Beyond monsters, horror movies have a rich tradition of killer animals. Supercharged versions of creatures from our own realm of existence. There's the giant croc in Lake Placid, the mutated giant ants of Them!, the winged foes of Hitchcock's The Birds. There's the bloodthirsty flock of Black Sheep, the titular fish in Eli Roth's Piranha, the undead dam builders in Zombeavers, and the bear that did cocaine in, um, Cocaine Bear. From Jaws to the giant smartsharks in Deep Blue Sea to the even more colossal megalodon shark in The Meg and its sequel, sharks have a whole subgenre of their own.
Nobody though, at least to my knowledge, has ever tried to make a creature feature movie about a killer sloth.
There's probably a reason for that.
Slotherhouse is a movie that makes its intentions clear right from the title. Similar to its creature feature predecessors, it's trying to lean into the self-aware, tongue-in-cheek tone that horror comedies often thrive on. The problem is, the film doesn't quite manage it. Slotherhouse aims for so bad it's good, but the film gets stuck on the bad part, the good never fully materialising.
What's Slotherhouse about?
Well, here goes.
Written by Bradley Fowler and Cady Lanigan, and directed by Matthew Goodhue, Slotherhouse sets the film's tone pretty well with its opening sequence. We see an impressively fake-looking sloth shuffling along a tree branch hanging over a lake, only to be suddenly munched from below by a lurking crocodile. Moments later, the same sloth is seen heroically dragging itself out of the water before being nabbed by some poachers. Back in the lake, the croc's body floats to the surface — then rolls belly up to show three large slashes across its mid-section.
This sloth, it seems, is not to be messed with.
The rest of the action takes place at a sorority house, as many a horror movie does. College senior Emily (Lisa Ambalavanar) is desperate to become house president, and after a chance meeting in a mall with the aforementioned sloth's kidnapper, she decides – as you do – that the only way to win votes is to buy the sloth and keep it as a novelty pet. Needless to say, the sloth isn't exactly on board. After stalking its new owner on social media (yes, this really happens) and seeing a picture of Emily posing with the poacher (his handle is "OExotic"), the sloth decides that the only course of action is to go on a brutal and creative killing spree.
Slotherhouse is jam-packed with truly ridiculous moments
You'd probably be disappointed not to find some wild sequences in a film titled Slotherhouse, and credit where credit's due: the screenwriters came up with more than a few inventive set pieces. As well as the sloth's casual Instagram stalking session (it clicks the mouse button with its claw, in case you were wondering), there are also scenes involving death by sleeping bag balcony trap and a particularly gruesome use of hair straighteners.
One of the more memorable sequences in the film sees the sloth stealing Emily's car, driving to the local hospital where her friend is lying seriously injured, then taking a selfie with her before committing murder. By this point in the film, the sloth is documenting its own killings on social media under the handle "KillerSloth", which is the closest we come to a loose motive for this homicidal mammal.
Admittedly some of these moments are so silly they're kind of fun — but overall they're drowned out by the film's irritating dialogue, one-dimensional characters, and a 90-minute runtime that feels like it could've been kept as a fun short.
So is Slotherhouse worth watching?
Although I didn't really enjoy Slotherhouse, I probably wasn't watching it in the optimum conditions. If you had a group of friends, some drinks, and went into it knowing what the tone would be, I can see how the film's more ridiculous moments could make an entertaining backdrop. There are also a few moments of self-awareness – the sloth catching a samurai sword between its claws; a monologue from older sorority member Ms. Mayflower (Tiff Stevenson) that's punctuated with some amusing dialogue; the sloth constantly coming back from the dead, even after being shot multiple times – that occasionally elevate the script.
But overall there are other creature features out there that have done what Slotherhouse is attempting to do, and done it so much better.
How to watch: Slotherhouse is now streaming on Hulu.