While I’m not head-over-heels for Slash/Back, Nyla Innuksuk’s lil’ sci-fi that could, I don’t want the filmmaker to be discouraged by my review. It’s best described as a Northern Canadian Attack The Block, which is an incredible compliment.
Slash/Back is built from very accomplished components. The culture of Nunavut beams through every frame of the film along with gorgeous scenery of the isolated town of Pangnirtung. The film takes place in a vacuum, which not only adds a sense of urgency to its horror but also gives viewers a snapshot of this hidden, well-natured community. I also really appreciated how Innuksuk didn’t compromise her characters. The main clique of young girls at the forefront of the story are a tight-knit group of bored and awkward teens who are loyal to their friendship. When tentacled creatures invade their town, wearing bodies of slain victims as makeshift disguises that resemble Halloween costumes that don’t fit, the young troupe don’t turn into heroes. They show brave qualities, but they’re still a group of very relatable kids. We root for them at the same time as we relish the awe-inspiringly gross and scary (and mostly practical) effects.
However, as much as I appreciate the film’s authenticity, it’s missing an anchor in its cast. The ensemble of first-time actors are game for Innuksuk’s movie, but most of the performances are very stiff and lack emotion. I kept thinking back to The Grizzlies, which was firmly attached to its genuine Indigenous roots but was also helmed by a strong performance by an experienced actor. The film received criticism for that character serving as a “white savior” in its narrative, which is debatable, but that performance was also able to bring out the best qualities in the ensemble of amateurs, making the newcomers steal the spotlight.
I missed that strong leading presence in Slash/Back. Nyla Innuksuk didn’t need an “Ash Williams” knockoff or a grizzled, bad-ass “final girl”, but the movie needed that guiding, trustworthy hand in front of the camera to really make Slash/Back stand out.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie