Inuit Girls Slash/Back (2022) Against Shapeshifting Alien Invasion
First Non-Festival Release: June 24, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Myla Innuksuk
Writer: Ryan Cavan, Nyla Innuksuk
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Starring: Tasiana Shirley, Nalajoss Ellsworth, Alexis Wolfe, Chelsea Prusky
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
The lives of a group of teenage girls change forever when they discover something terrible in the Arctic glaciers near their hometown. Emotionally detached Maika (Tasiana Shirley) longs to leave Pangnirtung and resigns herself to complaining about the circumstances tying her to the town. She spends her days with her friends: hot-headed Uki (Nalajoss Ellsworth), loyal yet constantly overlooked Jesse (Alexis Wolfe), and timid rich girl Leena (Chelsea Prusky). When Maika’s persistent little sister Aju (Frankie Vincent-Wolfe) follows them on an unsupervised boat ride, the girls stumble upon a strange presence that is determined to suck the lifeforce out of their small community.
Earnest Inuit alien invasion film Slash/Back delivers thrills and laughs despite low production values.
A brilliant first act sets the scene for a promising film. Immediately the audience is attuned to the long stretches of daylight on the sunniest day of the year, the general annoyances the teenage girls have with life in the city, and the terrifying reality of an alien lifeform crash landing in the mountains overlooking the town. Beautiful shots of the locale establish Pangnirtung as a modest yet isolated village far from help should it need it.
Unfortunately, the film loses steam once it hits its second act. After the first encounter with the alien creature, the film seems unsure of how it wants to continue the story. Opting to center the remainder of the film on the teenage girls sneaking out of babysitting duties the night of a solstice dance to party with their male classmates, there isn’t much propelling the group beyond covering for each other and play hooky. Once they decide to hunt the predator, it feels almost like an afterthought and that, at times, the stakes are not higher than their parents finding out they snuck out with the boat.
The young cast struggles to convey the gravity of life in the town let alone Pangnirtung’s developing alien situation. Tasiana Shirley is the standout member of the cast, giving a steady amount of maturity and vulnerability in her role as the contemptuous Maika. Her ability to banter with her friends before convincingly shooting at a shapeshifting alien allows her to give credibility to her and her crew’s badass credentials in monster hunting. Understanding that the crew scouted for talent on location and supported them with acting workshops is important context for why some scenes don’t particularly work. Thankfully, the silver lining is that after getting this under their belt, these actors will be much more prepared to take on meatier roles in the future.
Despite all the challenges, there is plenty to be proud of in this feature. The special effects are fantastic for such a low budget film. From vicious polar bears to skin melted humans, the aliens invading their hosts look real enough that they are actively manipulating their environment. The commitment to strategically placing the antagonists within the film too lets Slash/Back catch viewers off guard when it does get a chance to show off its memorable villains.
Even with the roughness of the cast and story, there is a sweetness about the friendship between the girls that is both empowering and genuine. They care about each other, even when they mess up and put themselves in danger. It gives viewers a great group of girls to root for throughout the feature.
High concept sci-fi horror with important representation, Slash/Back is a fun film that won’t work for everyone. Between the mismatched tone and odd pacing, it becomes a chore to sit through in the end. It borrows heavily from the great sci-fi horror films of the past, but manages to honor them while adding its own twists. If you can forgive some of the growing pains, there is plenty to appreciate in this indie feature. Few films will go to the frontiers of the genre to explore new material, but Slash/Back does which warrants at the bare minimum a watch from curious movie-goers.
Overall Score? 5.5/10