Slaxx

Haunted pants. That is the premise of the new independent film acquired by the horror streaming app, Shudder. “Slaxx” aims to critique the inherent contradictions within compassionate capitalism or the fluffy PR surrounding conscious corporatism. Terms like “non-GMO” and “fair trade” are slapped on the packaging of all kinds of products we shove in the shopping basket, and while it might make us feel more informed and ethical in our purchases, these labels are often applied without any regulation or standard to gauge the authenticity of their claims.

Here we follow the newly hired Libby (Romane Denis), a bright-eyed college girl thrilled to work for what she thinks is an ethically sourced fashion chain on the eve of a new product launch. While prepping the store for the release of their perfect-fit jeans, she meets her high-strung store manager Craig (Brett Donahue) while he’s vying for a promotion to regional manager status if he’s able to meet company standards. The stakes are raised by the announcement of a popular internet influencer named Peyton Jules (Erica Anderson) who plans to live-stream her early-access shopping experience in the store.

The night starts to fall apart when store employees go missing, only to be found later killed in the most gruesome displays of gore. After failing to cover things up fail, Libby and slacker store clerk Shruti (Sehar Bhojani) must discover why these murderous jeans wish to kill and stay alive until the doors open for the Monday Madness.

Obviously, the premise is silly and supposed to be enjoyed from a satirical and dark-comic perspective. The corniness is half of the picture’s charm. Most of the characters are vapid and one-note and their deaths have little if any emotional impact on the narrative. That’s OK; this is a movie about killer pants.

However, this project is slightly more obligated to deliver the comic timing and cleverness behind its anti-corporate messaging. In this respect, it succeeds more than it doesn’t. The awareness brought to concepts of crude marketing and hypocritical practices when it comes to outsourcing, as well as factory and farming conditions, are laid out with a clear point of view, but perhaps surface level as it pertains to this story.

As for the comedy, the dialogue penned by Patricia Gomez and Elza Kephart sets up punchlines all over the script and the deadpan performance by the actors keeps the 77-minute runtime zipping along. The tone here is tricky; if you make things too dark and violent, you risk obscuring your comedy in the shadows, and if you overdo the satire, you risk your film coming off as pedantic or preachy.

“Slaxx” does about as well as expected with its ridiculous premise. It’s short and it’s stupid, but knowingly so. The effects are budgeted but convincing, and the gore never slips into unreasonable territory. If you’re a fan of ’80s high-concept horror camp, such as “Chopping Mall” and Larry Cohen’s “The Stuff,” then you might find pleasure in the sly wackiness of this movie.

Grade: B-

Cassidy Robinson is a former Idaho State University student with a master’s degree in film studies from Orange County’s Chapman University. He is currently working as a media journalist in Los Angeles, California.