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Slotherhouse

Things “Slotherhouse” gets wrong about sorority life:

1. Fraternity guys would never be allowed to hang out at the house and drink alcohol during rush.

2. Voting for chapter president doesn’t involve a creepy ritual with red robes and candelabras.

3. Adorable, furry sloths don’t go on vicious, bloody killing sprees.

What “Slotherhouse” gets right, though, is a giddily cheesy horror-comedy vibe. This is a movie that gleefully wallows in the ooey-gooey muck of its insane premise. Similar to “Cocaine Bear” and “M3GAN” (but not quite as successful), “Slotherhouse” knows exactly what it is and revels in increasingly hilarious violence. The movie runs out of steam eventually and can barely sustain its 93-minute duration, but director Matthew Goodhue makes some inspired choices with lighting and perspective, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable seeing what unlikely activities the sloth engages in throughout Bradley Fowler’s screenplay.

As the title suggests, “Slotherhouse” is about a sloth that terrorizes a sorority. The fake house is cleverly called Sigma Lambda Theta, which essentially spells ... sloth. And the sloth is basically a slow-moving but surprisingly resourceful version of Chucky.

Why is there a sloth at the sorority house, you may be wondering? Well, college senior Emily (Lisa Ambalavanar) dreams of becoming Sigma Lambda Theta’s president, just as her late mother was. But she lacks the popularity and social media clout to unseat reigning queen bee Brianna (Sydney Craven), an intentionally exaggerated version of every sorority mean girl you’ve ever seen. A chance meeting at the mall with a stranger who happens to know a lot about exotic pets leads to Emily adopting what she thinks is a three-toed sweetie. She didn’t see the dramatic prelude we saw, however, in which the sloth slashed its way through a crocodile that dared to prey on it in the Panamanian rainforest.

In this more domesticated setting, the gently cooing creature—whom the girls name Alpha—becomes the house mascot. She also catapults Emily to instant Internet stardom and makes Sigma Lambda Theta the place to be. (Again, the Serbian-set production makes lots of tweaks to the way sorority rush actually works, but that's nitpicking. Is it wrong to demand total realism in a homicidal sloth movie?) But in between making herself comfortable in increasingly outrageous scenarios —from playing dodgeball to lounging with a cocktail—Alpha racks up an impressive body count. The fact that no one seems to notice where these sorority sisters have gone beyond a tossed-off, “Have you seen so-and-so lately?” is part of the winking humor.

Goodhue plays with horror conventions in ways that are both amusing and stylish. The best scene may be the one in which Alpha slowly, steadily stalks one of her targets during a thunderstorm, with each flash of lightning revealing her hanging maniacally from a different piece of furniture. Alpha is the work of practical puppetry, which is actually perfect for this B-movie setting. Despite her wiry fur and saucer-shaped eyes, she never looks fully real—and in time, she shows recognizable human emotion like anger by furrowing her brow. That slightly-off quality creates a consistently funny yet unsettling vibe.

By the time she’s taking selfies before each kill and posting the pictures with hashtags, or driving a car to eviscerate her latest victim, we have long since crossed over into totally bonkers territory. Either you’re going to go with it, or you’re not. But the energetic cast works hard to sell this deranged central concept. Ambalavanar is so perky and likable as Emily, you may find yourself rooting for her to achieve her destiny at all costs. Craven seems to be having a blast as an over-the-top, rich dictator. And Olivia Rouyre injects a smidgen of wisdom as Emily’s best friend, Madison, the only one who suggests that maybe it isn’t such a good idea to take such a creature from its home and make it a pet.

Along those lines, “Slotherhouse” may actually have something of substance on its mind beneath all the fur and blood. It may be a parable about the perils of plucking exotic animals from their natural habitats or chasing social media popularity at the expense of real-life relationships. But you also may be laughing too hard at the sight of a jealous sloth furiously slamming a laptop shut to notice.

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who has written for RogerEbert.com since 2013. Before that, she was the film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series "Ebert Presents At the Movies" opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.

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Film Credits

Slotherhouse movie poster

Slotherhouse (2023)

Rated PG-13

93 minutes

Cast

Lisa Ambalavanar as Emily

Sydney Craven as Brianna

Olivia Rouyre as Madison

Bianca Beckles-Rose as Zenny

Tiff Stevenson as Ms. Mayflower

Stefan Kapičić as Oliver

Kelly Lynn Reiter as Ava

Grace Patterson as Chloe

Andrew Horton as Tyler

Director

Writer (story)

Writer

Cinematographer

Editor

Composer

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