Opening with an exposition dump by way of grainy promo video, the town of Kingfisher is introduced as a haven for both humans and ghosts alike. Or rather, a place where ghosts have been segregated to their own little, isolated spot in the city and other forms of supernatural creatures long chased away. But tensions between the factions rise when pizza delivery drivers are targeted and slain, and a disgraced werewolf is the main suspect.
This may be a world of ghosts, werewolves, and witches, but it’s not horror. Writer/director Austin Vesely’s feature debut delivers its overt societal metaphor in a tonal mashup of sitcom, cartoon, music video convention, and pulpy detective noir. Though the setting of Kingfisher is very specific on a surface level, at least in terms of population statistics, that’s about the only aspect of the narrative that feels fully developed.
The first pizza delivery driver to meet his demise, Sean (Austin Vesely), is the inciting event that sends his ex-girlfriend Astrid (Deadpool 2’s Zazie Beetz) back to her old job at the pizza parlor to find his murderer and enact vigilante justice. A pair of dimwitted detectives are also on the case, and so is intrepid journalist Sadie (Rae Gray). The mayor and a group of ghost rights activists deal with the murder spree on the political front, rounding out an ensemble of caricatures destined for collision.
There’s a lot of charm to be found in Slice. Some really clever ideas and funny gags that work. When Chance the Rapper does finally make an appearance as main suspect Dax, he’s instantly endearing as the clueless but heartfelt delivery driver that simply wants to deliver quality Chinese food for affordable prices. Emphasis on quality. He’s best when playing against the film’s sole intelligent character, Sadie, who’s five steps ahead of him even though he’s been trying to deduce the central mystery for far longer.
The problem is that what works is stuck between a lot of terrible dialogue, jokes that fall flat, and an overall lack of identity with pacing issues to boot. The villains are over the top cartoonish, and many of the main players aren’t fully realized. Astrid is the lead protagonist, but we never know much about her beyond her undeterred quest for vengeance on Sean’s behalf, and the reasoning behind it seems murky and puzzling at best. That sums up the town of Kingfisher as a whole; not much of it is explained. The characters just haphazardly come together in the end and the final reveal turned battle is also a bit confused and lackluster. The werewolf fares the worst of all, only barely showing up near the end and with abysmal design.
Slice would have worked so much better as a series versus a feature length film. It’s somewhat episodic already in how Vesely chose to weave in the different characters’ stories, and the humor feels more akin to a sitcom series. It also would’ve allowed the story more time to fully develop the characters and interesting supernatural world of Kingfisher. As it stands, Slice is an 83-minute film that somehow feels stretched out longer than it should be, both because of pacing issues and because there’s zero mystery behind the central narrative mystery. A puerile comedy with bursts of greatness, this is a film for those looking for pure silly, nonsensical fun and nothing more.