Shudder’s latest is a deeply silly horror-comedy that mostly succeeds in spite of itself.
There’s an art to the elevator pitch, a skill to selling something as quickly and simply as possible. You must distill the concept to its most basic elements, while still presenting something that’s been reasonably thought out. Some things, like the horror-comedy Slaxx, practically sell themselves. With the possible exception of Leprechaun 4: in Space, which explains what it’s about right in the title, Slaxx might be the easiest movie plot to explain in a single sentence: a possessed pair of pants kills a bunch of people.
That’s it, that’s all there is to it. Oh sure, there’s a reason why the possessed pair of pants kills a bunch of people, but it’s silly and not really important. What matters is that you know exactly what you’re getting into with a movie like Slaxx, and where your expectations should lie. Coming out of a year of deeply self-important movies like Tenet and Mank, not to mention the just-released “Snyder Cut” of Justice League, it’s almost a relief. Slaxx isn’t great, but it isn’t trying to be anything more than what it is either. It might be the best movie about a possessed pair of pants that kills a bunch of people you’ll ever see.
It’s Libby’s (Romane Denis) first day of work at CCC, a trendy faux-humanitarian chain store specializing in “ethically sourced” clothing (meaning they charge $150 for a plain cotton t-shirt). Libby and her co-workers, overseen by officious store manager Craig (Brett Donahue), are in overnight “lockdown” at the store as they prepare for the rollout of an eagerly awaited new product, jeans that tailor themselves to fit any body type perfectly. However, the jeans are barely unpacked and on the shelves before a pair comes to life, and begins murdering the store staff one by one.
How can a pair of pants kill you? Well, lots of ways, it turns out. It can crush you at the waist. It can wrap around someone’s neck and strangle them. It can sever body parts with its zipper. A bunch of pants can pile up on a guy and strip the flesh from his bones. I must admit, there are many more ways a pair of pants can kill a person than I would have ever thought of, and for that alone Slaxx deserves credit.
It might be the best movie about a possessed pair of pants that kills a bunch of people you’ll ever see.
It’s good that the kills are both creative, and gory, because let’s face it, you’re not watching Slaxx for the plot. Any time sentient pants aren’t on screen, it’s a pretty dull affair, populated by the usual standard obnoxious horror movie characters who can’t die fast enough. It tries for some limp social satire about the smug insincerity of American-run companies who use underpaid labor overseas to manufacture their overpriced “fair trade” products. The explanation for who is possessing the pants and why, along with the oddly dark ending, doesn’t always work with the campy, over the top death scenes, let alone a scene where the pants dance by themselves to a Bollywood song. There’s a sense that screenwriters Patricia Gomez and Elza Kephart (who also directed) had a lot of ideas, and didn’t entirely know what to do with all of them.
But, it must be said: it’s pretty funny to see a pair of pants move around by themselves, inching across a floor like a giant earthworm. Slaxx may not work as satire, but it’s great as a killer pants movie. Luckily, it’s mostly that, and even with the extraneous stuff, at just 75 minutes long it goes down as smooth as a glass of lemonade on a summer day. Sometimes, a little simplicity is just the right fit.
Slaxx premieres on Shudder March 18th.