Slaxx: Elza Kephart On Her Sartorial Satire About Killer Jeans
A pair of pants on a killing spree is the premise of campy sartorial slasher Slaxx, from director Elza Kephart.
With its 77-minute runtime, the movie is a skin-tight satire on fast fashion offering an array of increasingly gory, spectacular deaths. Premiered at Fantasia Fest last summer, Slaxx is now on Shudder where it has become a bit of a sleeper hit.
Set in a trendy store as brain-washed employees await the launch of a supposedly ethical, organically sourced new pair of jeans — the Super Shaper — Slaxx establishes early on that the company’s moral compass isn’t as steady as they let on.
Filmmaker Elza Kephart On Crafting A Pair Of Killer Pants
“The idea was not originally to do a comment on fast fashion at all,” Kephart tells Signal Horizon.
“I was just on a road trip with some friends, where we were teasing each other about words we hated. And my friend Andrea, who’s a good friend of the co-writer Patricia [Gomez], and I hated the word ‘slacks,’” she continues.
Kephart and Gomez would repeat the word “slacks” in an evil voice to irritate their friend until they realized there was something there.
“We both looked at each other and we’re like, ‘That’s a killer pair of pants that we’ve created’ and […] so the idea of the killer pants came up in this really loopy way,” she says.
No, slacks aren’t usually made of denim. But the sturdy, blue cotton textile has some disturbing potential, the filmmaker says.
“The look of the jeans that you had to zip up in the 1970s and 1980s, that stuck in our mind, where the only thing that could be so tight that it could cause you bodily harm is a pair of jeans,” Kephart explains.
Slaxx Interweaves Satire And Bloody Murders
Slaxx took years in the making. After scrapping a first “terrible high school slasher” draft, Kephart and Gomez had an epiphany: the movie had to take place in a store.
Kephart’s film nails the “corporate bullshit language” and the cast of characters of cool boutiques. The fictional Canadian Cotton Clothiers have them all: from wide-eyed new hire Libby (Romane Denis) to obnoxious folding master Lord (Kenny Wong), quick to observe that last month’s collection is “three seasons ago”. Particularly, Craig (an on-point Brett Donahue), a shady, irritating manager obsessed with targets and promotions, hits too close to home for whoever has worked in retail.
“The characters, the store layout, how they would fold [clothes] and all the technical details came from Patricia,” Kephart says of Gomez, who used to work at a clothing retailer.
“[Patricia] is more like the Shruti character, [she] doesn’t give a shit, [she’s] just there to make a little bit of cash,” the director continues.
On Slaxx, Shruti (Sehar Bhojani) is the apathetic sales assistant of Indian descent who ends up playing a crucial role.
How Unethical Fashion And Diet Culture Shaped Slaxx
The film wasn’t content with just being an amusing slasher. Kephart researched the impact of fast fashion, interweaving the caustic commentary with some truly gruesome visuals.
“I started to read on fast fashion, watch documentaries and look at images, and that’s when it jelled,” Kephart says.
“I saw a lot of images of young Indian girls picking cotton. […] In one video, there’s this specific shot where this girl is carrying this cotton basket over her head, and she turns around, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s it,’” she adds.
Slaxx wears its message on its sleeve. The prologue follows Indian teens picking cotton in an labor camp before jarringly cutting to the store where ultra-expensive clothes are sold and marketed as ethical.
While the early reveal lessens the surprise effect, there is another issue Slaxx touches upon more subtly: diet culture. The Super Shaper jeans are guaranteed to give you “the bod” you’ve always wanted. Provided you’re just five pounds overweight or underweight, that is.
“I remember when I was 10 or 12 or something, watching Fashion Television in Canada. And I would watch these models on the runway and […] think, ‘My butt’s not as perfect as those girls’’ and dieting,” Kephart opens up.
“And after a while, I was like, ‘Wait a minute, this is ridiculous. This is the television telling me what to think, fuck you television,’” she continues.
The Pants Came To Life Thanks To Practical Effects
The film hints at eating disorders with influencer Peyton, played by Erica Anderson. She is also central to one of the most challenging scenes to pull off on Slaxx, impressively relying on practical effects to bring the pants to life.
“It was always going to be practical effects,” the director says.
“It just became apparent that because [the pants] were a real character, we had to have them on the set as much as possible, interacting with the characters, interacting with the environment,” she added.
The end credits reveal a puppeteer wrapped in a green suit, maneuvering the pants to create an ultra-realistic effect.
Slaxx Leaves The Audience With A Sense Of Emptiness
As for the movie’s epilogue, let’s say that Slaxx is a cautionary tale claiming more than just a few fashion victims.
“We wrote a draft where the ending was not as bleak,” Kephart says.
However, the filmmaker — who’s going to tackle a possessed ecosystem in her upcoming folk horror project — wasn’t sold on a happier ending.
“It was just a matter of working on the script and being like, ‘Nope, that’s not good enough, it can’t end that way.’ It has to end in a way where we don’t provide closure, because if you provide closure, people think, ‘Oh, the film solves my problem,’” she says.
“But if you leave the audience with a sense of emptiness and just horror, then they’re going to take that away and go home and think about it,” she adds.
Slaxx is available to stream on Shudder
Stefania Sarrubba is a feminist entertainment writer based in London, UK. Traumatized at an early age by Tim Curry’s Pennywise and Dario Argento’s films, she grew up convinced horror wasn’t her thing. Until she sank her teeth into cannibal movies with a female protagonist. Yum.