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Slotherhouse (2023) Review

What could possibly top the recent run of cocaine fueled bears, sharks, and cougars? How about a cute, three-toed critter turning a sorority house into a Slotherhouse? Yes, the world’s slowest animal has turned homicidal and is carving up sorority girls like a seasoned slasher. Although, as the prologue that shows the critter getting bagged by poachers hints, this isn’t your typically chill furry tree hanger.

Emily (Lisa Ambalavanar, The Stuff of Legend, The A List) wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become president of Sigma Lambda Theta, SLTH for short. Unfortunately, she lacks the ruthlessness and social media presence of the current president Brianna (Sydney Craven, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn, EastEnders).

However, a chance meeting with Oliver (Stefan Kapicic, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, Deadpool), an exotic animal aficionado of dubious morality, changes everything. What better way to become the president of SLTH than to have an actual sloth to conquer social media with?

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Director Matthew Goodhue (Woe, Breakfast for Dinner) along with writers Bradley Fowler (The Voices, Crib), and Cady Lanigan have come up with one of the most unlikely ideas for a horror film in recent history. So unlikely that when I saw the first mentions of Slotherhouse I thought it was either a joke or a microbudget film from Mark Polonia or Dustin Ferguson.

But, while Slotherhouse is certainly low budget it’s not an outrageously silly zero budget effort like Sharkula or Shark Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s actually a surprisingly literate and witty send-up of animal attack and slasher films that also takes some shots at social media, sorority/fraternity culture, and the trade in wild animals.

That’s not to say it isn’t fairly preposterous, the film signals its intentions from the go as Alpha as she’s eventually named turns the tables on a gator looking for an easy meal. By the half hour mark the enterprising animal is using a laptop and later driving a car, raising the unexplored possibility that she’s not what she appears to be. Or maybe we’ve been unfairly maligning sloths for all these years.

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Whatever the explanation, once #RushSloth goes viral Brianna instructs her minions to make Alpha disappear, but she’s not going to go easily, and it’s not long before several sorority sisters have gone missing.

The killings, while nicely set up and staged, aren’t particularly bloody. In an interview, the director said that the early versions of the script had the kind of over the top gore that a concept like this might lead you to expect. Instead, like Gremlins, they decided to tone it down and make a film that could serve as a gateway to the genre for younger viewers. Personally, I would have preferred the “R” rated version, but the version of Slotherhouse that we got is actually pretty enjoyable.

The film’s effects are practical, even Alpha, who’s an animatronic puppet rather than a CGI creation. She’s not the most realistic creature to grace the screen, but the results are acceptable and manages to walk the line between cute and creepy. At one point, wearing a hat and drinking a beer, she even looks like a less greasy version of Kid Rock.

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And it’s important that Alpha stayed cute because she’s actually not the villain of the film if you think about it. She’s just an animal, taken from her home and forced to survive and fight off those who want to harm her. Instead of gators, it’s Brianna and her mean girl squad who I would argue are the true villains. Alpha, like ET, just wants to go home.

An enjoyably silly horror comedy, Slotherhouse is better than one would expect from hearing the concept. It has its share of laughs and scares and manages to touch on serious issues without getting preachy.

Slotherhouse is currently in theaters via Gravitas Ventures.

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