Neil (Michael Johnston) is a confused young man who finds himself insecure in the company of his classmates, a feeling that is compounded when someone gets a hold of his writing and shares it around the school. Because he writes fan fiction that places some of his favourite sci-fi characters in various erotic adventures. But things start to feel better when a slightly older girl (Julia, played by Hannah Marks) points him towards a website that will allow him to upload his stories to a receptive audience. Julia also writes her own fan fiction, and is hoping to head to a convention that rewards a limited number of writers with the opportunity of a live reading. She convinces Neil to join her, which leads to a complicated mess of feelings for both of them as they start to consider future options, in terms of writing and much more.

Written and directed by Clay Liford, expanding upon something that he’d first explored with a 2012 short film of the same name, Slash gets a lot right. First of all, winning performances from both Johnston and Marks really help. The former is believably sweet and naive, while the latter does pretty perfect as the bullshit-free, tough girl with love to give. And there’s also the fact that Liford decides to use the central premise for a mix of teenage angst and comedy that never laughs AT the pockets of niche geekiness being put front and centre. It would be easy to make a number of easy jokes and turn the film into more of an outright comedy, and Liford deserves some praise for refusing to go down that route.

It’s just a shame that the whole thing feels very much like a case of been there and done that, many times over, despite the unique “wrapping paper”. That’s not to say that individual moments don’t strive to rise above the overly familiar plotting. In fact, the scenes in the third act featuring Missi Pyle and/or Michael Ian Black are absolutely fantastic. They’re just not enough to make you forget about the previous cut ‘n’ paste scenes; the embarrassing dinner table moment (as fun as it is), the moments with the sardonic best friend, the hardened teen providing a glimpse of an unhappy home life, etc.

Other plus points include some nice sci-fi visuals illustrating the stories being created by Neil, a hilariously clumsy oration of erotica that features Gandalf and Dumbledore, and a father (played by Robert Longstreet) who wouldn’t seem out of place in any John Hughes movie. So there’s certainly enough here to make it worth a watch.

Slash is screening at 1810 on June 17th, and 1330 on June 18th, both screenings at Cineworld.

WRITER/DIRECTOR: CLAY LIFORD
STARS: MICHAEL JOHNSTON, HANNAH MARKS, MICHAEL IAN BLACK, MISSI PYLE, JESSIE ENNIS
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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