You don’t [mess] with the girls from Pang.
Written and directed by Nyla Innuksuk, Slash/Back is set in Pangnirtung, Nunavut and tells the story of Maika (Tasiana Shirley) and her friends (Alexis Vincent-Wolf, Chelsea Pruksy and Nalajoss Ellsworth). With school closed for summer, this sunlight-drenched part of the world settles in for a typical summer of fun. However, when an unknown presence threatens their hometown, the group must band together to ward off the alien threat.
Set in the heart of Nunavut, Slash/Back is a fun and furious sci-fi horror that also feels relevant with its exploration of Indigenous issues. For her first feature, Innusuk takes a story of four indigenous teens battling aliens and makes it feels like an act of love. Part Attack the Block and part Amblin-style adventure, the film is a celebration of indigenous culture and youthfulness that also fully entertains. As a love letter to the horror genre, this ‘zombie creature-feature’ knows how to make use of its limited budget and special effects to imbue the film with a sense of dread without skimping on the blood splatters. What’s more, the film has some joyful performances from its young cast that help the film feel authentic, even in its wildest of moments. (Performances become particularly noteworthy when one considers that this is also the first film for its young stars.)
While it absolutely brings the blood, Slash/Back also reminds us of the value of owning one’s cultural identity as it speaks to the emotional weight that can be carried by indigenous teens. Struggling to connect with their parents or their culture, the younger generation is shown to have a deeply rooted frustration within themselves. Feeling disconnected from their heritage, there is a sense of frustration about their ethnicity and the way that others view them. (In fact, Maika even argues that her her parents only create art in order to appease white tourists.)
Their indigeneity may be who they are… but that doesn’t mean that it’s who they want to be.
However, as the pressure of alien invasion mount, things begin to change. When their community is threatened, they begin to take ownership of their cultural heritage and they rise up to protection their hometown. All of a sudden, the shame that they once felt gives way a sense of pride. This connection with their history gives life to their souls and the young teens are driven into action. There is a fury that burns deeply within them that is unleashed against the outside threat.
With its ambitious tone and enthusiasm, there’s a lot to like about Slash/Back. With wild kills and chills, Innuksuk clearly has a love for the horror genre that fuels the film. Even so, what makes the film so special though is its beating heart of cultural celebration. As Maika and her friends step forward to fight, Slash/Back shows the strength of the Indigenous people and the power that stems from owning their heritage.
Because, after all, you don’t [mess] with the girls from Pang.
Slash/Back is available in theatres on Friday, June 24th, 2022