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Release Date: 08/30/23 [VOD]
Genre: Comedy. Horror. Thriller.

Studio: Gravitas Ventures. 

"Emily Young, a senior, wants to be elected as her sorority's president. She adopts a cute sloth, thinking it can become the new mascot and help her win, until a string of fatalities implicate the sloth as the main suspect in the murders." 


Slotherhouse is a slasher film that asks the evergreen question: what if sloths are the true apex predator? Inherently silly, the film follows the life of Emily, a senior student, in her pursuit of ousting the maligned sorority president Brianna. To accomplish this goal, Emily takes in a poached sloth, elevating the sloth to sorority mascot, and hopes to gain the popularity to win on election night. Along the way, Alpha the sloth’s true nature will stir up trouble for Emily, causing her to question her own choices in pursuit of victory. 


The major achievement of Slotherhouse is its fantastic use of the Alpha puppet. Alpha becomes a true slasher villain, hunting down beasts and humans alike, and Matthew Goodhue’s direction shines in these sequences. These sequences are fueled by a passion that radiates through the screen, through expert blocking, editing, and sound design. When Alpha is on the hunt, the sequences become tense. Character dialogue is sharp, and the scenes move with a rhythm that builds anticipation for the moment the slothful… sloth unleashes its claws on another victim. The cinematography is at its most focused in these moments, usually with fewer cuts, and 1 major camera angle to capture these moments as “authentically” as possible. These sequences have the most style, with one murder utilizing a ‘weeping angel’ effect to keep the scene tense. As well, the puppeteers, Greg Ballora and Antonio Carrillo, deserve praise for their work to keep Alpha as sympathetic as possible, and as ‘real’ as possible. Alpha may be a puppet, but their movement is authentic and makes you believe it is a real beast of the wild. 


However, while the puppet is a major highlight for the film, every other element often feels amateur or underbaked. The performances are never outright bad, but they fail to elevate the script material into something truly  special. Sydney Craven is convincing as an unsympathetic mean girl, and her performance really makes Brianna the shallow, yet rich and popular girl described by everyone else. And while the lack of layers to her character makes for a snobby villain, it isn’t all that different from every other character. Whether its Oliver, the exotic animal salesman, or Ms. Mayflower, the middle aged woman who has been at the college for the longest time, the characters are all single dimensional, with performances that match the writing. Sarah, played by Sutter Nolan, has a great scene where she processes her actions that she feels forced to carry out by Brianna, and Nolan gives this wordless sequence the power it needs to function. But when the characters have to speak, the weaknesses in the script shine through. 


Ultimately, this script seems to use its setting to write sorority character tropes, while speaking to the issues of social media and the pursuit of fame in the most reductive, simplistic way possible. As a form of escapist entertainment, it succeeds by being good enough. The story and plot is interesting, and the script and dialogue function to get from one set piece to the next. But as a form of art, it seems derivative and ignorant of the emotional cost of doing what is commanded of you. The best scenes, where emotional honesty shines through, are cut short by death. The dialogue is nowhere near as emotionally salient, and it made for an apathetic cinematic experience. The score is as reductive as the writing, and while functional, it still felt a bit “stock soundtrack” to me. 


As a whole, the film is best enjoyed as a satire… even if it has nothing to say. 

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