Slay Belles (2018)

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Dahlia and Sadie are a pair of Youtubers calling themselves The Adventure Girls. What do they do? They go to various abandoned locations and film themselves roaming around. Knowing how much their buddy loves Christmas, they grab their friend Alexi and take her on their next trip with them up into the mountains to the abandoned site of Santa Land. On the way there the three are warned of some local bear attacks. Not to be deterred, they still go, but decide to make the trip a bit shorter than usual, in hopes of not running into a bear.
Luckily for them, there are no bears in sight. But unfortunately for them they run into something much worse: Krampus, the demon of Christmas. While running from the creature they’re saved by an old man who lets them take refuge in his cabin. Turns out the old man is actually the real Santa Clause. After convincing them who he is, Santa tells the girls that something is terribly wrong with Krampus. The creature has come out of a decades long sleep, and instead of just taking naughty children off to hell like he’s supposed to, he’s killing people indiscriminately. Santa can’t figure out what’s wrong, so he recruits the ladies to help him from not only keeping Krampus from destroying Christmas, but ultimately, the world.

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Well I see somebody’s lacking the Christmas spirit….

Slay Belles is an American horror/comedy from 2018. It is directed by Dan Walker (credited here as SpookeyDan Walker), a visual effects artist known for his work on films like Live Free or Die Hard and Deep Blue Sea. With a background in art, I was sort of expecting a work with a bit of visual flare. I didn’t really get it. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t think the movie was still entertaining to watch.
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Now, don’t get me wrong. While I say the movie is entertaining, I also wouldn’t necessarily say it’s good. Of course, I also wouldn’t go so far to say as it’s ‘so bad, it’s good’ either. Slay Belles is the type of movie that knows its premise is absolutely ridiculous, and decides to just go with the flow. Naturally, some of the jokes are going to be hit or miss, but the point is: it’s off kilter, it’s goofy, and it knows it. This is in no way a film that takes itself at all seriously, and you know what, I respect that. There’s nothing worse than a film that features a dumb idea and then tries way too hard to be serious about it. And while it’s the type of movie that knows it’s kinda stupid, it also doesn’t go out of it’s way to be CrAzY stupid, either. It’s the kind of movie that also knows how to pace itself. So instead of Scary Movie levels of shenanigans think more along the lines of….a toned down Shaun of the Dead, level of stupid, if you will.

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I can’t tell if he’s dropping truth bombs, or if he’s just bitter.

One of the nice things about the movie is that, despite the violence and the gore, the film manages to maintain a certain level of fun throughout the whole runtime. The whole thing starts with The Adventure Girls excitedly looking around Santa Land. In no way are they out to cause mayhem. They just want to explore (or in this case, frolic through) this creepy, abandoned location. Yeah, they’re breaking and entering (which the film is quick to point out), but they’re not vandalizing or destroying anything, just flitting about in their little costumes, looking at all the cool stuff and having a fun time doing it. And these feelings of amusement and lack of urgency manage to hang around throughout most of the picture. It’s surprisingly effective in balancing out the film’s gore and otherwise dark subject matter. Hell, if it weren’t for the violence and decapitations, one could almost say the film’s downright lighthearted.

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Damn it, Krampus! I said “lighthearted”, not “lightheaded”.

Another thing the film does well is the design of the Krampus. The filmmakers went the practical suit route and, despite the low budget, the creature actually looks pretty damn good. He’s creepy, he’s imposing, and he’s fast, leading to some rather tense moments when the girls are being chased and some amusing ones when they finally manage to catch him. His one fault is that he doesn’t feel as intelligent as some other cinematic versions of him seem to be. Though he does have a bit of a personality, he still just comes across as little more than an above average intelligent werewolf. But other than that, I was surprisingly impressed with his design and execution.

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Part of what helps make the film work, I think, are the four leads and the chemistry between them. The three ladies play off one another quite well. They also veer towards the more mature age spectrum (the actresses are all around 30), so they’re old enough for there to be a certain level of believable street smarts present, but at the same time they’re still young enough to still have a level of innocent excitement despite all the copious swearing and stick swinging. Add in Barry Bostwick as an equally foul mouthed Santa (although half the time he looks like a rugged hippie), and you basically have a dream-team of ridiculous goofiness. So while some of the acting of the side characters are a bit hit-or-miss, the main four are pretty solid and clearly having a good time.

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I’m groovy Santa, bitches

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So Krampus is a perv….figures

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Took him, like, 5 seconds to show up. That must be his mating call.

Slay Belles is not what I’d call a good movie. But I would call it a fun movie. Yeah, the plot’s dumb, some of the characters are dumb, and a lot of the reactions of the various characters are damn near outlandsih. But the campy nature of the film keeps these things from feeling out of place and also helps to mellow out all the gory bits. It’s the kind of movie that goofy fun and it knows it. Yes, it’s got a few issues. The pacing lags a bit in the second act, including the addition of several police station scenes that feel pointlessly added, and it probably could have benefitted from less mindless chatter and more plot-related exposition. But overall I still found it to be an entertaining ride. If you like horror comedies and need something a little gory to help balance out the 100+ cheesy new Hallmark movies released every season then feel free to give Slay Belles a shot. And if you’re wondering whether or not it’s your cup of tea, fear not. If you cut out all the credits, the film’s runtime barely clocks in at over 60 mins, so it’s not a huge time commitment. Seems the filmmakers were smart enough to know not to overstay their welcome.

Slay Belles is available on a variety of streaming services. Including free on Tubi TV.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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