Movie Review: Slay Belles (2018)

Slay Belles Artwork

*If you are just here to read what I wrote about Hannah Minx then click here, but please consider reading the full review!

I actually heard about this movie a few years ago back when it was first announced, unfortunately for reasons that appear to have been due to funding it was delayed in production. However, finally it came out on the 4th December 2018 and it was as awesome as I hoped.

It features Barry Bostwick as Santa, Kristina Klebe as Alexi, Susan Slaughter as Dahlia and Hannah Wagner also known as Hannah Minx who plays Sadie, Stephen Lunsford as Sean and Joel Hebner as Officer Anderson. The is directed by Dan Walker (also known as SpookyDan Walker), who also helped write the script alongside Jessica Luhrssen. Slay Belles follows a group of young women on Christmas Eve who team up with Santa to battle the evil Christmas demon known as Krampus. As well as buying yourself a copy of the movie, and I’ll include a link to where you can do that below at the end, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to show support for the project. 

Okay, now that we’ve got all of that out of the way let’s move on to the actual review. Now I know it’s not Christmas, but who can’t enjoy a good festive movie once in a while regardless of the time of the year. It’s totally not because I was only just made aware that the film was released and available on Amazon and didn’t feel like waiting another 8 months until it was Christmas again to review it. Anyway, I made a point of mentioning in my last movie review that I will be attempting to review movies and TV shows more as a whole, as opposed to my chronological point by point style that I had used previously. I will however still point out specific scenes worth of merit, and let’s begin like that, I really enjoyed the flashy intro, the warm, homey Christmas music, that breaks into harder techno, it subtly suggests that this perhaps isn’t a family friendly holiday movie without being too on the nose about it. 

I have seen people complain about movies and TV shows that use the narrative device where we (as the audience) are dropped right in the middle of the action or conflict, then the clock is turned back so that we can find out how they go there, before then heading towards a conclusion. I personally have nothing against it, and feel that this movie does it really well, we get to see something exciting up front, then go back so we know about/care about the characters and then push forward for a dramatic finale. It’s executed successfully, and works well with the movie’s overall pacing.

Even early on in the movie the main characters Alexi, Dahlia and Sadie have excellent chemistry and work really well together. Also knowing online culture as I do, I can totally see how Adventure Girls would be popular, you have beautiful, fun and exciting young women, eager to explore and go crazy, so props to the movie for knowing exactly what people want to watch.

I really like how quirky the movie is, forget for a second that it’s a Christmas horror movie, that’s always going to feel offbeat, but it’s just a little surreal but in a fun way, for example early on when the group visit a local bar, you expect their welcome to be unenthusiastic to put in nicely, due to this being a small town, them being outsiders and also the way they are dressed, but instead all anyone really has to say is F**k Christmas. Also the entire thing with the sex offender in the Santa costume, while not really relevant to the plot was amusing, if a little depressing, you know for humanity. Another example of this is when the girls phone 911 and are treated to an unhelpful operator on the other end that assumes it’s a practical joke, it’s a funny interlude that still manages to retain some of the dramatic tension from seeing the creature in the first place because we keep seeing shots presumably from it’s point of view, as it approaches their hiding spot in Santa’s cottage…a sentence I never thought I would write.

Also big props to the location scouts/set designer by the way because the SantaLand place if it wasn’t built exclusively for the movie then it’s a really impressive find, and if it was it’s an incredible piece of design work, it’s the perfect example of a run down seasonal attraction, and seeing it without all the glitz and glamour plays into the darker side of Christmas that the movie is going for. 

Because of his role as Matt Daehler and his relationship with the Kanima in season 2 of Teen Wolf, I totally suspected that his character in Slay Belles, namely Sean was going to either be or be helping the Krampus. A suspicion I will never confirm nor deny, but that’s certain what was going through my mind when he was on screen.

I touched on the chemistry of the three leads earlier, I also want to quickly mention how the characters are reasonably well balanced, Alexi is the objectively smarter and more sensible of the three, Dahlia is more adventurous and isn’t afraid to be a little naughty, and Sadie is hyper and a little bit more innocent than Dahlia, but still a strong woman aware of her sexuality. Overall though they represent three different viewpoints and this helps to flesh out the movie, and make you care about each of the characters for different reasons.

Barry Bostwick as Santa was hilarious, he gave the role the perfect amount of absurdity, it was a fantastic performance, on top of bringing a lot to the role, he also worked well with the female leads of the film, and together they made the parts of the movie where Krampus wasn’t causing havok really fun and engaging. 

I also like the slow building of it, sure we know where it goes before we are initially dropped right off in the danger, but it knows how to do horror really well. It paces itself perfectly, teases being observed, without blowing the reveal too quickly. 

I have to comment on the Krampus, the special effects team did really well, it was a truly impressive creature easily on par with examples from movies such as Hellboy (speaking of which, the 2018 reboot of the movie featured Kristina Klebe who played Alexi), Gremlins, Pan’s Labyrinth or the movie with my personal favourite monster special effect An American Werewolf in London. It even looks good in the sunlight, which isn’t something that can be said of all special effect monsters, often what’s most scary about them is that they exist in the dark, but this thing was really threatening even during the day, at least until it got tackled by an old bearded man…enter Santa. 

Overall though, this is a really good movie, it balances humour and suspense well, has excellent special effects, a strong core cast, a quirky undertone and it’s a really good addition to the Christmas horror genre. I can easily see myself watching it again in the future, and I will give it a 4/5 and recommend that you purchase it on Amazon


The Hannah Minx Situation!

So I debated whether to include this section or not, in the end I felt it was relevant, but I also decided to have it be separate from the actual review so as not to draw attention away from the movie itself. Anyway, the reason why I felt it was relevant to discuss Hannah Minx was that this was one of the last projects that she worked on before she disappeared from the public eye. For those of you who are not familiar with Hannah Minx (credited as Hannah Wagner in Slay Belles) she was a popular YouTuber who first came to prominence back in 2009, noted for teaching her audience foreign language skills via her JWOW (Japanese Word of the Week) videos.

As I mentioned above, this was all cut short back in 2013, when seemingly without warning she disappeared. Now a variety of conspiracy theories have popped up regarding this, but nothing has been positively confirmed. What we do know for certain is that she ceased posting on her social media accounts shortly after her final video was posted on July 24th 2013, the video in question was filmed while attending Machinima Comic-Con 2013, and you can check that out here.

After this, things go silent, and any evidence which might suggest exactly what happened is either from a third party or cannot be independently verifiable. Various groups and communities online have since attempted to solve the mystery behind Hannah Minx, and you can check out some of those here, here and here if you are interested in finding out more.

But I feel that the most credible answer however is that she decided to leave her social media accounts, her channel and her Hannah Minx persona behind to focus on her personal life. There is even some evidence to support this, such as a Facebook post that shows her updated relationship status, and some third party reports which suggest that she has since had children (although I will add, as I stipulated above, this is all unconfirmed).

Another reason for the potential social media silence, and it could totally work in tandem with the above theory, is that Hannah Minx allegedly did not own her accounts, they apparently instead belonged to her manager (or some other unknown third party) and so perhaps because they were unhappy with her decision to leave, they declined to let her make any sort of official response on what happened. I feel that both of these theories have merit, it’s equally plausible that she just left because she was tired of her audience who commoditized her because of her clothing choice, her on screen personality, and because of her obvious sex appeal. So there we have it, a little about the curious case of Hannah Minx (as I’ve just now decided to call it), we don’t officially know what happened, and there’s a good chance we will never know, but all I want to say is that I hope she’s okay, I hope that nothing nefarious happened and that she left on her own terms and that I miss her videos with their upbeat style and engaging content. Speaking of which I strongly suggest you all go ahead and watch her YouTube Channel, which still exists (but for obvious reasons is no longer active).


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