Interview - Slaxx : Let’s talk with Elza Kephart and Romane Denis

By Mulder, Canada, 16 march 2021

Slaxx is a 2020 Canadian horror comedy film directed by Elza Kephart, who co-wrote the film with Patricia Gomez. The film is produced by Gomez with Anne-Marie Gélinas, and stars Romane Denis as a cashier in a clothing store who, with her fellow employees, is terrorized by a possessed pair of jeans. Slaxx premiered digitally as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival in August 2020. The film was set to be released theatrically in Canada on August 26, 2020. Shudder acquired the film's streaming rights in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand for a 2021 debut.

During a press junket, we had the great opportunity to interview the director Elza Kephart and the amazing actress Romane Denis and it was very interesting and fun.

Q : Romane, After the movies Les Salopes or The Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin and My Salinger Year, Slaxx is your third movie in which you play, please what should be for you a good acting direction and how have you created your character Libby McClean in this movie ?

Romane Denis : well for this character i knew that she was supposed to be this pure-hearted heroine who's very driven by very pure and very good intentions so when i just kept that in mind i just thought but not she she's not weak she's it's not because she's pure and she's kind and she's gentle that she's weak or that she's a coward she's actually very courageous very brave and so it was just maintaining that balance between the two so very physically kind of little girl but with the voice that she finds her voice in it so there's like a progression with how assertive she becomes so it was just keeping that in mind because of course we shoot different scenes in different order so it was just to make sure that that line was being well followed.

Q : hello Romane , please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background ?

Romane Denis : Well, my name is Romane Denis. I’m an actress and I live in Montreal and work in Montreal and I’ve been an actress for almost 13 years now and Slaxx (sorry my cat is just meowing). This was not my first English project but it was my first time being the main character of a movie in English so i think Slaxx was not challenging it was well it wasn't challenging because it was difficult but it was a challenge and it was fun to do so yeah that was basically my first kind of big project in English because i mostly work in french.

Q : for both of you, What were the main difficulties you meet during the making of this film ?

Romane Denis : For Slaxx, i would say getting the pants right that was really. it wasn’t', I would say a difficulty but it was our main concern we really wanted the pants to look good and to be believable and to emote for people to care actually care about the pants so wait I’m going to turn off this thing so that was our biggest concern

Romane Denis : i think for me as an actress my biggest concern was i don't know if I had concerns it's just that i wanted people to see Libby not just as like a little girl who's very like I’m going to save everyone but as this multi and this very complex character even though she's very young and she's looks like just you know a regular girl. i wanted to people to be able to love her not just because you're supposed to love the heroine but because you want her to win i wanted people to like her but more than just to root for her. I wanted people to be like in the story with me so it wasn't a difficulty but it was a challenge

Q : Elza, Watching Slaxx, we think about John Carpenter’s Christine but also James Cameron’s Terminator. After Graveyard Alive (2003), Go in the Wilderness (2013), Slaxx is you new movie. Please can you tell us what were your main sources of inspiration to direct this movie ?

Elza Kephart : my main sources of inspiration I actually really love Dario he's one of my main sources of visual inspiration so i would say it's all the anything Italian from the 60s and 70s is an inspiration in terms of my visual style even with my previous films. Pasolini, Antonioni, those are my i would say my biggest influences and for the script, i would say it would have to be more not necessarily films but 1984 and Brave new world. I really love those and Fahrenheit 451. I think those books are really brilliant are those books are brilliant precursors of what's going on in our society where corporations control what we think and how we think about ourselves and all that and um and so those books were really. I drew a lot from those books for the whole world of slacks

Q : Romane, What can you tell us about the main place where you have shoot this movie ?

Elza Kephart : well the store was very interest because we shot in different places. it was four weeks of shooting and the first two weeks were in the actual store not the back store not the corridors everything that was somewhere else but i think about every place where we shot the important thing was that we they kept it very neon like very fake like no natural light no sun nothing so it was very weird to be in this sort of it was almost science fiction like because we were never outside there even though there are windows in the store you never get that sort of natural light and that very human warmth so i think that's the most important thing in the and of course the store looks huge when you see that but of course we shot. we didn't just shoot in this one tiny store which was an old our dean store and then but also all the corridors and all the black store it's very creepy like it's very dark very so it's all fake and neon light or very dark and very creepy so there's nothing comforting about this about where we shot so i think that was really interesting.

Q : Romane, What can you tell us about the political angle of this movie ?

Romane Denis : about the political angle. I think it's because of course when you think about just oh it's a pair of killer pants it sounds ridiculous but when you actually see the movie or when I read the script i think it's a very important point of view because we tend to kind of not want to think or just we want to forget we don't want to think about all the sweatshops and all the children working for these huge companies who don't really give a damn about them who are not paid who are not safe in their jobs and so i thought having this sort of connection between especially for my character because when Libby meets who we know now is Keerat, it's very much a tale of it could have been me if i had been born in her conditions in her country in her village and i had her levels of education it could easily have been me and that's what's so frustrating it's two girls who could have had such different lives polar opposite lives but because they were born where they were born it dictates their whole entire life and how they die and how they live yeah so i think that's for me that was the most important point of view it was a very feminist point of view because of course it's two girls meeting and who haven't had the same kind of life just because of where they were born of course there's the whole, say the planet kind of thing and it's horrible for the planet and the conditions but for me as a woman as a young woman i thought that was the most striking thing about the political angle that elder was taking

Q Elza, What was the most difficult scene for you to shoot and why ?

Elza Kephart : that would have to be the lord death scene it was very complicated we had a lot of different things we were working with you know we had prosthetic effects we had the jeans. We had you know poor Kenny Wong who had to be in covered in blood for a day and a half so and it was very hard to edit we had to do reshoots because it wasn't cutting right and it was always about lord's death if lord's death doesn't work then then the whole film doesn't work not really but we knew it was a pivotal moment and we had to deliver on the gore so i would say that was the most difficult in terms of both time the longest to shoot it was complicated the greatest stress as a as a director to get right.

Q : for both of you, Who are your favorite directors and which films are the main driving force behind your artistic creation ?

Elza Kephart : well i don't i wouldn't say i have one favorite director Like i said before the Italians films from the 60s and 70s are my biggest source of inspiration i just absolutely love their aesthetic i think it's the esthetic that's closest to mine. i really love Michael Haneke because I think he makes extremely disturbing films about the times we live in and to me is the actually one of the greatest horror filmmakers we never really think about him as a horror filmmaker but i've never quite been as disturbed as I have been watching a Michael Haneke movie and to me that's the hallmark of a good of a good horror film is it being so disturbing so i would have to say i don't get necessarily inspiration from him for my own work but i feel if i could ever make a film that was as disturbing as The white ribbon and as sort of earth shattering then I feel like I would have succeeded as a director.

Romane Denis : For me, i feel like it's kind of a hard there's two ways that i can answer this question because of course working with a director as an actor is very different from having a favorite director that you see their work on you know on a screen i think for me it's always very interesting to see a feminine point of view because of course there are loads and loads and loads of male directors but i think especially now there's more and more female directors and i think it's the whole vision is different the way to tell a story is different and so i don't think i have favorite directors because there are so many and i can't remember their names for the life of me but I tend to love when a director is very how can i say this without sounding cheesy but it stays very true to who they are and they're trying to show their point of view and i feel that as an actress it's so much more interesting to work on a project with a director who's very i know I’m doing something very different but bear with me I’m here okay you just have to trust me that's what i love i love someone who's like I’m leading i have an idea if it doesn't work it's on me but trust me that's what i love about a director who has guts.

Q : Elza, can you talk a little about the CGI of this movie ?

Elza Kephart : the CGI sure there were actually very little CGI. Slaxx was done live was done practically so we had like 45 pairs of jeans to be the different slaxxs and it was all done on the set like i said with a puppeteer or a series of puppeteers and we only really used CGI to remove the puppeteers from the film and then a couple of here and there we had to like augment something with CGI or like when the blood fills the ss logo that was done in CGI but most of it was all done live.

Q : Which are your currents projects ?

Romane Denis : i'll go ahead. My current projects. I’m currently working which is I’m very lucky to be working in today's circumstances but working on doing a video game which is a lot of fun but we've been doing it for almost two years now so i don't really know when that's going to come out other than that cat is just crazy three years working on tv shows french tv well french Quebec tv shows which is a lot of fun as well. I’m doing one which is very it's a criminal investigation and it's very my character is very. i get that Agatha Christie like so it's a lot of fun for me because I’m a huge fan for me.

Elza Kephart : I’m working on a tv project with Patricia Gomez co-writer of Slaxx it's called sweet blood it's a vampire show we're developing that and then i wrote a french language script actually that takes place in Quebec that would be my first french language film it's called Chair obscure and it's a possession script it's like a mid-life crisis possession script from the point of view of a 51-year-old woman

Synopsis :
When a possessed pair of jeans begins to kill the staff of a trendy clothing store, it is up to Libby, an idealistic young salesclerk, to stop its bloody rampage.

Directed by Elza Kephart
Produced by Patricia Gomez, Anne-Marie Gélinas, Shaked Berenson
Written by Patricia Gomez, Elza Kephart
Starring Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani, Stephen Bogaert
Production companies : EMA Films, Entertainment Squad
Distributed by The Horror Collective
Release date: August 23, 2020 (Fantasia), September 11, 2020 (Canada)
Running time: 77 minutes