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Categories: Movie Reviews

Matthew Wilson takes a bite out of new werewolf/ghost/pizza film Slice and finds little flavour in its eclectic, but soggy, offerings.

Movies like Slice are part of a genre that I’m calling Kitchen Sink Movies. Films like Detention and Freaks of Nature that take outlandish concepts, throw everything and the kitchen sink at the screen and pray that it’s entertaining. It’s a difficult genre to pull off since you can go too far and blur out any attempt at story, or not go far enough and your wild concept just feels unfocussed. In the case of Slice, it’s unfortunately the latter issue.

Set in the small town of Kingfisher, a place where the living live right next door to a ghost population, a series of pizza deliverer murders has the town worried. After her boyfriend Sean (Austin Vasely) is one of the victims, pizza-girl Astrid (Zazie Beetz) takes it upon herself to investigate his killing. All the while, her manager Jack (Paul Scheer) tries to keep the business running. While activist Vera Marcus (Marilyn Dodds Frank) blames the ghosts and inept mayor Tracy (Chris Parnell), the police start looking into their primary suspect, Dax Lycander (Chance The Rapper), a known werewolf suspected of a similar murder spree of Chinese Food Deliverers years ago. With reporter Sadie Sheridan (Rae Grey) digging deeper and discovering that the pizza restaurant might be a gateway to hell.

The biggest problem I had with the story is that a lot feels superfluous and, at eighty-two minutes short, that really hurts the film. The most unnecessary was werewolf Dax, who only seems to be in the film for misdirection before a crappy fistfight at the end. Reporter Sadie comes a close second, with her acting as straight exposition. The history was a nice touch to beef up the film but it mattered very little in the long run. The film is just a mess of half-baked ideas. Ironically, that’s often the point of Kitchen Sink Movies but the trick is to never let these moments stand out as useless.

The main plot, of trying to find out who’s killing Pizza Guys and why, does enough to drive itself forward and keeps the film from going off the rails with some genuinely funny moments. But even that is let down by one of the most weak-sauce conclusions to a film I’ve seen in a long time.

Given the film’s stature as a Kitchen Sink Movie, I wasn’t expecting huge characters arcs but it is much more of a mixed bag than I was expecting. Sadie feels like the making of a straight-man character but she’s so removed that rather than her reacting to the madness she’s just on the sidelines watching it all happen. Outside of Astrid, the rest of the Pizza Employees can literally be describes as Stoner, Horn-Dog, Girl, Ghost and Manager. That’s mostly fine for quick victims but it hurts the bigger characters. Jack is probably the best, with some funny lines and an ignorant viewpoint played for some good laughs, but for others like Heather (Katherine Cunningham), who seems to factor heavily into the story, she’s given absolutely nothing to work with and often feels forgotten about.

Main villain Vera has enough to work with for this type of film she’s still pretty forgettable as things go. I can’t go into too much detail about what she’s doing but while her endgame is clear, her motives are not and it leaves her feeling like a Saturday morning cartoon villain with none of the charisma. Her partnership with Mayor Tracy – unimportant but Parnell has the most natural humour – had a lot of potential to delve deeper into the Anti-Ghost Sentiments, or involve the ghosts at all but it never factors in a meaningful way.

The main two characters were Dax and Astrid. Dax is really debatable given that he doesn’t show up until halfway through, and doesn’t do anything, but, to give credit where it’s due, Chance The Actor isn’t bad and he plays the character with a nice twist. Making Dax a Pacifist Werewolf who just want to deliver Chinese Food. Astrid is the closest thing this film has to a main character and she’s alright. Astrid is clearly a bad-ass on the road to revenge but, since we never got any word on her and Sean’s relationship, there wasn’t a lot behind her quest to make it a worthwhile endeavour. I liked Astrid for what she was but like the rest of the film she was missing some vital context.

The film is the feature debut of Austin Vesely, which sadly comes across too clearly. The lack of focus within the story shows a first-time writer/director trying a little of everything and not figuring out how to tie it together. To Vesely’s credit, that’s often the nature of Kitchen Sink Movies. But, at the same time, where Vesely fails is he doesn’t go far enough. The entertainment factor is lessened, with the film’s most madcap elements feeling like the film having it’s insanity and trying to eat it too.

That’s not to completely take away from Vesely’s efforts because there is a good Schlocky B movie in here that could be found with some refinement, more gore and an emphasis on madness. The parts that worked were often quite fun. Mayor Tracy was always funny. A moment with Astrid about half-way through caught me completely off-guard, but I appreciate the film going there, and some of the smaller elements, like the 80s Synth score and Jack ignoring all the warning of his ghost employee, were strong additions to the film. In future, Vesely might have better prospects as a writer than a director.

As much as I’ve enjoyed Kitchen Sink Movies in the past, Slice is sadly proof of how hard they are to pull off. The story meanders without fully committing to its insane premise. The characters are either unfunny or unmemorable and the direction is that of someone too afraid to really let loose. It has the makings of a Cult Movie but I think it needs some tightening up before it can reach that status.

Slice is available now on VOD.

Matthew Wilson

Operating out of Livingston, Scotland, Matthew Wilson has been self-publishing reviews since 2012 - amassing over 1000 and climbing on his personal account at MovieFanCentral- and has produced a number of short films for his Graded Unit at Edinburgh College. Matthew hopes to start writing and directing his own productions one day, having written several unpublished scripts for film and television.

Posted on Oct 4, 2018

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