If it feels like you’ve been hearing about Slice, a mysterious pizza-delivery horror movie starring Chance the Rapper years now—well, that’s because you have. We first reported on the mysterious project, then referred to as a “murder mystery,” back in 2015, when we said it would be directed by Austin Vesely, Chance’s friend and collaborator on several music videos, and that it would be out “next year.”
The following year, in November 2016, Chance posted a brief clip of himself revving up a motorcycle, with the caption, “Slice. Starring Me the Actor. In theatres 2017.” That, obviously, didn’t happen. All we got in 2017 was an animated teaser riffing on—or ripping off, depending how you look at it—a viral Line Rider video, and it wasn’t until last month that we finally got a trailer for the film. That finally gave us some idea of what to expect from this mystery project, namely a campy, fun “monsters and mayhem” vibe we compared to John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China:
A few weeks after that, it was finally revealed that Slice would premiere in Chicago on Monday, September 10—that’s tonight!—with a simulcast in 20 other cities across America. Further plans for the movie, including the possibility for a VOD release, are TBD. So what gives? The film has a great cast, including such bankable names as Zazie Beetz, Joe Keery, Hannibal Buress, and Paul Scheer as well as Chance the Rapper. It’s got a great distributor, A24, which isn’t in the throes of the money troubles that can sometimes send good movies into release purgatory.
The first, and most obvious, potential answer is one the filmmakers might not like: That A24 doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the film’s quality, and is thus trying to bury it. That’s usually the case with films that get a brief theatrical release, and/or aren’t screened for critics. That being said, as we argued in our review of the unfairly buried The Little Stranger, sometimes the distributor’s assessment of a film’s quality and/or marketability is overly cautious.
If Slice was being distributed by, say, Universal, the lack of advance screenings would be a clear sign that it’s probably not very good. But the fact that this is A24 we’re talking about further complicates the issue: This is a distributor that specializes in carnival-barker levels of hype, especially for its horror films. Usually, the path to said hype is straight through critics, who built up massive buzz for titles like The Witch, It Comes At Night, and Hereditary with festival reviews written months before they hit theaters. But that hype has also been met with backlash—and Slice seems to be a very different, much lighter sort of film, which could predicate a change of strategy.
In an interview with The Chicago Tribune published last week, director Vesley says the film was shot in August 2016, and has been in post-production for nearly two years. That’s not that unusual, particularly for a film with lots of effects shots. He also reveals a detail that may be the real key to this whole thing: Chance started hyping the film on Twitter soon after Vesley showed him the script, which he had planned to shoot himself and screen at a local horror-film festival. It was that initial hype—the hype we reported on back in 2015—that got A24 interested, which led to funding, which led to a cast, which led to a shoot a year later. Normally, we wouldn’t even be hearing about a project like this one until the shoot was ready to begin.
Accounting for premature Twitter announcements from its overeager star, the film is technically one year late, instead of two. Is that a good sign? To be honest, not especially. But what we’re dealing with here is more of a snowball effect—an inexperienced director who was flung into a high-profile gig by a famous friend, and who has taken his time finishing said gig while working on other projects that came from that gig at the same time—than a behind-the-scenes disaster. As far as the “one night only” thing goes? Your guess is as good as ours.
Will this film, which no one outside of a few Chicago horror diehards would ever have seen were it not for some tweets from a hip-hop star, be any good? We’ll let you know tomorrow, after we hit the premiere.