Produced by Brock Williams, Jason Wehling,
Traci Carlson, Steven Berger, Jeryll Adler
Written and Directed by Clay Liford
Starring Michael Johnston, Hannah Marks,
Michael Ian Black, Missi Pyle, Sarah Ramos,
Peter Vack, Jessie Ennis, Matt Peters
A friend of mine, an avid film-festival-goer (and occasional fest programmer), once referred to a movie he’d just seen as a “festival movie”.
I knew immediately what he meant.
It’s not necessarily a pejorative: while it’s really along the lines of “I know it when I see it”, “festival movies” are generally lightweight, personal stories about the protagonists wanting to break out of their small worlds and discover themselves.
Most of these flicks are coming-of-age stories wherein the lead characters feel like they’re different from everyone else around, save perhaps one or two compatriots, and struggle to find an outlet for their unusual interests.
Slash falls squarely into the above sub-sub-subgenre. It’s a good, if quite minor, effort with solid performances throughout.
Our protagonist is a 15-year-old young man named Neil whose primary escape from a perceived dysfunctional home life and lack of friends is writing “slash fan fic” (fan fic with an explicitly sexual bent) of his favorite book and film series, Vanguard.
His notebook containing his latest story is taken away by some a-hole classmates and passed around, much to his peers’ derision. However, one fellow student, Julia, reads his slash fic and is quite impressed. Turns out, she’s a slash fic writer herself and greatly encourages Neil to continue his writing, and to share it online.
He reluctantly does so, garnering the attention of 38-year-old Denis (played by the always-welcome Michael Ian Black) who, thinking Neil is eighteen, makes sexual advances toward Neil, who is far from put off.
The last act of the film takes place at a Comic-Con-esque convention wherein Neil plans to read his slash fic to a group of like-minded folks.
The relationships are handled with a refreshing frankness and honesty; Julia is utterly straightforward with Neil in that she’s confused about her feelings for him, while the potentially creepy Denis is actually a good-hearted nerd who, while attracted to Neil, is hardly a pedophile.
All of this is minor stuff, to be sure, but it’s handled well by writer/director Clay Liford, who also does well with the reenactments of Neil’s stories. These sequences are quite amusing, with clichéd science fiction setups quickly evolving into make-out sessions and beyond.
“Festival Movie” it may be, but in the case of Slash, it’s a compliment. It’s a niche idea of a coming-of-age film, one that most geeks could identify with, whatever their sexual proclivity.