Original Name: Slice
Director: Austin Vesely
Debut at: Sep 2018 (83 min)
Country: USA (English)
IMDB Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4411234/
Slice starts with (literally) a slice on the throat energy of fresh and cool premise that it’s a shame that the rest can’t quite match the height it promises. It fact, the concept sells the movie so damn well that I could imagine several alternative better scenarios than we ultimately have. While everyone goes to this picture with the screen presence of Chance the Rapper, it’s the first time director Austin Vesely (who directed many of Chance the Rapper’s previous music videos and who cameo as the poor delivery boy who is killed even before the credit rolls start). It’s one of the spooky tale you might have heard somewhere, but it spins around the concept so wonderfully, with memorable characters and quotable dialogues that it has its own energy.
We are introduced to the town of Kingfisher, a town where human and undead beings live together in harmony. Well, “together” in a sense that the Mayor (Chris Parnell) had successfully split the town into two parts: the Kingfishers for the living and the Ghost Town for… well, ghosts. They live in “harmony” since, except for some casual deaths of poor pizza delivery boys. As Astrid (Zazie Beetz), a kick-ass girl in her own way, learns about her boyfriend’s murder, she vows for revenge. Along the way there is Heather (Katherine Cunningham), a sharp reporter who is the first to realize there’s something more than meets the eyes in this small town (which is the case in any small town in fiction) and the werewolf (our star Chance the Reaper) who is seen at the murder scenes. The stage is set for some spectacular fashion.
There’s is something undeniable cool about this universe. The characters are installed recognizable, the clothes they wear register immediately to your memory, the music is a lot of fun and the dialogues are fun from start to finish. There’s no amount of shortage of the fresh voice from its staffs. The film lures you on the smell of werewolf before you realize that the main character himself doesn’t have much of his screen time. And while shaky at first, Chance the Rapper eventually gain his screen presence as a reluctant hero who is just want to take a burden off his load. Another strength of Slice is that it consistently surprises you with anything plot twist it can cook up. Having a group of middle-age white women protest for the right to live of ghosts? Sure, why not? Having a Gate of Hell lies underneath a pizza store? Bring it on! The plot escalates to weird places and I can already see its having some sort of cult quality that will remain in audience’s memory for many years to come.
But while it boasts itself with a promising beginning, it starts to lose its spark in the middle section and completely wears out its welcome in the climax, despite its short running. The first problem is that the main heroes, namely the werewolf, the badass girl and the reporter don’t share much of chemistry together. They’re bold characters alone but it’s less than a sum if its parts. They meet one another once (never altogether) and mostly they exchange some awkward lines or spill the info-dump to us. Many other side characters have good first impressions but they start to wear thin after awhile (the villains). Second, the world-building, while refreshing, is still too vague on its functionality. As an example, it’s still not entirely clear the process from the dead body into ghost. Likewise, the Gate of Hell, while interesting in the concept, still pretty much up in the air of what exactly it is.
The worst aspect has to be the rushed climax where all the pieces suddenly move forward to a brief (and cheap climax). It doesn’t help that the poppy visual becomes a distraction with amateurish special effects and make-up design (seriously, what is that werewolf face?), at the end of the day we don’t learn too much when everything resolved, except for a mild character development of the Werewolf. It’s a shame, really, because with the premise that strong it could become something more amazing. Still, what Slice lacks in term of plot it more than compensates by its insanely campy and energetic vibe that sure will keep viewers engaged throughout its run.