What happened to horror anthology television? Yes, I’m aware streaming services like Hulu and Shudder have continued carrying the torch for episodic horror with Into the Dark and Creepshow, respectively, but well, frankly … those shows aren’t very good. And for proof of how desperately our modern landscape needs a new horror series on par with Tales from the Crypt, I present you with Slaxx, a goofy little horror satire about a murderous pair of jeans that — even at 77 minutes — has no business exceeding the half-hour mark.
The opening scene finds us in South Asia, where a sweatshop worker enters a cotton plantation with a sign marked “Experimental Field” and gives the audience a hint at both the origin of these killer pants and the overall absurdity of the tone here. Director and co-writer Elza Kephart has her tongue planted firmly in cheek throughout Slaxx while thankfully avoiding the kind of self-conscious silliness that makes fare like Sharknado and The VelociPastor so excruciating. This is a movie about a pair of blue jeans that comes to life and starts disemboweling people, and Kephart understands the premise’s inherent silliness sells itself without having to rely on a tired “bad-on-purpose” aesthetic.
The rest of the film takes place almost entirely at the ritzy clothing store Canadian Cotton Clothier, which is set to debut this new pair of jeans called, you guessed it, Slaxx — a potential game-changer for pants-fitting technology. Libby (Romane Denis) is the retail worker with a heart of gold who will come to realize two important truths by the day’s end: That new brand of jeans is not going to work out, and the people running CCC are total sociopaths, including the store’s manager, Craig (Brett Donahue), a smarmy Patrick Bateman wannabe with dreams of a promotion to corporate.
So yeah, Slaxx isn’t just a horror-comedy, it’s an all-caps, double-underlined satire, baby. In Kephart, we finally have a filmmaker unafraid to take down Big Jean. The movie’s thematic ambition is a welcome surprise even if it’s still ultimately underbaked. These characters are about as broad as they come, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se, but the humor here is never as clever as it believes itself to be. Craig, for example, as our human big-bad has a hugely predictable arc. After Libby finds the remains of an employee who’s literally been gutted, and suggests they call the police, Craig responds, “There’s no killer here. Unless we consider Jenna a killer… of herself.” Profit takes precedence over human life you see.
Taking shots at low-hanging fruit is fine and all, but all the angles here are exhausted after about 30 minutes, and thus the satire loses its teeth rather quickly. Fortunately, Slaxx does know that these movies live and die on the strength of their death setpieces, and the gore here certainly delivers. People torn apart in just every way you could imagine a pair of jeans could murder someone and then some. My particular favorite is the guy who gets beheaded by a front zipper. The killer pants themselves are captured in fairly ingenious fashion, using real pants propped by wires and controlled by actors hidden on a green screen. It’s a fun gag, but not necessarily enough upon which to hang an entire movie.
That length really is hard to ignore. One can easily imagine a trimmed-down version of Slaxx that would absolutely rip as an episode of a horror anthology. However, there just isn’t enough to the screenplay beyond its high concept. In this case, a little hemming could have gone a long way.