Review: ‘Slotherhouse,’ starring Lisa Ambalavanar, Sydney Craven, Olivia Rouyre, Bianca Beckles-Rose, Tiff Stevenson and Stefan Kapičić

October 30, 2023

by Carla Hay

Andrew Horton, Alpha and Olivia Rouyre in “Slotherhouse” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Slotherhouse”

Directed by Matthew Goodhue

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city and briefly in Panama, the horror film “Slotherhouse” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Latin people, African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A college student adopts a female sloth to be a cute mascot for her sorority, but the sloth is really a serial killer that goes on a rampage. 

Culture Audience: “Slotherhouse” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching low-quality horror movies, no matter how bad these movies are.

Grace Patterson, Sydney Craven, Annamaria Serda, Sutter Nolan, Milica Vrzić, and Tiana Upcheva in “Slotherhouse” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Slotherhouse” is an intentionally campy slasher flick whose one-joke premise about a serial-killing sloth becomes tiresome after the first 30 minutes. A lot of the manic energy is drained by the end, and the subpar acting performances become irritating. The movie (which is 93 minutes long) is also overstuffed with forgettable characters.

Directed by Matthew Goodhue and written by Bradley Fowler, “Slotherhouse” starts off with the right idea to have a comedic horror movie about a killer sloth. Unfortunately, that idea is constantly fumbled with scenes that aren’t as funny or horrific as they should have been. It just becomes a mishmash of a sorority soap opera and a cutesy animal comedy, with occasional murder scenes that are very tame.

The movie uses an obvious puppet to portray the female sloth. And that’s understandable when it’s a low-budget movie that can’t afford fancy visual effects. But after a while, it starts to look like a puppet show, which diminishes the intended effect for this sloth to be a credibly menacing terror.

The origin of this sloth is shown in the movie’s opening scene, which takes place in a swampy jungle in Panama. The slot has just killed an alligator, which is belly-up, with the sloth’s claw marks on the alligator’s stomach. A poacher named Oliver (played by Stefan Kapičić), who goes by the name OExotic on social media, captures the slot and takes the animal to the United States.

The movie then fast-forwards to a shopping mall in an unnamed U.S. city. Two female best friends in their early 20s are walking through the mall and talking about social media. Emily Young (played by Lisa Ambalavanar), who is in her last year of college, is getting a pep talk from Madison, nicknamed Maddie (played by Olivia Rouyre), who tells Emily not to worry so much about how many followers that Emily has on social media. (Whenever a new character in the movie first appears on screen, “Slotherhouse” shows a social media screen grab that lists the number of social media followers the person has.)

Inside the mall, there’s a Yorkshire Terrier that accidentally got separated from its owner. Emily catches and returns the dog to its grateful owner. In the mall’s food court area, someone has noticed this encounter and quickly deduces that Emily is fond of animals. This observant stranger is Oliver the sloth poacher, who introduces himself to Emily and Madison as someone who sells exotic pets. Oliver shows them a photo he has of his pet sloth, he gives Emily his business card, and her tells her to call him if she ever wants to buy a pet sloth from him.

Emily is a member of the Sigma Lambda Theta (SLT) sorority that has a house on campus. (Observant viewers willl notices that SLT are also three of the letters in the word “sloth.”) Elections are coming up to choose the president of this sorority chapter. The sorority “queen bee” is Brianna Khinny (played by Sydney Craven), who is spoiled, rude and arrogant. Brianna wants to be re-elected president of the sorority, and she assumes that she will have no competition.

Meanwhile, Emily decides she want to get a pet sloth, so she contacts Oliver and makes an appointment for this purchase. Little does Emily know that the sloth has gotten tired of Oliver controlling her, so the sloth kills Oliver before Emily arrives. Emily doesn’t see Oliver’s body when she enters the house, but she sees the sloth and takes her back to the sorority house.

Emily announces that this sloth will be the sorority’s mascot. She names the sloth Alpha. (Never mind that in real life, most college campuses don’t allow students to have pets living with students in campus housing.) Emily and Alpha have an instant bond that makes them the center of the attention in the sorority. Predictably, Brianna gets jealous and tries to bully Emily, who then decides that she’s going be Brianna’s opponent in the sorority’s upcoming presidential election.

The rest of “Slotherhouse” gets to be a bit mind-numbing, as Alpha secretly starts killing people (mostly women in the sorority) while pretending to be a sweet and innocent animal. Alpha doesn’t doesn’t just use her claws to kill people; the sloth can also pick up weapons like a human and use them on her murder victims. The other things that Alpha does veer into the ridiculous, such as using computers (to snoop on her victims) and taking selfie photos. Very rarely does this comedy work effectively, because the set-up and execution of these jokes are so dull.

As for the other characters in the movie, Emily has a bland boyfriend named Tyler (played by Andrew Horton), who always seems to show up too late when he’s needed. An androgynous lesbian named Zenny (played by Bianca Beckles-Rose) is a quirky misfit in this sorority, which consists mostly of snobs who don’t like Zenny. (It makes you wonder how Zenny got enough votes to be accepted into this sorority in the first place.) Emily is one of the few people in the sorority who treats Zenny (who is the obvious comic relief character) with some respect. A sorority sister named Dakota (played by Annamaria Serda) is another target of Brianna’s wrath.

In the sorority, Brianna predictably has a clique of followers who seem to go along with her, not because they like Brianna but because they fear her. These weak-willed sorority sisters are Sarah (played by Sutter Nolan), Alissa (played by Tiana Upcheva), Morgan (played by Olivia Rouyre), Gabby (played by Milica Vrzić), and Chloe (played by Cady Lanigan), who are all utterly generic. The sorority also has a slightly goofy house mother named Ms. Mayflower (played by Tiff Stevenson), who isn’t in the movie nearly enough for someone who’s supposed to be supervising the house.

“Slotherhouse” goes off on a few weird and unnecessary tangents that don’t fit very well in the story. For example, there’s a segment that lasts too long about the sorority members going through a cult-like ritual. This ritual, where the sorority members wear red satin hooded robes and hold lighted candles, looks like a teenager’s idea of an occult party sponsored by Hot Topic.

The character of Alpha can be somewhat amusing, but this sloth’s personality and motives are too vague for viewers to really care. At first, Alpha looks like she wants her freedom to live like a wild animal, but then she inexplicably tries to stay in the sorority house, where she knows that Brianna and others are trying to get rid of her. There are too many story flaws and not enough laughs or suspense for “Slotherhouse” to be anything other than a hollow and gimmicky horror movie.

Gravitas Ventures released “Slotherhouse” in select U.S. cinemas on August 30, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on September 19, 2023. Hulu premiered the movie on October 15, 2023.

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