Slaxx (2021)

You would think that a low-budget, 70min horror movie about a killer pair of blue jeans would be met with lowered, forgiving expectations, but the truth is that Slaxx has a lot to live up to.  Not only has the early buzz about this satirical, shopping mall-set horror comedy been generally positive, but the bar for movies about killer inanimate objects has been set weirdly high in recent years – especially when it comes to killer fashion.  Between In Fabric (about a killer cocktail dress), Deerskin (about a killer deerskin jacket), and Bad Hair (about a killer hair weave), this once-niche genre has recently ballooned to include plenty of genuinely great, surprisingly thoughtful horror novelties.  Unfortunately, the killer blue jeans movie doesn’t quite clear the hurdle set by those superior works, but if it were just a smidge funnier or politically sharper it might’ve gotten there.

Slaxx joins the much wider, richer genre of Shopping Mall Horror by setting its blue jeans bloodbath in a parody version of stores like American Apparel and H&M.  It smiling, supposedly philanthropic corporation professes to be “Making a better world today” through the sale of trendy green-fashions, but secretly outsources its clothes’ production to subcontractors who employ child-labor facilities in India, often with lethal consequences.  That’s how the roll-out of their new, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants style one-size-fits-all-blue-jeans becomes sabotaged by the vengeful ghost of a child laborer, who possesses the blue jeans in order to massacre the company’s employees & clientele.  There are some well-observed political targets in that premise, especially in how consumers are in constant hunt of new, affordable clothing but don’t want to pay attention to the human rights violations that make that product possible (or, worse yet, want to be tricked into thinking their purchases are doing a real world good).  Unfortunately, the film’s humor is too broad & too self-amused to be worth much.  Its sketch-comedy level parodies of vapid YouTube Influencers™ or teenage Mean Girls don’t really have a place in what’s essentially a corporate-world satire; or at least they’re not nearly funny enough to earn one.

The frustrating thing is that the film’s actual horror gags are on-point, even if its satirical humor is loose & unfocused.  The blue jeans puppetry is especially cute, smartly opting for practical greenscreen effects over the weightless CGI buffoonery you’d expect.  There are plenty of great jeans-specific gore gags peppered throughout the film, including some gnarly images of the killer pants using their zippers as teeth to gnaw off their victims’ limbs or gathering in circles to gently slurp up the resulting pools of blood.  And when the movie isn’t making fun of the store’s teen employees for being airheaded Zoomers, it occasionally pauses to contrast their mangled body parts to broken-down mannequins, re-aiming the satire back at the proper corporate target.  Obviously, it’s a film with a pronounced sense of humor about itself (often to its own detriment), so not all the killer-pants puppetry is thematically serious or grotesque.  It also makes time for the slacks to enjoy a solo Bollywood dance number (complete with a behind-the-scenes look at that gag’s practical puppetry) just to keep the mood light.  It’s adorable in isolation, but not adorable enough to pave over the more straightforward Jokes that simply just don’t land.

I’m usually not this harsh about films with premises this silly.  Just last year, I (mildly) praised a film called Aquaslash about a killer amusement park waterslide, and that only has one scene where the central gimmick pays off.  I really do think Slaxx is suffering from bad timing.  In any other era, its adorable killer-pants puppetry would’ve been enough to win me over.  There just have been too many excellent, high-profile examples of that exact gag in recent genre films for Slaxx to skate by on novelty alone.  It needed to be just a little funnier or just a little more politically focused to stand out in the growing crowd of Killer Fashion horror comedies.

-Brandon Ledet

Shrunken Heads (1994)

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Family members collaborate on films all the time, but when the Elfman family gets together for a film, things get really weird. Richard Elfman, the brilliant mind behind the film The Forbidden Zone, directed Shrunken Heads. Richard’s brother, Danny Elfman, composed the main title theme, and his son, Bodhi Elfman, plays the role of street punk Booger Martin. Add the sick mind of Charles Band to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect B movie.

Shrunken Heads is an abnormal superhero movie with elements of horror and dark comedy. A street gang viciously murders three boys from New York City, but it just so happens that the boys’ neighborhood pal, Mr. Sumatra (Julius Harris), is a Haitian witch doctor. He sneaks into the funeral home after the boys’ service comes to an end, saws off their heads & takes them back to his apartment to shrink them with magical powers. Sumatra is able to train the boys’ shrunken heads to use their new powers, and they begin to put an end to the crime in their neighborhood & take revenge on their killers. These three little heads float around the city streets like The Powerpuff Girls, killing all the bad guys & turning their victims into zombies. While doing his best to rid the streets of crime, Tommy (one of the heads), also tries to develop a relationship with his old girlfriend Sally, which is difficult since he’s dead & doesn’t have a body. Mr. Sumatra ends up being a love guru as well as a witch doctor and is responsible for one of my favorite quotes in the film: “Never have I seen or heard of a human head made so small to show affection of this sort.”

Being one of my favorite B movies of all time, I highly recommended Shrunken Heads to everyone because there really is a little something for everybody in this film. There’s action, comedy, drama, magic, love, lots of cool/cheesy special effects, and even a portrayal of the step-by-step process of making shrunken heads.

Shrunken Heads is currently available on Hulu.

-Britnee Lombas