There’s something prophetic about Elza Kephart’s career in Hollywood since her latest film in Slaxx became a passion project of sorts since she’s been working on it almost as long as she’s been in the industry. Three years removed from her first project in 1998, the director began to work on what would be called Slaxx, which took a lot of thought to put in taking over 15 years to see the film start becoming a reality. The film is about a possessed pair of jeans that begins to kill the staff of a trendy clothing store, and it’s up to an idealistic young sales clerk to stop its bloody rampage. I spoke with Kephart about how she and co-writer Patricia Gomez Zlatar made the film a reality.
“It started on a road trip with my writing partner and teasing each other about words we hated,” Kephart recalled. “One of the words one of our friends [brought up] on the road trip was with was ‘slacks.’ We just repeated it so often it started to sound like a killer pair of pants. That’s when we decided we had to make a movie about a killer of pants. Then it took like quite a long time to get the script to where it needed to be about something a bit more meaty than just killer pants, which would have been a one-note.” The director recalled that the script only went through three drafts despite the length of time to get filming started. With the final draft completed, she went to the casting. “We did the regular casting process,” Kephart said. “We went through a casting director in Montreal, and it was just people who do audition regularly. We were trying to get someone a bit better-named for Craig, but when that didn’t pan out, we went back to our casting director, and we’re like, ‘OK, we need to find a great local person.’ So we just auditioned a bunch of people, and then we found the best Craig [in Brett Donahue]. So it happened pretty quickly, and like, I guess a couple of months.”
Much to Kephart’s misfortunate, Slaxx saw a limited release in theaters before the COVID pandemic pre-maturely ended its initial run and its second life on Shudder. “Well, it was released in theaters in Canada in September,” she recalled. “We were just like in the window where between the first and the second wave [of the pandemic]. So even though it had to stop the release after the third week, it was playing, and people were enjoying it. We were getting really good reviews. So sure the pandemic affected it, but I think the reviews were quite positive. I think as to what it brings to people: the pandemic revealed the real cracks in our society of social injustice. Slaxx definitely talks about that, talks about people who don’t have access to proper health care, medicine, or well-being, who are abused by the system. Slaxx talks exactly about that. So it’s it works in a way it confirms what people already know, but it confirms that perhaps for occidental people, not just people who work as in the film and in cotton fields in India.”
As far as any future with a possible franchise, Kephart did see another avenue where Slaxx could endure with its over-the-top nature…for the stage. “There wouldn’t be a sequel to Slaxx in particular, although someone suggested that it would make a good musical, and I tend to agree with that,” she said. “So, Patricia and I are going to be discussing about maybe breaking down the script into a musical script and see if anyone is interested. I am writing other projects that speak to different aspects of social inequity and corporate malfeasance. So even though it’s not directly about Slaxx itself, it is a theme that I’m taking up again in a different guise.”
If there was one thing Kephart learned over the years since her directorial debut in the 2002 TV series Naughty Soxxx, it’s to trust her instincts and intuition. “You have to go along with what you feel this film is trying to be and not fight against it, but really see where the story or the film is trying to go to be a really like an open vessel for the film and follow its own logic, because it’s always going to take you interesting or interesting places.” RLJE Films’ Slaxx, which also stars Romane Denis, Sehar Bhojani, and Stephen Bogaert, is available on VOD, digital, and DVD.