopping craze Monday Madness, and a YouTube influencer (Erica Anderson) has been tapped to drop her reaction review the moment the doors open at eight a.m. Simultaneously, new hire Libby (Romane Denis) arrives eager to please as she begins her first overnight shift readying the store for the impending blitz, with the doors locked so none of the employees can leave. But when one of the floor managers selfishly unpacks one of the Super Shapers and tries them on, it seems the jeans, well, are possessed by something and immediately begin to viciously kill any store employees they encounter. Libby is left to fend for herself alongside manager Craig (Brett Donahue) and her nonplussed colleague Shruti (Sehar Bhojani) to try and figure out the motive of the killer pants before it’s too late.

What doesn’t help Slaxx is the trenchant passivity of Denis’ doe-eyed Libby, who welcomes her denigration at the hands of her awful colleagues from the first frames. That none of her co-workers are remotely likeable people seems part of the joke, but the actors playing them are all too aware of their exaggeratedly horrendous behavior, and one wishes some meaningful camaraderie could have been generated, at least enough to allow some empathy. The closest Slaxx comes to this is through Sehar Bhojani’s Shruti, although her behavioral shifts feel merely as a convenient catalyst for the exposition on what happened to make the pants murderous.

What’s perhaps most interesting is the concept of the modified cotton which allows for the Super Shapers in the first place, ostensibly the most exciting innovation of the crop staple since Eli Whitney. As fun as the Bollywood loving serial killing clothes article is to watch in action, a monotonous vibe allows for the middle stretch of Slaxx to move slowly, and one wishes more time was spent fleshing out these disgruntled managers and their color coded ‘ecosystems,’ which should trigger an emotional response from anyone forced to work in retail either in front of or behind the scenes.

Earning comparison to something like Quentin Dupieux’s novel debut Rubber (2010), an artsy bit of strangeness about a killer tire, one yearns for the kinship of the haunted dress in Peter Strickland’s exquisite In Fabric (2018). Produced by the team behind likeable genre throwbacks such as Turbo Kid (2015) and Rick Alverson’s drowsy weirdness Entertainment (2017), Slaxx does feel as if it belongs somewhere in the same barnyard, but one wishes it had been a tighter fit.

★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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