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The Student News Site of Frederick High School

Frederick Lantern

The Student News Site of Frederick High School

Frederick Lantern

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Sloth Movie Deserves a Slow Clap

Slotherhouse is bizarre fun, if you can find a screening
Gravitas Ventures
“Don’t rush, die slow.” Slotherhouse, a PG13 horror flick where a sloth murders sorority girls, is a fantastic example of a so-bad-its-good horror B-movie. While not perfect by design, this campy throwback stands out among a market dripping with elevated horror.

With Hollywood on strike and small studios like A24 and Blumhouse still in production, the time is right for indie horror movies to flourish. January’s M3GAN and July’s Talk to Me have become surprising hits, with other films like The Influencer, Infinity Pool, and Skinamarink getting their own notoriety and critical praise as entries in the now decade-old subgenre of elevated horror. Elevated horror doesn’t rely on jump scares or gratuitous violence to scare audiences, but uses slow pacing, arthouse cinematography, moody lighting, and a reliance on complex plots and metaphors to tell their dark stories.

Slotherhouse is not one of those films.

Slotherhouse, a new independent film by director Matthew Goodhue, is the exact opposite of elevated horror. It has a bombastic horror score. It has mindless brutality. It uses every cliche in the horror movie book. And it is wonderful. Slotherhouse marks a glorious return to cinemas for B-movie horror, with its ridiculous premise and excellent direction bringing a new energy to the horror genre.

Slotherhouse has a plot as straightforward as its title. Now that she is a college senior, aspiring influencer Emily Young (Lisa Ambalavanar) wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become president of the Sigma-Lambda-Theta sorority. The only person standing in her way is current president and resident mean girl Bri (Sydney Craven) and her indomitable social media following. After a chance encounter at the mall with an exotic animal trafficker, Emily rescues a three-toed sloth named Alpha. What she doesn’t know is that Alpha was the most dangerous predator in the Panamanian jungle before she was captured. Emily brings Alpha to the sorority as its new mascot, horror ensues.

To say any more would ruin the many surprises in the film. Despite the ridiculous-sounding premise, Slotherhouse is surprisingly creative when it comes to character deaths. And there is lots of death — the film certainly lives up to the slother (er, slaughter) part of its title, with Alpha gathering a body count worthy of Freddy Kreuger or Ghostface. The film doesn’t skimp on the horror either, as each death is preceded by tense scenes of characters creeping around the dark sorority halls accompanied by the superb score by composer Sam Ewing of Walking Dead fame. The kills do suffer a little from the PG13 rating, which limits the amount of blood that can be used on film, but they are satisfying nonetheless.

For a film about a sloth, the film moves rather quickly. The 93-minute runtime forces the film to skip over explanations and exposition in favor of more slaughter. This is ultimately a detriment to the film. Alpha is introduced early on as the fiercest predator in the jungle, but the film gives no reason for this — the audience just has to buy into the premise that the adorable animal that runs the DMV in our Disney films is a cold-blooded psychopath. The film also introduces the entirety of the sorority — thirteen girls — in around ten minutes, all with quick animated pop-ups of their screenname and follower count.

While this intro is fairly clever and memorable, the characters are not. A majority of the characters are a version of the fashionable and attractive petty blonde white girl stereotype that can be found in every college movie, and while it’s a fun way for the director to criticize the trope of the Greek bimbo, it creates confusion. When a girl runs in screaming “Dakota’s dead!” the viewer doesn’t feel sad at the girl’s death but is instead wondering, Now which one was that?

Sorority president Brianna (Sydney Craven) interrogates her friend Ava in front of sorority sisters Chloe, Dakota, Sarah, and Alyssa. Or maybe Bri is interrogating Morgan in front of Gabby, Alyssa, Sarah, and Chloe. It’s hard to tell, given how many characters are introduced in this film and how few are distinguishable in any way. Despite everything it does right, this movie about a sloth ironically moves too fast at times for the audience to understand just what is going on. (Gravitas Ventures)

Thankfully, the acting is good across the board in spite of the lack of character development. British actress Bianca Beckles-Rose steals every scene she’s in as Zenny, the Bluto-esque party girl who only joined the sorority on a dare. Former YouTuber Olivia Rouyre also excels as Madison, Emily’s best friend who is initially only distinguishable from the other girls because she wears overalls but becomes a standout in her fight to survive Alpha. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Sydney Craven’s great work as villain-you-love-to-hate Bri and comedian Tiff Stevenson’s portrayal of house mother Ms. Mayflower, who may have the best dying breath speech of all time.

Sadly, the only acting I found less than stellar was that of the star. Lisa Ambalavanar is a good actress — as proven by her recent run as Jinx on Titans — but she didn’t bring the warmth to Emily that is needed in a horror protagonist. She spends the majority of the film playing Emily with a friendly and naive demeanor, but this doesn’t fit the character’s selfish actions and manipulation to beat Bri at the election. While surely not the least likable character in the film, Emily doesn’t do enough to gain the audience’s sympathy, and when she’s thrust into the inevitable life-or-death battle against Alpha, I found myself rooting for the sloth.

And what a sloth she is. Slotherhouse was made on a small budget of $20 million, so the production relied on puppeteers rather than CGI to bring the murderous furball to life. The puppeteers do great work, as Alpha has a fully articulated face and expresses a wide range of human-like emotions throughout the film. While the puppet doesn’t look that realistic, it just helps the film’s B-movie aesthetic.

Party girl Zenny (Bianca Beckles-Rose) relaxes by an inflatable pool with Alpha the sloth in Slotherhouse. As over the top as she can be at times, Beckles-Rose is the breakout performance of this film, balancing slapstick comedy with a genuine love for her sorority sisters. The primarily British cast does a great job overall but easily gets outshined by the outstanding puppetry of Alpha. (Gravitas Ventures)

So what exactly is a B-movie? Once upon a time, most theatres had double features, especially drive-ins, and you got two movies for the price of one ticket. The first movie was the one that drew all the crowds, the cinema classics we still talk about today. The second film, not so much.

This “B” movie was often considered inferior since it was cheaply produced with second-rate actors. Since the studios didn’t care much about the B-movies they made, directors and writers were able to go crazy with any wacky idea they thought would be fun to shoot. An alien plant that eats the customers in a flower shop. An evil motorcycle that runs on blood instead of gasoline. A deranged sculptor who turns his murder victims into wax sculptures.

A murderous sloth loose in a sorority house.

Since the early 2010s, studios like Neon, Blumhouse, and A24 have shown the world that a cheap movie didn’t have to look cheap and that horror could be as artistic and cinematic as Oscar-winning drama. While this has resulted in horror masterpieces, they elevated horror by turning their backs on the B-movie style, which is a shame. B-movies are ridiculous and campy and bad in so many ways… but they are fun. They have a charm to them that only exists because they are absurd and shoddy acts of love.

Thankfully, the last few years have seen the return of the B-movie thanks to streaming services like Shutter needing content. Recent successes like PG: Psycho Goreman and Slaxx (the killer jeans movie) have made the B-movie style lucrative enough for theatres to risk bringing B-movies back to the big screen. Sadly, two poor experiments earlier this year in B-movie horror (The Mean One and Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey) were seen as gimmicks and almost killed the opportunity for a B-movie revival, but the success of Cocaine Bear (a major studio effort in a B-movie style) allowed theatres to take a chance on a little indie film with a little killer sloth.

While it isn’t perfect (and as a B-movie, it isn’t supposed to be), Slotherhouse is a must-watch for anyone who loves the horror genre and wants to have a silly time with a silly movie. While it has a very limited release schedule (my local theatre only had one late-night showing), hopefully word of mouth can encourage theatres to have more showings of this weird little film. There’s no word yet on when the film will be on streaming, so you’ll want to hurry and catch this film while you can. Don’t be slow in seeing the sloth movie.

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About the Contributor
Brandon Coon
Brandon Coon, Staff Adviser
Mr. Brandon Coon is the adviser of The Frederick Lantern. In his thirteen years in the classroom, he has taught grades six through twelve and subjects as diverse as AP Literature, literacy, drama, tech theatre, world history, yearbook, and computer science. He also cosponsors Frederick's chapter of the Quill and Scroll International Society for High School Journalists. He has a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Northern Colorado and is a member of Sigma Tau Delta.​

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