Matthew Goodhue’s whimsically titled film “Slotherhouse” appears to possess all the ingredients of another underwhelming horror movie that fails to live up to its outrageously eccentric concept. We’ve seen disappointments like “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” and unexpected successes like “The Grinch’s Christmas: The Mean One.” However, fear not! “Slotherhouse” defies expectations and stands out as a genuine gem amidst the realm of post-“Sharknado” absurd monster mash-ups.
Goodhue takes the conventional sorority-slasher blueprint of films like “Black Christmas” or “The House on Sorority Row” and injects a murderous sloth into the equation, taking the premise to unexpectedly thoughtful extremes. Screenwriter Bradley Fowler not only crafts a wild animals-gone-rogue midnight delight but also crafts a competent college comedy that holds its own. While titles like Syfy Originals have conditioned us to anticipate disappointment, “Slotherhouse” is a rare exception. It kicks into high gear in its most ludicrous moments, keeping us laughing uproariously.
Leading actress Lisa Ambalavanar portrays Emily Young, a senior from Sigma Lambda Theta who seeks an edge in the impending house president election. She adopts an endearing sloth taken from its Panamanian habitat, which quickly becomes a sorority mascot sensation on the internet – leading to a series of hilariously chaotic animal-related antics. “Slotherhouse” revels in the cheeky absurdity of Emily’s scheme, with montages showcasing the sloth, nicknamed “Alpha,” participating in Greek activities like dodgeball and poolside lounging. Goodhue goes far beyond traditional storytelling boundaries, allowing us to embrace the film’s unapologetically silly entertainment value. However, as Alpha begins to eliminate sorority sisters, sharing pictures of their demise on social media and driving sports cars, the tone takes a darker turn.
The film’s balance leans heavily toward comedy, with horror elements taking a backseat at a 2:1 ratio. “Slotherhouse” won’t contend for the year’s best horror kills nor induce spine-chilling fear, but that’s not its objective. There are echoes of series like “Scream Queens” and “Riverdale” as sorority archetypes, ranging from the conniving queen bee to the MMA enthusiast, navigate their Greek life while their peers mysteriously vanish. The film straddles the line between absurdly Hollywood-esque and refreshingly organic. The spirited and sassy cast lampoons sorority dynamics through their exaggerated characters, allowing young women to take the lead in a comedic scenario typically reserved for stereotypical frat boys.
On the horror front, expect a level similar to a PG-13 rendition of “M3GAN,” albeit with a sloth. Goodhue’s puppetry keeps the most lethal moments just out of sight. Blood splatters onto the camera or decor, but the film wisely avoids showcasing in-your-face mutilation that might exceed its modest budget. Instead, the focus is on spoofing horror conventions found in animal-attack films and all-girls slashers. Alpha’s eerie approach toward her first victim, illuminated by lightning flashes that emphasize her creeping proximity and hidden bursts of speed, channels the satire of classic slasher villains like Jason Voorhees or Chucky. Although the body count doesn’t amass a gore-filled highlight reel, Alpha attains an iconic status akin to M3GAN or Grogu.
Goodhue demonstrates a keen understanding of what horror enthusiasts seek in a film like “Slotherhouse,” prioritizing practical effects. While Alpha might not match Paddington in lifelike appearance, puppetry infuses her with personality. The puppeteers convey a range of facial expressions and capture her feral attacks. When house mother Ms. Mayflower (played by Tiff Stevenson) dances around with Alpha on her shoulders, the joy Stevenson experienced on set shines through. Unlike many films that resort to lackluster digital effects, “Slotherhouse” avoids this pitfall. Whether Alpha snaps a selfie or wields a katana, the result is akin to maniacal Muppets – an undeniable triumph.
“Slotherhouse” forms a comprehensive package that transcends the appeal of merely enjoying a “so-bad-it’s-good” film. Mark David’s cinematography captures the pastel elegance of Sigma Lambda Theta while masterfully adopting horror aesthetics when Alpha prowls through dimly lit hallways. The screenplay integrates strong anti-poaching messages that condemn animal cruelty and the exploitation of exotic creatures. The end credits even feature a song dedicated to Alpha, with lyrics cautioning against chasing social media highs that influence ill-advised attention-seeking behaviors, mirroring Emily’s choices. Goodhue doesn’t aim to force a cult following or cheap viral fame; his genuine intent is to provide the most entertaining experience rooted in a pun that would typically elicit an eye roll. The outcome far surpasses the competition in wordplay.
In summation, “Slotherhouse” embodies what many contrived B-movies and aspiring cult classics strive to achieve. Balancing elements of sorority comedy and wildlife horror, Goodhue skillfully amplifies the aura of a party-centered horror flick ideal for weekend viewing with friends who appreciate trashy cinema. While the kill sequences could benefit from a touch more gore and some character traits may veer toward stereotypes, Alpha emerges as a star. The film offers plenty to relish as the slothful antagonist wreaks havoc among territorial sorority sisters engrossed in popularity contests. This is especially true if you’re in the mood for hearty and frequent laughter. Despite its unconventional title, “Slotherhouse” is far from a one-note letdown.