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Slash (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

slashA teen discovers slash fan fic and writes some about characters from his favorite series Vanguard.  After an older girl reads some of it and he gets in trouble in school for its graphic nature, she pushes him to post it online for all to see and to get feedback.  This gets him noticed by one of the moderators of the forum and he’s encouraged to go read an excerpt at a Comic-Con type convention. Writer/director Clay Liford adapts from his own 2012 short of the same name, changing the lead’s obsession from Harry Potter to a fake series called Vanguard.

Here he builds a coming of age story where the two leads, Neil and Julia, are at different points in their teenage evolution and in their sexual awakening.  Both characters feel real and have natural interactions with each other and with the adults and teens around them. The characters and situations are believable, especially for someone (like this reviewer) who has encountered many a fan fic writer and read a few horrendous and other decent bits of it.  Setting the film partially at a comic-con works here as it puts the two nerds in what feels like their natural environment, where they fit in better than in their school or home settings.

Both leads here are talented and natural at their parts.  Michael Johnston plays up Neil’s awkwardness, creating a very human 15 year old nerd with dreams, aspirations, worries.  His character is never a caricature of emerging teen writers and never a send up of nerds as is often seen in these types of movies.

Playing opposite Michael Johnston is Hannah Marks as Julia, the less sheltered and more experienced fan fic writing 16 year old who shows him the ropes in terms of getting out there and finding himself.  Marks plays her character full force, never skimping on any emotions, yet never exaggerating or hamming it up.  The viewers feel with her, go through her emotional roller coaster with her.  The supporting cast, including a great Michael Ian Black leaving his sarcastic persona behind, does a great job and let Michael Johnston and Hannah Marks shine, not over shadowing them while also turning in good performance.

The film’s cinematography by Ellie Ann Fenton makes it look a bit like it belongs on current MTV or on a big screen at a convention, which is not a bad thing as this style lends itself to the subject matter at hand.  The way the scenes are shot, their settings also add to this.  The film looks good and is well framed, making it easy to concentrate on the two leads.

Slash is a well-crafted film about teen experiences and sexual awakening for the teen nerd, mainly viewed through the eyes of a fifteen year old boy.  His experiences and feelings are relatable, making even the uncomfortable moments work.  The film is touching in parts and a bit cringe-worthy in others, which are both good things here.  The film is entertaining and a glimpse into two slash fan fic writers’ lives.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016.