“What kind of werewolf are you?” several characters ask Dax Lycander in Slice, an A24-produced horror movie making an unexpected debut on VOD today. Dax is played by Chance Bennett, better known as Chance the Rapper, who’s making his acting debut (not counting videos and providing the voice of Bob Marley for the Black Dynamite TV series). It’s a good question, and one the film doesn’t really get around to answering in full.
The feature debut of writer-director Austin Vesely, who previously teamed with Chance for his “Angels” and “Sunday Candy” videos, Slice is set in the small city of Kingfisher, “the most American of cities.” Not that Kingfisher doesn’t have some troubles, as we learn in an introductory video. It’s chased out witches, werewolves, and demons, and moved its ghost population to a contained neighborhood called, you guessed it, “Ghost Town.” But tensions remain, and when a scraggly-looking pizza deliveryman named Sean (played by Vesely) gets killed making a Ghost Town delivery in the opening scene, old tensions between the living and the not-quite-dead come to the surface.
Though his film is primarily a comedy, Vesely’s clearly attempting to draw some kind of sociopolitical parallels between the world of Kingfisher and our own with Slice, but some of the vagaries of the setup make the point a little blurry. Ghosts, many of them once residents of a local mental institution, are treated like second-class citizens, but they also more or less pick up the lives they were living before their deaths. Maybe the point is that there’s no real difference between the living and the dead — one reinforced by there being little more than a thin layer of powdery makeup on the ghost characters — but the mechanics of it all are a bit confusing. The presence of witches and one werewolf (Dax is the only one we meet) adds further confusion. So no wonder seemingly everyone Dax meets asks the question. Let’s try to figure it out.
Is he a murderous werewolf, like Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man (or most other movie werewolves, for that matter)?
Decidedly not. In fact, it doesn’t seem like this is a world in which werewolves are any more murderous than anyone else. Though the citizens of Kingfisher have run all the werewolves out of town before the film begins, some remain sensitive to werewolf issues. When Astrid says of werewolves, “They eat people,” her boss (Paul Scheer) chastises her for indulging in an offensive stereotype. Elsewhere, when one of the cops on Dax’s tail mentions he hates werewolves because a werewolf killed his dad, he has to admit that the werewolf “hit ’em with a car” by accident. And that it wasn’t really the werewolf’s fault because “my father was a crossing guard with a taste for booze.”
Is he an athletic werewolf like Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf?
Sort of. Though we glimpse Dax a few times early in the morning as a mysterious helmet-clad, moped-riding figure, we don’t see Dax’s face until nearly 40 minutes into the 82-minute film. He’s introduced during a run-in with a pair of cops, fleeing them then rescuing one from a potentially fatal accident. He looks pretty athletic, but not supernaturally athletic, and we later learn that he only has werewolf powers during a full moon (which just makes sense, really).
Is he a musical werewolf like Michael Jackson in the “Thriller” video?Given Bennett’s day job, this seems likely, doesn’t it? But no. While Vesely’s video’s capture his star’s charismatic musicality, it’s not in evidence here.
Is he someone who just thinks he’s a werewolf, but might actually be a human being, like the delusional would-be vampire in George Romero’s Martin?
For much of the movie, this seems like a real possibility! Vesely clearly shot Slice on a limited budget (see above regarding its ghost makeup), and Dax appears in scene after scene as a human being, talking about being a werewolf without doing much in the way of werewolf-ery. There’s even one scene in which a possible transformation turns out to be a fake-out to scare his police captors, whom he then reminds it’s not a full moon so he couldn’t turn into a bloodthirsty man-beast and kill them even if he wanted to. But, in the climactic showdown, Dax does transform … mostly. As with its ghosts, Slice’s werewolf makeup here is pretty limited, making it look like Bennett could be playing an ordinary guy wearing a mid-budget Halloween mask (though this is probably not the reading preferred by the film).
Is he a romantic werewolf like Taylor Lautner in the Twilight movies?There’s no evidence of this, no. Bennett plays Dax as a cool outsider, but he doesn’t generate sparks with any of the other characters. Which raises more questions: Did werewolves and humans date before they were expelled from Kingfisher? Do they date elsewhere? We don’t really get a glimpse of the rest of the world. Is it as prejudiced as the one city we do get to see? Or, for that matter, do werewolves date at all? When not wolfing out, Bennett looks cool, charming, and totally datable. Hit him up on OkLycanthrope!
Is he a fundamentally chill werewolf who would prefer to live in a world in which being a werewolf is no big deal and humans, ghosts, and werewolves live together in harmony like it’s NBD?
Pretty much, yeah. Though he’s said to be over a thousand years old — again, there are so many unanswered questions about how this world works — Dax wants to return to the simple days before the werewolf purge, when he rode his moped around town and worked as a delivery person for a Chinese restaurant. What kind of werewolf is he? He ultimately answers the question himself, telling a reporter he’s “the kind of werewolf that wants to deliver quality Chinese food at affordable prices.” And frankly, that seems like a pretty cool sort of werewolf for anyone to want to be.