Slotherhouse has no business being as fun as it is. I would never have dreamed that I’d so very much enjoy watching a puppet murder a bunch of people. With a ton of endearing characters played by actors who fully commit to seeming terrified by a stuffed animal, and a focus on sisterhood in all its possibilities and limitations as well as responsible animal ownership, the messages were heartwarming which, again, I did not expect, what with all the murder.
I’m going to try to explain the plot but people, this will not be easy. Please rest assured that I am not making this up, not even the part where the sloth drives a car.
Alpha, an adorable three-toed sloth (played by a puppet that looks exactly like one of my stuffed animals) is ripped from her jungle home by a poacher who offers to sell her to a college student named Emily. Emily is sweet and kind and loves animals, but her desire to become sorority president in a race versus Mean Girl Brianna causes her to adopt Alpha without thinking things through, as her friend Madison points out:
Oh my God, Em, you bought a poached animal? Look, some asshole poached this poor thing from its home so that you could have a cute, probably parasite-riddled plaything to help you get popular. It – it needs baths, OK? You don’t know how to care for it. You probably don’t even know what it eats!
I’m so Team Madison, you guys, and no, Emily does not know what it eats although Alpha does figure out how to open and consume bottles of beer.
Anyway, it delights me no end to report that Alpha is capable of using the internet, using social media (she makes her own account, with the handle KillerSloth) planning, playing a long game, and, I shit you not, driving a car. She has a few other skills I won’t divulge except to say that they certainly sparked glee in my bloodthirsty heart.
Alpha eventually starts killing off sorority girls and here’s where I have a few neutral, purely FYI observations to make. First of all, this movie is funny, and sometimes it’s clever, but it’s not scary. You know how Jaws made people afraid of sharks? This movie will not be sparking a wave of sloth-phobia, because the premise is too silly and because the sloth is so clearly fake (although I enjoyed the puppetry) and because the general tone is over-the-top satire.
My second observation is that if a slasher movie is set in a sorority house, the viewer will probably expect to see gore, sex, and breasts. This may not be your cup of tea, but it does generally come with the format. Because this movie is PG-13, it is low on gore and there are no sex scenes and there is no nudity, not even in the shower scenes. Whether this is a feature or a bug is not for me to say. You do you.
What I really liked about this movie was its message about keeping wild animals wild, and also its focus on women. As far as the former, basically the movie says that you should not poach animals from the wild nor contribute to or enable the buying and selling of poached exotic pets. I have no deep analysis to offer here except to say, right on, movie!
With regard to the emphasis on relationships between women, there are only three men in the movie, two of whom have no role except to kiss female characters, and I was 100% OK with that. In its silly but heartfelt way, the movie is all about the relationships and the community that the sorority women have with each other, and how these relationships inform who they are and what they want. Sometimes these relationships are supportive and sometimes they are toxic, but they are entirely shaped by women relating to other women.
Full credit to the actors who, once things get murderous, play everything straight, scream as though their careers depend on it, and infuse their characters with warmth and intensity despite the fact that, with the exception of Emily and Alpha, no one seems to have more than one character trait. I did bring this grade down slightly because the actual kills seemed too tame to me for a slasher (darn that PG-13 rating!) and because I’d have loved a slightly more inclusive bunch of characters.
Despite a high body count, this is probably the most heartwarming slasher movie ever to be made. The ending leans hard into the idea that when we try to bring out the best in each other, when we protect each other, and when we do this without putting up with any shit, then we are stronger and happier and better people. I truly enjoyed this weird little film. In fact, I think my sloth puppet and I might rewatch it tonight. If you want to watch something weird, funny, and vaguely feminist, this might do the trick for you.