If you didn't have a chance to catch Slaxx when it originally premiered on Shudder, now is the perfect time to watch it, as it's available today on VOD, digital, and DVD! This intentionally outrageous concept might be the first thing that draws you into the film, but it's packed with great performances, some excellent social commentary, and it's a lot of fun as well. I recently had a chance to catch up with director Elza Kephart, who talked all about the making of this movie:
What can you tell our readers about the origins of Slaxx?
It started as a joke! In 2001 was on a road trip from Gainesville, Florida, to New Orleans, with Patricia Gomez Zlatar (co-writer and producer of Slaxx), and another friend. Because it was such a long road trip, we started to go a bit bonkers. To pass the time we would tease each other by repeating over and over words that we hated (we were, and still are, like immature sisters). Our other friend hated the word “slacks” so I started repeating it over and over in my “evil voice” to really bug her. Eventually, it just started to sound like an evil pair of pants coming to get you. Patricia and I were totally obsessed after that, we knew there was a story in there, we just didn’t really know what.
Since this movie features such an unconventional supernatural force, did you face any challenges on the path to getting this movie made?
Yes, because for many years we didn’t have a proper script or a strong message, and so people didn’t quite understand how this could work beyond a “one trick” story. Also, Quebec and Canada used to not fund horror films as they didn’t think they were “proper art”. So, it took a long time for the circumstances to be right. But once we had a solid script with a message, and the Canadian film financing landscape had changed, funding came together very quickly. The financial bodies were totally on board and loved it.
It was also a challenge to get the pants right physically, and then to get them to “emote” at the right moments, but with some experimental trial and error it came together.
Did you and/or Patricia have retail work experience prior to making Slaxx? My wife worked in retail for years and commented on how accurate it all felt, saying that the people who made this movie must have worked in retail.
Patricia worked 2 years at The GAP in university, so she brought a lot of the details, the characters and the culture to the story. She was also the inspiration for the Shruti character. I never worked retail but I worked as an office temp for a few years after college, so had a brush with corporate culture in general. I’ve also always been fascinated and repulsed by corporate and consumer culture, so I’ve just been intuitively gathering intel over the years. I used to keep a notebook full of terrible corporate expressions (“ecosystem”, “tasked”, etc) and knew one day I would put it all in Slaxx!
This is a film that has a pretty high body count. Can you talk about the challenge of filming a killer pair of pants, when it comes to setting up kills on set and interacting with actors?
It was very challenging. We had a great puppeteer play the role of Slaxx, but even with all her amazing skills, it was still hard to get emotions out of a pair of stiff denim. We talked and rehearsed before the shoot of course, but honestly getting the “performance” right, under time pressure when all sorts of unexpected circumstances come up, as they usually do during filming, was very hard. There was frequently some crazy issue we hadn’t thought of, that we had to work around on the spot, but in the end, we made it work!
Our cast were fantastic, were really gung-ho to be in a killer pants movie, and really relished shooting their death scenes. We had a great stunt coordinator who was present at most of the death scenes; he really helped rehearse the actors and put them at ease. I have to give a special shout out to Kenny Wong, who played “Lord”. His was the hardest and longest scene to shoot- it took almost 2 days! He was covered in cold, sticky blood, in a cold warehouse, with very uncomfortable rigs, but he always kept a smile on and was good humoured. We owe him a lot!!!
The entire cast is great, but Romane Denis and Sehar Bhojani really deliver some excellent performances. Can you talk about working with them on the movie and what they brought to their characters that may not have necessarily been in the script?
They were great! I really enjoyed working with them. The character of Libby was a bit more naïve and borderline dumb at some time in the script, and Romane really worked to make her more credible and get us to really feel for her psychological transformation in a short amount of screen time.! She has been acting since she was 10, and has no formal training. But she was amazing; she could just self-analyser her performance if it didn’t work, and reframe it. I barely had to direct her. Sehar brought a huge amount of humour, strength, and humanity to Shruti. When she auditioned, she totally blew me away; her audition included in the scene in the office when she realised who Slaxx really is and starts tearing up; she had me in tears and I knew she was right for the part. She was also SO funny on set. I have to give a shout-out to the whole cast; they were amazing to work with and kept the atmosphere really fun and light.
Slaxx does a great job of being an entertaining horror movie, while still having a powerful message. Why was this a story and message that was important to you and Patricia?
I’ve been aware of corporate manipulation since I was about 10 years old, and it has always deeply troubled me. We didn’t start out writing Slaxx as a movie with a message, but I realised, when we entered the last rewrites, that it had to be about this. Shortly after we started rethinking Slaxx, I saw a documentary called “The True Cost”, about fast fashion, and it made me so mad, I knew which direction we had to go in. The last draft came together really quickly, once the message was clear.
Corporations, I truly believe, are the great monsters of our era. They are driving us to the brink of extinction, through their pushing of unethical and unsustainable practices, overconsumption, and flat-out misinformation about the state we are in: that of a climate and ecological emergency. And fashion is a huge part of the problem, but one that we don’t necessarily think of. Fashion is sort of “there”, like food. But when you walk down a downtown street or in a mall there are TONS of clothing stores. Why? We do not need all this stuff! I think it’s really important to put it out there, to make people rethink their relationship to fashion, to clothes, to consumption in general. As I said, we are in an emergency, and we have to change our way of thinking, to stop believing that all consumption is “normal”. I hope Slaxx can be a part of this change.
What movies inspired you when thinking about the tone and direction you wanted to take this film?
Dario Argento’s Deep Red and Opera. Antonioni’s Red Desert and L’Avventura. Also, Neon Demon and It Follows.
What's next for you? With Slaxx hitting VOD, digital, and DVD on September 7th, have you set your sights on your next project?
It’s always hard to predict “what’s next”! I can tell you what I’m working on, but I have no idea what will actually be next. I am in rewrites of a French-language possession feature, called “Chair Obscure”, produced by the Slaxx team, It’s about a successful business woman, plagued by a fatal disease, who, upon moving into a new house, realises it is haunted by the spirit of the previous owner. He also knows how to possess the living, so she realises she might be able to switch bodies to survive. However, in order to do this, she’ll have to “steal” someone’s body and kill their soul. It’s also a play on the idea of “possessions” ie, things we possess. In the end, she realises she’s been trapped in this life where all she’s done is work to accumulate money and things, so, the irony being, in the end, even though she possessed someone, she lets go of her own need to “possess” material things. It’s a continuation of my exploration of consumer society and what it does to our souls.
Also a bunch of TV: a vampire show with Patricia called “Sweet Blood”, a supernatural limited series revolving around the world of mining, called “Night of the Pendulum”, and an action-satire TV show called “Global Terror Inc.” about teenaged activist who take their survival to the next level and start terrorising the fossil fuel elite.