Slice is the debut feature from writer/director Austin Vesely, whose previous credits include… well, a couple of Chance the Rapper music videos. Legend has it that Chance read Vesely’s spec script, agreed to star in it, posted a fake poster for it on his Instagram… and that alone is what got distributor A24’s attention (and got Vesely a budget). It also explains why Chance is making his own feature film debut in a movie about a werewolf, some ghosts, and one hellishly bad pizza joint. What it doesn’t explain, really, is why A24 unceremoniously dumped this film on VOD last week. Up until just a few weeks ago, the release date was “coming soon, 2018” — and then suddenly we could all rent it in the comfort of our own homes. None of which is a complaint, mind you. I can see why A24, fresh off the success of a serious genre piece like Hereditary, might not want to confuse audiences who could be expecting something more substantive from their horror output. I also think that, far from being a sign of distrust in the film, releasing Slice on VOD was a perfect strategy. This movie is made to be watched at home, on your couch, with a beer and a spliff and a large pie and maybe a few good friends. Because Slice is a throwback, tailor-made for that golden age of Friday night VHS/DVD rental-and-chill. In fact, it’s basically the spiritual (pun intended) successor to bygone horror-comedy flicks like Idle Hands, and really — I can’t pay it a higher compliment than that.
Like a good supreme pizza, Slice has a lot going on, and even if its calories are empty, it still tastes pretty fucking delicious. The story concerns the hunt for a serial killer who is targeting pizza delivery people in the fictional city of Kingfisher. Also, it’s important to know that in Kingfisher (and, presumably, elsewhere?), ghosts hang around long after death. They’re so prevalent, they’ve been given their own neighborhood to hang out and be undead in. This also means that if a character dies, they’re not gone from the film — they’re just going to continue on, with some vaguely unsettling make-up. But back to the killer! On the hunt are the cops, who believe a werewolf named Dax (Chance the Rapper) is the culprit; a local newspaper reporter named Sadie (Rae Gray), who thinks there might be a larger conspiracy afoot; and Astrid (Zazie Beetz), a friend of the first victim, who starts delivering pizzas herself to look for clues. Other key players include Paul Scheer as the owner of the central pizza parlor, which is located in a strip mall that’s built on haunted grounds; Joe Keery as Sadie’s unhelpful photographer (with fantastic hair, obviously!); Chris Parnell as Mayor Tracy, who likes boobs and money; a prophetic ghost named Joe (Lakin Valdez) whom everyone should really pay more attention to; and a group of harmless cat ladies with a less-than-harmless agenda.
Everything in the film is a little too much — too many actors, too many plot diversions — and you never quite get enough of any single element to be satisfied. No, there isn’t enough Chance, or Zazie. Hannibal Buress shows up for a cameo I can’t even describe as “glorified”. Just when you think there’s enough supernatural lunacy in the movie, it throws in some silly, spooky new element to surprise you. There’s an unnecessary diversion involving a drug dealer called, I shit you not, “Big Cheese” (guess what image is on all his little drug baggies?!), while other plot beats — like Sadie figuring the whole case out first, and the cop with a prejudice against werewolves who refuses to believe her — are too easy. Still, you can’t help but admire the playful excess, and the light touch with which everything is presented. Slice pays homage to a lot of familiar horror tropes without winking at the audience. It has a wicked sense of humor, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it has the self-assurance to keep all the plates spinning even when maybe it could have let some drop.
And as for Chance? Dude is so effortlessly charming it’s astounding. I mean, I’m not saying he’s a great actor — he’s not really asked to do anything particularly challenging in this film anyway, so it’s hard to make a judgment. But there’s no denying that he basically is just a fountain of charisma. Even the way he delivers his lines, his comedic timing, it’s all so natural you’d be forgiven for thinking that, sure, maybe the real Chance is a real werewolf and that’s fine, why not, it’s 2018 after all, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing to happen. If nothing else, I want to see him in more movies, but even if he never acts again, we’ll always have his music. And his music videos. And his interviews.
What I’m saying is that I could watch him be him, indefinitely.
Point is, Slice may be imperfect, but it’s so much fun it doesn’t matter. When I first saw the trailer I said it has everything you could ever want, and I hold to that sentiment — though I’d add that it also has stuff you’re going to love even if you don’t see it coming. And sure, maybe you didn’t need to have it all in one place — maybe it’s all a bit too much — but it goes down easy regardless. Frankly, it’s the kind of low-stakes, high-concept, cheesy-yet-cool movie I want more of.
Header Image Source: A24