Slotherhouse has a silly and promising premise but squanders the potential by pulling its punches. This cautionary tale of chasing popularity and jealousy within a college sorority has a fun puppet monster but ceases to entertain with uninteresting characters and inconsequential kills. The puppet sloth is fun for a while, but after a while the movie becomes tedious.
When I first saw the marketing trailer campaign for Slotherhouse, I got excited. The trailer promised a zany monster/slasher vibe with the least likely of all creatures: a three-toed sloth. The adorable, slow, and notoriously peaceful critter of the moment. The title is a terrific pun. The tagline is great too. “Don’t Rush, Die Slow” works on many levels, since this is both about a killer sloth and rush week for a sorority house. Even the poster was in on the irony of having such a preposterously mild creature as the featured monster. It was with the anticipation of this level of cleverness that I watched this movie.
Sadly, the marketing of the movie exceeded the delivery of the product. The opening scene works, though. We are introduced to the wonderfully articulated puppet sloth in a wide shot where the critter extends out to snack on a leaf. A crocodile lunges up to eat the sloth. Spoiler alert: The sloth wins, but it doesn’t get to enjoy its victory for long as it is tranquilized by a poacher.
We are then introduced to our social media-obsessed lead, Emily (Lisa Ambalavanar) at a shopping mall. Emily is stressing about her return to college and sorority house politics. She stumbles into an exotic pet seller (Stefan Kapicic) who offers to sell her a sloth. Yes, that crocodile killing sloth. She declines the offer, but the thought intrigues her. It could be a way for her to earn favor and popularity within her sorority house.
The movie shows its mean girl roots when the scene arrives at the ΣΛΘ House (Sigma Lambda Theta. Phonetically: Sloth… clever) Emily is a bubbly and optimistic young woman, who feels the urge to challenge the reigning bitchy reigning house president, Brianna (Sydney Craven). Brianna runs the house like a tyrant. She is pretty, rich, and ruthless. The other sorority sisters either worship her or fear her. ΣΛΘ has a clearly defined power structure, and Emily is on the outside looking in.
The house mom, Ms. Mayflower (Tiff Stevenson), reminds Emily of her legacy. Emily’s mother was a revered president of ΣΛΘ, and Mayflower encourages Emily to unseat Brianna and bring some happiness back to the house. Emily decides that she needs an edge if she is going to win the house election: A slow-moving fuzzy edge with long claws and a sleepy countenance. She calls the exotic animal dealer and arranges to pick up the critter. Before Emily can pick up the sloth, however, it strikes back at the dealer after being drugged, killing him. Emily finds the sloth, apparently abandoned in the dealer’s house. She grabs the animal and heads back to the sorority house. Hmmmm.
Emily’s plan works like a charm. The sloth becomes a big hit in the house, and they name her Alpha. The ladies of ΣΛΘ include Alpha in many of their house activities, making Emily quite popular and Brianna quite envious. At a fateful house party, Brianna instructs one of her lieutenants to get rid of Alpha… quietly. Alpha snaps after being abandoned, and now killer sloth mode has been engaged.
Alpha slays several of the girls in the house, somewhat inexplicably. Nobody notices the missing housemates. Apparently, Alpha is good at hiding the bloody evidence. In fact, she is really good at behaving like a human. She can use a computer. Interesting. Alpha picks pockets. Uhmmmm. And she can drive a car! OK! Wait a minute! This is an inherently silly movie, and neither logic nor common sense are in play here. Also, Alpha is very athletic, like a monkey, not a sloth. Irony? I say lazy scripting. I would have preferred Alpha to kill slowly to punctuate the silliness of it all.
Does she look slow to you? Oh my God we’re all gonna die! We’re all gonna die slow horrible deaths at the hands of an adorable little killing machine! All because your hating ass couldn’t handle not being president!
Breanna (Sydney Craven) to Emily (Lisa Ambalanavar) in Slotherhouse
Alpha racks up a sizable body count, but the whole enterprise is rather bloodless. The movie tries to make up for a lack of blood and guts with quantity. As a result, the movie feels bland and by the numbers. Because the movie needs to adhere to the PG-13 rating relative to the gore, many of the sorority sisters ended up dying from what appear to be deep scratches. The movie got less interesting once the action kicked in, which is a sad realization for a horror movie. It didn’t have to be that way. Happy Death Dayproved that with great characters and creative scripting, a PG-13 rating doesn’t mean you miss out on the thrills.
Slotherhouse ends up feeling like a lightweight. The main characters feel very one-note, and the supporting characters are either forgettable or annoying. I am also probably not the target audience. As a horror gateway movie for teenage girls, this might actually work pretty well. A telltale warning for me was that when each character got introduced, they had a social media likes level pop up, and my old-man annoyance with social media infatuation kicked in. Accordingly, I rooted for Alpha to wreck some house. Too bad she couldn’t go full out with those Freddy Kreuger-like talons. Those of you who know my reviews may remember that my #1 rule for appreciating a good horror movie is if I care about the protagonists. This failed my Rule #1.
If you like the premise and want to see a better application of the peaceful animal turned killer check out Black Sheep. Another goofy comparable film is Killer Sofa. Or, if what brought you to this movie was a desire to watch Fraternity/Sorority horror check out the superior (and rather scary) Pledge.