REVIEW – Slay Belles (Epic Pictures, 2018)

A trio of cosplay YouTubers who run a show called ‘Adventure Girls’ travel around America on the hunt for cool locations to shoot their videos and collect souvenirs along the way. Alexi (Kristina Klebe – Halloween 2007), Dahlia (Susan Slaughter – Oija House) and Sadie (Hannah Wagner – The Devils Carnival) are a sexy group of outgoing women seeking to shoot fun videos to push the popularity of their show. On their adventures they stumble across a deserted place called ‘Santaland’; which as you’d expect by the name is as festive as it comes. Littered with candy canes and sparkly decorations, ‘Santaland’ is a wonderland of Christmas but there are no residents around. They question why there is no one around and the reason very soon becomes evident when they bump into the evil Christmas monster Krampus who is more than excited (and hungry) by their presence. What started off as a fun adventure soon becomes a nightmare as they are chased around the park by an angry Krampus looking for its next victim. They instinctively try to run for their nearby vehicle but it is promptly towed away, leaving them stranded without any quick getaway. Desperate for help, they look for ways to get out and find a fat man with a long white beard, none other than Father Christmas himself, Santa. Santa (Barry Bostwick – The Rocky Horror Picture Show) takes the girls under his wing as he prepares a plan to apprehend the evil Krampus before more lives are lost. A battle of epic proportions commences as Santa takes on Krampus. There is so much going on that the carnage spills over, the police begin investigating disappearances and there is even a town drunk dressed as Santa who is held as a suspect. There is an abundance of ideas on display but they all fit together perfectly as the fun unfolds.

When it comes to low budget indie horror movies, less is always more. Practical effects are on show here alongside some CGI and it all looks great on screen. Slay Belles is clearly driven by a creative team who had a desire to do things differently but do things right. The movie is a laugh-a-minute fun horror comedy with a sack full of humorous gags throughout. Despite its relatively short run time of only 77 minutes, the film doesn’t cut any corners. If anything, the film feels short and concise with no filler which actually works to its advantage as there is never a dull moment. Slay Belles is literally a blast from the opening scene to the very end, you can tell the actors had a lot of fun making the film (it comes across strongly on screen) and the whole production oozes classic 80’s B movie aesthetics. Barry Bostwick is perfect in his role as Santa; he revels in every scene and really gives the film its edge, you could put across a claim that this is one of his best career performances. The production is slick in all areas from the way its shot to the water tight plot to the fantastic festive themed drum and bass soundtrack.

Slay Belles is an outstanding indie horror film with a lot of heart. There were throwbacks to many of my favourite movies including Critters (1986) and The Howling (1981) but Slay Belles is very much its own beast. Fun is always a big part of a Christmas films fundamentals and they’ve nailed the fun factor in copious amounts. Whether you’ve been good or bad this year, you should definitely check out Slay Belles, it’s a surprisingly nice present to open and enjoy.

Score: *****

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