“I’m gonna tell you a story about a ghost, a werewolf, and – if we’re being honest – a pretty [email protected]*#ty pizza place.”
Look, the good people of Kingfisher are sympathetic. When it comes to malevolent experiments, torture, and improper burials, they stand strongly opposed. But c’mon, get over it already! That nefarious old asylum was leveled ages ago. Why are all these tens of thousands of restless spirits still haunting the living?! It took some doing, but an uneasy treaty was brokered. You ghosts stay on your decaying side of town. Leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone…
…until a pizza delivery boy from Kingfisher winds up with his throat slit in Ghost Town. Obviously a spook did it, but with 40,000 of those spectral sumbitches walking around, how do you figure out which one is to blame? Okay, maybe it was a werewolf. Or perhaps it was that guy on the moped who always happens to be lurking whenever someone from Perfect Pizza Base gets ganked. There’s all sorts of other stuff that goes bump in the night too, so the list is getting awfully long. But hey! Astrid (Zazie Beetz from Deadpool 2) is on the case, chasing down leads and running into trouble.
Slice is so gloriously nuts that the couple paragraphs of plot synopsis above barely scratch the surface. Undead Rights Activists! Corrupt cops! A feisty yet perpetually ignored investigative journalist! That kid with the hair from Stranger Things! A sleazy mayor (Chris Parnell) with a penchant for painting boobs! Paul Scheer as a third-rate pizza restaurateur whose staff keeps getting slaughtered! Chance the Rapper, who isn’t that kind of werewolf!
We’re talking about a murder mystery where you could conceivably just ask the victim whodunnit. Its ghosts aren’t ethereal spirits bound to a particular location. They can reason and carry on conversations. I’m pretty sure they can drive. They’re corporeal enough to hold down jobs the same as the rest of us. Slice pretty much just shrugs and says, “This the world we live in,” with no one so much as batting an eye at the supernatural. Everyone just rolls with it, and you’re expected to do the same.
Even with the info-dumps of lore, a small army of supporting characters, and many plot threads that gradually intertwine, Slice is still surprisingly coherent. If you have a taste for genre cinema with social commentary, even better. The parallels between the film’s marginalized ghosts and living, breathing racial minorities are difficult to miss. The walking dead are relegated to ghettos. None have any hope for more in life… errr, afterlife?… than menial jobs, if that. They’re at best disregarded and at worst a convenient scapegoat by those in a position of power. In the proudest Romero tradition, Slice doesn’t bludgeon its audience over the head with its commentary. Still, if that’s not your thing, just gawk at the big visual effects in the gonzo finale, or Chance the Rapper in some really-not-very-good werewolf makeup.
The downside of this more-is-more approach is that some plot points are underserved. There are also far too many characters for more than a handful to feel consequential. Then again, all of this also prevents Slice from ever getting boring. The movie isn’t grounded in anything resembling reality, and that frees it from the shackles of convention. Slice is empowered to surprise in a way that few films can.
The whole thing just feels like it was made for an audience of me and me alone. Its score is an ’80s throwback in the best possible way. Writer/director Austin Vesely and cinematographer Brandon Riley share a background in music videos, so it follows that the film’s candy-colored visuals are ridiculously stylish. And it’s a horror/comedy that’s actually funny! There’s plenty of merit to the mixed critical reception, but I had a blast with Slice just the same.
There’s no word on a proper home video release as I write this. A24 has dropped Slice on all the usual VOD services, though, and it’s streaming on Prime Video at no additional charge for Amazon Prime subscribers.