Cinematic Releases: Slice (2018) - Reviewed

White-hot indie studio A24 has become a horror name unto itself. Home to films like Hereditary, The VVitch and It Comes at Night among others, their brand of dark, atmospheric creepiness dazzles hardcore horror fans while baffling the general public who still prefer a good old-fashioned jump scare over a haunting slow burn. The new A24 release Slice is a bit of an odd man out next to its prestige peers, with its bright colors, quick pace and actual genuine laughs. But to watch Slice is to discover that it’s difficult to find a place where the movie fits in at all.

The feature debut of writer-director Austin Vesely, Slice depicts the unusual small town of Kingfisher, where ghosts live among us (technically, they live on their own side of town, but still.) Someone is killing off the town’s pizza delivery boys, mimicking an earlier string of murders, and once again local werewolf Dax Lycander (Chance “Chance the Rapper” Bennett in his film debut) is the prime suspect. But are more nefarious forces at work? And what does any of it have to do with the long-demolished mental hospital where the pizza joint now stands?

Slice is clearly a throwback to B-grade ‘80s horror flicks, the kind that came in the color-faded oversized boxes lining the shelves of your local video store. But Slice’s self-awareness doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s kind of a mess. So many fun ideas are brought into Slice, with far too few finding their way out on the other side. It doesn’t take the viewer long to realize that the film is flimsily made up of interesting, colorful threads that never quite tie together. The problem is not the ideas themselves, as quite a few of them are clever; it’s the quantity of good ideas strung together that bring down the overall quality of Slice. But in an 83-minute film, it’s hard to find enough fat to trim.

None of this is the fault of the talented cast. Besides Bennett, Slice boasts a cast of familiar faces like Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), Paul Scheer (The League) and SNL alum Chris Parnell. Everyone appears to be having a lot of fun, and with material like this how could they not? Still, Slice is just a bit too muddled to be as clever as it, and the audience, would like to believe it can be. Though there are quite a few fun, funny moments, there’s way too much going on, and the lack of cohesion irreparably hurts the film in the end.

Slice is a prime example of a movie that looks fantastic on paper, and occasionally threatens to deliver on its big promises, but nearly collapses under the weight of its own cleverness. It’s not smugly self-aware at least; in fact its lack of cynicism feels refreshing and definitely adds to Slice’s nostalgic feel. As entertaining as it often is, the beats are fleeting, getting lost among the needlessly complex goings-on. As first features go, it's easy to see Vesely’s potential; as he gets a bit better and more judicious with his craft, he’ll be a name to keep an eye out for. Despite a promising pedigree, and a lot of genuinely entertaining moments, Slice tries too hard, does too much, and nearly loses its way.  But as the old saying goes, even a mediocre pizza is still pretty good.

--Mike Stec