Inuit sci-fi thriller for fans of “The Thing”

There is an unpleasant mark of a right-wing commentator who likes to complain about identity politics, as if relating to his legacy is a meaningless pursuit reserved for people who have nothing better to do than whine. These People Need to See Nyla Innuksuk’s Feature Debut Slash/backwhere identity is not just a matter of who you are, where you come from or how you live, but a tool to stay alive.

It’s right there in the opening sequence, as a father teaches his young daughter the practical and traditional aspects of hunting. This, he tells her, is how they survive and their people have always survived, hunting for sustenance and income. But there’s more to survival than putting food on the table and keeping a roof over your head. It is life’s contest in which only the strongest and most cunning prevail, which is a noble summary of Slash/backthe plot. But this is not a film about the enduring triumph of the human spirit over beasts and brutal time. It’s a movie about kids fighting skin-stealing aliens.

Slash/back Primarily concerns two of these children, Maika (Tasiana Shirley) and Uki (Nalajoss Ellsworth), girls from Pangnirtung, Nunavut, a remote community nestled within the Baffin Islands. Uki maintains an unbreakable bond with her Inuit roots. Maika, the now-teenage child of the introduction, is embarrassed by Uki and her own her roots, taking every chance she has to immerse herself in Inuit culture. They are friends, but they disagree on the value of their past.

Innuksuk bases the film’s stakes on Maika’s clashes with Uki, which sets the stage for a restless alien invasion. Maika coaxes Uki and their pals, Jesse (Alexis Vincent-Wolfe) and Leena (Chelsea Pruksy), into taking an unauthorized boat ride out of town, where they end up in a pickle: a polar bear knocks them down and preys on Maika’s little sister, Aju (Frankie Vincent-Wolfe).

The good news: Maika shoots the bear and saves Aju. The bad news: It’s not a bear, but a disgusting tentacled alien squirming inside the bear’s towering carcass, which brings us to the worst news: the alien has brought some friends.

Slash/back sits halfway between meta-horror and mainstream horror; this is not a horror movie on horror movies, but Uki watches enough horror to be aware of their details. Notably, she happens to be a huge John Carpenter fan with a fondness for The thing. Innuksuk clearly digs this masterpiece herself, but she doesn’t rely on it as the sole point of reference or basic framework for the story she tells in Slash/back. It’s a piece of the image, but not the image itself. She quickly moves away from this influence, moving on to others, then to others, with a vision so personal that none of them wins out.

The tension between loving and being ashamed of one’s roots fuels the film’s non-alien invasion parts.Scythian Films

This means Slash/back doing its own thing instead of being Attack the block Passing by The thing Passing by blood glacier Passing by Catchers. It’s good to know what kind of movies Innuksuk and its characters like. It’s more enjoyable to know how these films change when filtered through their cultural lens.

In Slash/back, Innuksuk first showcases Inuit mores and beliefs with unabashed pride, then begins to indulge his love of the genre thereafter. First we see Maika on the water with her father, then a scientist on a snowmobile sentenced to a disorderly death while collecting data in the field. It is a literalization of Innuksuk’s driving theme: the scientist does not have the survivalism of the locals, and he pays the price for it.

At least he dies somewhere scenic. Innuksuk and cinematographer Guy Godfree take special care in filming the landscapes of Pangnirtung, partly because no one has ever shot a film there before and partly because the landscapes are such an integral part of the aesthetic of Pangnirtung. Innuksuk. Nunavut is a beautiful and inhospitable place, serene to the eyes and dangerous to the body. Godfree treats the setting as a character in itself, dwelling on shots of Cumberland Sound and the Baffin Mountains as if giving the environment the last word.

It also stings our centers of paranoia. The longer it clings to an image, the more likely we are to scan each image for evidence of extraterrestrial activity. From time to time, we find it. The rest of the time the effect pays off by constantly stirring up our discomfort. It’s a great device, and a primary source of Slash/backit is terror.

Nunavut’s stark beauty makes it a memorable and intimidating landscape. Scythian Films

The heart of the film is provided by the actors, especially Shirley and Ellsworth, with whom we spend most of our time and to whom Innuksuk gives the most development. Maika and Uki are both more mature than their age would suggest – the adults of Pangnirtung seem to not pay much attention to them when they’re out of sight – but no one is ever the right age to tangle with. body thieves.

Shirley dramatizes Maika’s journey from modernism to her upbringing, while Ellsworth plays Uki as more brassy. Slash/back reads like a plea for her pro-Inuit stance, but the film also understands Maika’s jaded apathy. It can’t be easy to feel so alienated from the rest of the world at 16.

Sometimes hesitation creeps in Slash/backthe performances of, as if the cast were uncomfortable in front of the camera. Given that Innuksuk is trying something new in an area unaccustomed to the presence of professional film crews, this is understandable. Plus, the game’s intermittent hiatus doesn’t disrupt the film’s pacing, as the cast’s commitment to the material remains as visible as the round-the-clock sunlight of Pangnirtung. Taken thus, Slash/back feels like its own triumph, small and humble but utterly honest, with enough gooey effects, crude gags and scares to make this midnight’s holistic identity worth celebrating.

Slash/back debuted at South by Southwest 2022.

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