When it comes to movie studios, A24 typically has the Midas touch.
This year alone they’ve found success with Lean on Pete, First Reformed, Hereditary, and Eighth Grade. But as we all know, even the best can’t bat a thousand. With Slice , a horror-comedy released digitally on September 11, they’re looking at a colossal swing-and-a-miss.
There were plenty of reasons to be excited about this movie, even beyond the studio pedigree. Slice looked to be the kind of dumb-fun popcorn flick that’s perfect for the lead-up to Halloween, and a roster made up of both young talents and comedic staples seemed a perfect fit. Yet from its direction to its acting, Slice feels surprisingly amateur.
For an 82-minute movie, there is entirely too much going on here. Slice opens with a pizza delivery guy named Sean Hammerschmit (writer/director Austin Vesely) getting his throat slit on a strange-looking man’s doorstep. After opening credits roll, we’re informed via archival footage that our setting, the city of Kingfisher, is home to over 40,000 ghosts due to a mass grave at the old Halcyon Days asylum. In an effort to beautify the city, Mayor Tracy (Chris Parnell) moves the ghost population to their own neighborhood west of town.
We hop back into the present where things get really convoluted. We’re introduced to plucky reporter Sadie Sheridan (Rae Gray) and her habitually late photographer Jackson (played by Stranger Things’ Joe Keery). Sadie thinks there’s more to the murder than the mayor is letting on. Next we meet Astrid, Sean’s old flame, who upon learning about her ex’s death heads back to her former job at Personal Pizza Base to get to the bottom of things. Her co-workers enter the picture. Two detectives arrive on the scene. A group of concerned women begins protesting the pizza place, which happens to have been built on the site of the old sanatorium. Then about halfway through the movie a werewolf named Dax Lycander (Chance Bennett aka Chance the Rapper) shows up.
To reiterate, this movie’s runtime is an hour and 22 minutes.
As we muddle through the overabundance of characters and story arcs, we barely scratch the surface of what seems like a pretty novel world. Huge events unfold at breakneck speed. Filler—like a completely unnecessary drug subplot with no meaningful resolution—takes up large chunks of what should have been an even shorter movie were it not for the editing pace.
Plot wouldn’t be as much of a problem if Slice had something else going for it, but this horror-comedy is not scary and almost never funny. Playing the pizza store manager, Paul Scheer is as underutilized as Parnell, and Hannibal Burress is in the movie for one fleeting minute in a throwaway role. Laughs have to come from a cast that doesn’t seem to have either comedic chops or, in far too many cases, basic acting skills. Slice winds up feeling like an ultra-low-budget passion project some film-school kids made for yuks, not something distributed by an Oscar-winning company.
It now makes sense why A24 dropped Slice out of the blue online. The question is why they picked it up in the first place.