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KVUE Review: 'Slash/Back' brings an alien invasion to the Arctic North

The film, directed by Nyla Innuksuk, had its world premiere at SXSW on Sunday.

AUSTIN, Texas — It’s just like one of the characters says: nobody messes with the girls from Pang.

Slash/Back,” by director Nyla Innuksuk, is a new take on an old classic: the alien invasion film. Set in the Inuit hamlet of Pangnirtung – “Pang” for short – it centers on a group of teen girls forced to save their small town from bloodthirsty beings from another world.

“Slash/Back” has a lot going for it. The scenery is beautiful, and the special effects are gross and impressive in the way you hope sci-fi effects will be. The film also has obvious respect for the alien movies that came before it, with special affection for “The Thing” and a lot owed to “Attack the Block.”

But the film’s best strength is its core group of characters and the young cast that plays them. These are teens raised in a town steeped in both Inuit culture and Arctic beauty – but they’re teenagers, so they don’t care much for either.

The film does a great job of balancing the duality of the girls, who are very much modern teens in a traditional environment. Tasiana Shirley’s Maika, the ringleader, is resistant to apparently all aspects of her culture, but she still internalized the hunting teachings of her father and she still wears a leather jacket painted with “No Justice on Stolen Land.” 

And despite their surroundings – and the situation at hand – the girls never stop being kids. Even with aliens killing the grownups, there’s always time to bargain with your little sister and fight over a boy.

“Slash/Back” owes a lot to its predecessors, but it’s a film that still manages to be unique in familiar territory. The girls can only fight the aliens the way they do because of the hunting knowledge that was handed down to them. In a landscape packed with white male characters triumphing over monsters because they were born to be heroes, it’s easy to root for this group who have no choice but to do things a little differently.

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