Dallas International Film Festival 2016 Review: Slash

Dallas International Film Festival 2016 Review: Slash

Slash uses uproarious comedy and relevant teenage drama to engulf us in the very real world of fan fiction.

Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Pan-sexual; it truly doesn’t matter how you identify sexually, we’re all the same in one way: we’re curious. Growing up and learning about all the variations of sex and sexual acts can be challenging times. Some people become a sexual recluse, avoiding anything outside the standard, and others get much more engaged in their sexual life. Slash introduces us to two characters who are sexually curious, as well as confused, and are working it out in their own way.

We’ve all had those sexual thoughts, however inadvertent, that we may not seem as “normal”. This makes it easy, for me at least, to understand where Neil(Michael Johnston) and Julia(Hannah Marks) are coming from with their various sexual desires. We being the film by playing out Neil’s writing, a story about Vanguard – A futuristic warrior of some type, think Star Wars or Halo – first vigorously fighting with his adversary, then passionately being intimate with him. As we find out later in the film, these are the only things that give Neil, a 15 year old, any type of arousal, and he’s ashamed of them. Enter Julia, a beautiful young woman, a year older than Neil, and light years more experienced sexually. She too writes fan fic, and has been doing so online for quite a while, building up quite a reputation. The two meet when Neil’s personal writing falls into her hands, much to his dismay. She embraces him, encourages him, and the two eventually attend a fan fic convention geared toward people who write the same type of fantasies. It should also be noted that both Neil and Julia are incredible writers, and the fact that they write fan fic should not deter someone from appreciating their writing ability. As the film progresses, the relationship between Neil and Julia waves through many titles; friends, lovers, partners, enemies, their relationship takes many forms.

Billed as a Comedy, Slash is much deeper than that. There is genuine substance in both Neil and Julia’s characters. The film does a wonderful job of not allowing you to fill in the blanks in the story line. We don’t truly know the characters throughout the film, which gives the plot a lot of longevity, as development of the characters continues through the final scene. For instance, from the first 5 minutes of the film we surmise that Neil is homosexual. We believe this because he’s writing erotic fiction involving two males. Then, he meets Julia, and we can see his infatuation with her, leading us to question our original assumption. Later in the film he shows a willingness to have intimate conversations with another man, leading us to believe he may be bisexual. The same sort of thing goes on in Julia’s story line, as she openly admits to being bisexual. The truth is, we don’t know, because the characters don’t know. What Slash is really getting at with this is that it doesn’t matter. Neil and Julia are attracted to whatever attracts them. The film means for you to embrace whatever turns you on, as long as it is legal as I suppose.

Taking things to a more technical avenue, I thought the screenplay on this film is really what mattered and impacted me. The characters are so thoughtfully written and the story line never has a dull moment, with layers of comedy throughout. Writer and Director Clay Liford adapted this feature from his short film, also titled Slash, which is a feat that proves difficult for many screenwriters. It’s difficult to take a short that spans,maybe 15 minutes, and turn it into a two hour feature, all the while keeping the same complexity and value to the writing. The acting was sufficient, but nothing to rave about. Hannah Marks impressed me the most with the amount of confidence she displayed in her role. I’ve gotta believe she’s similar at least in demeanor off camera as she showed on camera, that’s the only way you can sell a character such as this. Michael Johnston did a fine job as Neil, but for a lead role, left me a bit wanting for me. I often times felt he was overshadowed by even some minor parts, such as Michael Ian Black’s role as Denis. Maybe this was intended, as the character Johnston was playing was meant to be reserved and insecure, but it still felt to me like he could have done more, sold it more. I can’t see this film succeeding in a theatrical release, but that isn’t because it’s undeserving. The subject matter of the film is simply something distributors would hesitate to take on, and that audience members might cringe at. Hopefully their team is able to find a way to get this to the public, because this narrative is pure perfection.

With all of that said, Slash is a damn fine film, with many intricacies, and it opens your eyes and mind into a world in which you may never knew existed. The story rings true to many adolescences, and shows we should simply accept who we are, and not be ashamed or embarrassed. In this world, in this life, no one is alone, there’s always someone in the world that shares your interest, go out there and find them.

Official Trailer:

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