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‘Slotherhouse’ Review: Pro-Sloth and Anti-Poaching

Slotherhouse is a horror-comedy about a mentally unstable sloth that murders a bunch of sorority girls, most of whom try to use the sloth as a means to gain popularity on social media and within the sorority. 

Like many, the ridiculous plot was what initially drew me to the film. Transforming a naturally slow and docile creature into a violent psychopath is inherently funny. What made me really want to watch it, though, was I was curious to know the “how” and “why” the sloth became a killer. 

The film opens with the three-toed sloth, later named “Alpha”, living happily in a Panamanian jungle until it’s pulled underwater by a crocodile. A few moments later, the croc resurfaces and floats to the top, showing three slash marks across its belly. The surviving sloth, now out of the water and back climbing a tree, is hit with a tranquilizer dart. 

In the next scene, Emily, played by Lisa Ambalavanar, tries to catch a runaway dog and bumps into an exotic animal dealer named Oliver, or OXotic, played by Stefan Kapicic. He offers her a sloth because it’s cute and cuddly and good with other animals. 

At first, Emily is apprehensive about adopting the sloth, but she feels pressure to do it because she and others at her sorority want her to win the house presidential election to return “kindness” to the sorority. A sloth might help her get more attention, so she decides to adopt it. 

Before Emily picks up the sloth, it murders Oliver. Although she never makes an exchange with Oliver, she has an instant connection with the sloth, picks it up, and leaves. 

While the sloth’s motive to kill Oliver is clear — he’s a poacher who kidnapped it from the wild — the only clue we’re given on why it’s so murderous is a bottle of anti-anxiety medicine and that other characters witness it demonstrating “alpha” traits — hence the name — like quick movements and strength. 

When the trailer first came out, many were quick to compare Slotherhouse to Cocaine Bear, but besides turning an animal into a murderer, there really wasn’t much to compare. Unlike Cocaine Bear, Slotherhouse is never excessively violent or gory. Matthew Goodhue didn’t want it to be. 

The themes of the film are fairly obvious: don’t poach animals, be kind to people, and popularity and social media aren’t the most important things in life. However, Goodhue told Outdoors.com that his main goal with Slotherhouse was introducing the horror genre to a younger audience like older kids and teens. 

He explained that screenwriter Bradley Fowler thought up the idea of a killer sloth and the title at practically the same time. Initially, it was supposed to be a much more violent film, but Fowler workshopped the idea with producer Cady Lanigan. She suggested they write the script for people who actually care about sloths, which tended to be kids. 

“As much as I would’ve loved to see what that gory version of Slotherhouse would be, what drew me to this movie was the opportunity to make a film that could act as a bit of an introduction or gateway into horror for younger people,” Goodhue said. 

Goodhue explained he wanted a movie that was a little scary, but not too inappropriate for younger viewers. He said he hopes the movies compare more to films like Child’s Play or Grimlins and other films with “practical effects.”

“We hope people get excited about (the practical effects) and I think it’s why we were excited to make the film,” he said and added that it looks like people responding to the trailer have been excited about it. 

Slotherhouse will be in theaters on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023.  

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