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Fantasia/Frontières Exclusive: Pants with fear in Elza Kephart’s “SLAXXX”

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 | Exclusive, Fantasia International Film Festival, Interviews

By MICHAEL GINGOLD

As part of the Frontières International Co-Production Market at this summer’s Fantasia festival in Montreal, a Directed by Women Pitch & Networking Session was held, during which female filmmakers presented projects in varying stages of development. Unquestionably the most outrageous of these was the killer-blue-jeans opus SLAXXX, whose creators speak exclusively with RUE MORGUE below.

The brainchild of Montreal-based writer/director/producer Elza Kephart (at right above) and writer/producer Patricia Gomez Zlatar, whose previous movies include GRAVEYARD ALIVE and GO IN THE WILDERNESS, SLAXXX is a very promising cocktail of couture, carnage and comedy. The story begins with a young girl toiling in an Indian sweatshop getting chewed up in a cotton processor. Her spirit possesses a pair of blue jeans that go on to terrorize and slaughter the staff of a department store, with the endgame of siring a whole army of deadly pants to wreak havoc on Black Friday. Newly hired Libby may be the only one who can stop the Slaxxx, which do have one weakness: Bollywood music!

This crazy idea, Kephart tells us, “came from the fact that a friend of mine hates the word ‘slacks,’ and of course, to annoy her, I kept repeating it: ‘Slacks…slacks…slacks!’ And all of a sudden, I thought, ‘Wow, that sounds like a villain.’ I told Patricia, and she said, ‘Of course! Killer pants!’ [Both laugh] That’s how it all started.” This occurred way back in 2001, and the project has gone through different guises up to this point. “It’s very close to our hearts,” Kephart continues, “and it’s going to be super-fun, gory and out of control.”

SLAXXX will also address social concerns amidst the splatter. “It’s about how we’re brainwashed to consume things we don’t need, the idea of fast fashion—a new collection every month—and women’s body images. The main character is a little plump, and she’s made to feel bad that she wants these jeans, because they’re designed to make you look five pounds skinnier. We’ll have people reading magazines: ‘How To Lose Those Last Five Pounds!’ I’ve seen that so much: women being made to feel distracted by and obsessed with their weight, instead of focusing on more crucial aspects of their lives.”

“At the end of the day,” Zlatar says, “we want people to enjoy themselves, but leave the theater thinking a little bit about their roles in this crazy consumer culture. Because we all have some kind of part in it; we all are complicit to varying degrees. While there are some heavy topics we talk about, though, they’re definitely in the background. You can’t take a film about killer pants too seriously; that’s not going to work. It’s over-the-top, for sure, and a lot of fun.”

Part of getting the tone right will involve finessing the killer jeans themselves. “They are one of the main characters, so they have to look great,” Zlatar notes. “They have to seem as real as possible. If they come off as too silly or too fake, the audience is gonna check out in a few minutes. It’s a delicate balance, and it’ll be one of our top priorities, just getting them right.”

To that end, the filmmakers have been talking to both visual effects and practical effects companies, which have advised them to seek out dancers and gymnasts to wear the pants; the performers would then be digitally removed from the scenes. “We’re fans of the ’80s and ’90s films where there are so many physical effects,” Kephart says, “so we want to do as many of them that way as possible. And also to give the pants a real personality, because they’re possessed by a specific person, and that has to come through.”

The duo recently completed a second draft of the screenplay, and have been seeking financing during and beyond the Frontières market. They’re open to backing from anywhere in the world, and the script, Kephart says, won’t need adjusting based on the location. “It’s set in one store, without windows, over one night, so it could be filmed anywhere,” she points out. “We could produce it ourselves in Canada, in Quebec, but we’re also looking for partners who are a little more experienced to come on board. If they’re Canadian, that’s great, and if they’re American or from overseas, that’s great too.”

To keep up with SLAXXX’s progress and read about the duo’s other movies, head on over to the official website of Head on the Door Productions.

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and spent 28 years as a writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. In addition to RUE MORGUE, he currently writes for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM, IndieWire.com, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM and others. His book THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press) is out this fall, and he has contributed liner notes and featurettes to a number of Blu-ray and DVD releases. Among his screenplay credits are SHADOW: DEAD RIOT and LEECHES!, and he is currently working on THE DOLL with director Dante Tomaselli.