Upright Citizens Brigade is comedy heaven. If I lived anywhere near any of their theatres, I’d have the gold season pass, and their actual performers would occasionally whisper “there’s that weirdo who comes to all our shows. He must be terribly sad” when I walked past. If you love modern sketch or improv comedy, chances are some or more of the actors or writers you love spent time at UCB.
Writer / director Brandon Bassham, as well as occasionally contributing to “Saturday Night Live”, teaches sketch writing at UCB and has already made one movie, “Fear Town, USA”, which we’ll be covering soon. “The Slashening” is a tribute to / parody of the old school of slasher movies – there’s a couple of close lifts of scenes from “Halloween”, plus, apparently, inspiration from “When A Stranger Calls” and “Slumber Party Massacre” (not seen either of those two).
Five women decide to spend the weekend at the house of one of their parents, and after meeting the super-creepy local cop and the way-noise-sensitive neighbours, a killer starts picking them (and the pizza delivery guys) off. It’s set almost entirely in the one house, which is really the venue for a series of riffs on horror movie scenes and typical conversations.
There’s a great scene where the women all decide to get changed, and are stood around in their underwear, having a conversation. We see them, and a figure outside watching them, but it takes a few really clever turns and – hey, there’s a continuity error on the bra strap as the camera cuts between them and their spy! Where’s their bra placement intern? DAMMIT The scene features some absolutely killer dialogue too.
Talking of dialogue, it’s brilliant, as you’d expect from a group of veteran comedy performers. It reminds me of how people are at their grossest and most private moments, but here’s it’s for us all to see, and manages to be sort of disgusting, funny and weirdly honest all at the same time. Expectations are subverted, dick pics are shown to be the force for good we all know they are, and we see that riffs on classic horror movies can be cleverer than “hey, remember this scene? What if it had Charlie Sheen in it?” The combination of over-the-top characters and subtler plays on horror cast tropes works a treat.
My favourite cast member was Margot (Samantha Schechter or Sam Reece, depending on where you read) as the best friend of “Final Girl” Lucy (Anna Callegari), but there’s really no weak links. Dana Clinkman, Elyse Brandau, Lily Du, Billy Bob Thompson, and Pat Foy, all UCB alums, make this film feel a great deal “bigger” than it actually is, and prevent it from going over the line into being a pure cartoon. I mean, not every joke lands, and there are some odd bits (does the guy not notice the woman being murdered outside the patio doors or just not care?), but the quality is so strong normally that complaining about the few duds seems like nit-picking. Plus, there’s great music too!
This film cost $6,000 to make. Now, you or I could not walk out of our house tomorrow with $6,000 in our pockets and make a film this great – it’s a lot easier when you’ve got access to one of the world’s best sources of new comedy talent. But, just as a comparison, you could make 35,000 of these for one “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. 35,000! Long time ISCFC readers may remember me complaining about why the people who continue to fund awful low-budget horror movies don’t just give the cash to an improv comedy troupe and tell them to make whatever they want – the results will almost certainly be more interesting, and the bar to profitability is low. Well, “The Slashening” is the perfect example of this – it’s funny, it’s got great performances, an interesting look and is really pretty clever too.
It’s available on demand (check it out HERE) and follow the filmmakers at @theslashening for more information.
Rating: thumbs up