Fantasia Film Festival Review: SLASH
A futuristic wasteland, the setting for an encounter between a sci-fi hero and his arch nemesis. As the hero and the protagonist get closer to fight, they sense an attraction to each other,..and begin to passionately kiss. Sounds like a good setup for a Fantasia Film Festival film, right? So the story goes from Neil (Michael Johnston, Teen Wolf), a young freshman who spends his time writing fan-fiction set in the world of Vanguard, his favorite series. An outsider at school, taunted and made fun by cooler kids with cooler reputations, Neil is lost within his world of Vanguard, penning his own stories, bringing the homoerotic subtext to the forefront, but too ashamed of sharing it with anyone.
Neil’s bashful and low self-esteem demeanor is put to the test when he meets the free spirited Julia (Hannah Marks, SOUTHBOUND), a tough as nails fellow fan fiction writer who takes Neil under her proverbial wing and compliments his writing. With Julia’s pep talks, Neil finally gains the courage to upload his Vanguard fan-fic to a popular site designated to hosting a community full of writers. Against the site’s 18+ rules, Neil acts like he’s older, and like Julia, becomes a part of the fan-fiction community, quickly finding his voice and a following. He’s sent private messages by an older man named Denis (Michael Ian Black, WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER), asking Neil to do a live reading for the group at an upcoming Comic-Con, a situation that he knows can only lead to disaster, given his age.
While this setup might seem a little childish to some, what SLASH is able to do is very accurately shine the light on what it truly feels like to be an outsider. It’s a film that brings back memories of feeling like you’re not good enough or that what you’re passionate about, according to others, isn’t worth a damn. With every action by the confused Neil, we feel for the guy and it’s heartbreaking at times to see him set himself up for disaster, just because he wants to find his own voice and figure out who he is and what his place in the world is. SLASH doesn’t beat you over the head with any of its messages, instead, it allows you to experience them alongside him. The closer Neil gets to Julia, the stronger the attraction gets, leading to more confusion within the young man. Is he gay, is he bi? The truth is, like so many young people figuring themselves out, the answer isn’t all that clear and SLASH really succeeds at portraying that teenage confusion that comes with growing up.
Filled with very realistic performances by Johnston, Marks and a memorable and less creepy that anticipated performances by Michael Ian Black, SLASH is a film that shows the painful reality of growing up while trying to find yourself in a world filled with obstacles. It’s a film that is about truly finding yourself a nd your voice and facing any obstacles in your way. A truly touching film.