Neil, a shy 15 year-old who is questioning his sexuality, has trouble connecting with his classmates until he meets Julia an out-spoken and rebellious 16 year-old. They may not seem to have much in common at first glance but they bond over their love of writing slash-fiction.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what slash-fiction is, neither did I. Slash-fiction is basically like any online erotic fiction except it features characters from pre-established sci-fi or fantasy who would ordinarily not be naked together. Ever wondered what it would be like if Dumbledore and Gandalf had wizard sex? Someone’s thought about it, someone’s written about it, and that’s slash.
Neil’s got some real talent, although his limited life experience makes it hard for him to write sex convincingly, but he lacks the confidence to post it online. Julia, who’s already posted 38 raunchy stories about an elf named Fain, happens to accidentally get a peek at his work and sees potential. Mostly though, she believes that real writers want their work to be seen. So she encourages/pressures him to publish his stories as the two develop an unlikely friendship and a complicated mutual attraction. Hoping to participate in a live read for slash-fiction writers, they journey to ComicCon on a mission to sneak into the Adults Only event.
I can’t endorse this well-intentioned indie as much as I’d like to. Quirkiness seems inevitable in a story like this but writer-director Clay Liford does his best to keep it grounded and believable. It’s a delicate balance that I’m not sure he ever got quite right. And, elf sex and space orgies aside, Slash doesn’t bring much new to the story of a lonely teenager coming of age.
That being said, I’d rather focus on what works. Lirod wisely resists the temptation to judge or mock a subculture that could have easily made easy targets. By respecting his characters, he gives them room to grow and, in most cases, doesn’t let a single trait define them. Mostly, it comes down to the casting. Michael Johnston, as Neil, seems a little one-note at first but grows on you, especially in his scenes with Julia. As Julia, Hannah Marks is quite a find. Her quick wit and outer confidence mask Julia’s hidden insecurities. She reminded me of a young Mary Elizabeth Wintead.
Slash isn’t the next Juno but if you are curious about sci-fi porn and wonder about the people who write it, you might find yourself charmed by this little film.