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Movie Review: Chase the Slut

Chase the Slut is the second feature film directed by Ryan Denmark. His first film, Romeo & Juliet vs. the Living Dead, had its world premiere – as does his second – at the EIFF. I don’t mind reiterating that I downright hated Romeo and Juliet, finding it a pretentious, boring, unfunny, and borderline insufferable film from pretty much start to finish.

So you can imagine how pensive I was about giving Denmark a second chance. But I am glad to report that I’m very glad I did take another chance on the director. Chase the Slut is easily one of my favourite films of the EIFF 2010, a genuinely clever, unique, and very entertaining off-beat tale of "forbidden" romance.

Chase the Slut tells the story of the titular Chase (the clever title makes sense if you’ve seen the movie) who makes a bet with her friend that she can seduce the least likely guy in town, Gabe, whose a member of devout religious cult which worship household pets.

That is certainly one strange plot and the film itself completely reflects that. However, as odd as the whole tone and feel of the movie is throughout, it sort of makes sense in its own way. This is one of those movies where you really need to experience it for yourself to truly “get it.”

Like his Romeo & Juliet, Denmark has decided to shoot Chase the Slut on digital video as opposed to regular film (artistic choice or simply a necessity due to limited budget? A bit of both, I imagine). With his first film it detracted from the story, but here it adds to the other-worldly feel it has.

The film is populated with all manner of strange characters and portraying them is a rather talented young cast of relative unknowns. The lead actress, Vanessa Claire Smith, is particularly impressive, bringing a relatability and humanity to a character that on paper is someone hard to care all that much about.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Chase the Slut is destined to be a cult film in years to come, but it’s entirely possible. It has all the trademarks of one, from the off-beat humour and distinctly written characters to inherent uniqueness. It really deserves the type of audience that cherish films like Donnie Darko and The Big Lebowski (not that it's anywhere near as good as those films).

Despite the onus being placed on the genuinely funny dialogue (often laugh-out-loud funny) and unique characters, there's also a surprising injection of heart to be found. This is particularly true towards the end when the different story threads come crashing together.

Having said that, Chase the Slut is far from a perfect movie. One of the things that bothered me was how it sometimes tried a bit too hard to be hip and cool. Don’t get me wrong, it is hip and cool for the most part, but just sometimes it was a bit cringe-worthy to listen to some of the dialogue that sounded a bit forced and stagey.

However, despite any problems the film may have (on top of trying too hard to be cool, it also runs out of steam some time before the end), Chase the Slut is highly enjoyable and one that I think will work just as well (if not even better) upon rewatches. It just goes to show you that you shouldn't judge directors on one film. Give them a second chance and they may surprise you.

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