By Carter Glace, Staff Writer
“Slash” is the rare modern film that actually has something interesting to talk about regarding the Internet Age. As a millennial helplessly glued to his phone, I find most attempts to comment on our new tech-heavy society to have nothing interesting to bring to the discussion, always going for the low hanging fruit of “people can’t interact in person anymore” or “you can pretend to be anyone.” Frankly, the internet is infinitely more interesting than that, and “Slash” decides to hone in on a particularly strange part of that world and make a narrative from it.
Michael Johnston plays Neil, an outcast who finds a outlet through erotic fan fiction of the science fiction series Vanguard. When his note book gets passed around school, he becomes the subject of ridicule, until the older Julia (Hannah Marks) reveals herself as a fellow writer motivating him to pursue writing on a fan fiction website.
One of the film’s strengths is its earnest, genuine feel. It is so hard to find believable teenagers, let alone believable awkward teenagers, but Michael and Hannah find that perfect balance between being weird but endearing, and always feel like real human beings. Most films would have easily descended into caricature while discussing erotic fan fiction, but “Slash” chooses to treat its subject matter the casualness its characters do. It does help create a mindset where this is just a part of daily life.
And for some people, it is, something some people do for one of millions of reasons. That grounded nature and casualness of the film make the ‘erotica culture’ feel real. The film feels like it was made by people with at least some experience or understanding of the field, creating this unique environment filled with strange politics, people from all walks of life and an understanding that while what they do is weird, they own it.
However, in some places this casualness feels like a weakness. While on one hand, normalizing Slash Fiction allows Slash to be a unique spin on the Coming of Age genre—as Neil tries to find himself only to discover he should enjoy his own little world—it feels like an opportunity was missed to make a vibrant counterculture film by making the world more colorful or fanciful. I don’t even think it would necessarily have to embrace Rocky Horror’s anarchic, utterly insane tone; just diving into the weird aspects of the culture could have created that same feeling of being a rallying point of subversion. I think a good example of what I imagine is the ‘Erotic Friend-Fiction’ episode of “Bob’s Burger,” which was still grounded and casual, but also allowed the ‘fan-fiction’ to be weird and insane, but lovable.
“Slash” touches this a bit with visual recreations of Neil’s work, which end up being one of the film’s best aspects. The low-fi charm and melodramatic erotic action is perfect for the subject material, and something the film should have embraced a bit more.
But this is reviewing the film wanted, not the one given, and the film given is pretty good. Sweet, fun, endearing, with a enjoyable central relationship, “Slash” is a step in the right direction for capturing the current state of the internet on film.
“Slash” will be playing at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – City Point on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.