Movie review: Slash/Back imagines aliens in Nunavut

The tiny hamlet of Pangnirtung welcomes an alien invasion under the midnight sun

Content of the article

A few years ago, the Big Think website published a map showing early alien contact in movies. Unsurprisingly, California and New York are popular landing spots, along with London and Tokyo. Outlying locations include the North Pole (The thing from another world) and Antarctica (The thing). But no aliens had ever landed in Pangnirtung, an Inuit hamlet of some 1,500 people just below the Arctic Circle on Baffin Island in Nunavut.

Content of the article

Slash/back shows why it was a wise call – until now, of course.

The sci-fi adventure story, co-written and directed by Nyla Innuksuk, opens with a group of girls enjoying the summer weather of the Far North. The forecasts are good: on June 10, the sun rises at 00:31, 19 minutes after its last sunset. The next sunset is 23 days later.

The adults in the film are few and far between, with most attending a summer solstice square dance, leaving the youngsters to have fun (and fend for themselves). So teenage Maika (Tasiana Shirley) and her friends take a boat for a quick ride across the nearby tundra.

This is where they spot a polar bear. One of the girls shoots him with Maika’s gun, but Maika’s little sister is then attacked by the animal, and they shoot again, eventually dropping him. They’ve clearly seen polar bears before, but they (and we) can tell something is wrong with this one. “He didn’t move properly,” someone says. Plus, he bleeds black.

The following is equal parts The thing and Attack the block, an alien invasion horror where local children prove to be Earth’s first and best line of defense. Inuksuk doesn’t take the subject too seriously and manages to insert a bit of humor alongside snarky social commentary, such as the tendency of some First Nations children to turn away from their heritage.

Hitting both notes at once is the scene in which Uki (Nalajoss Ellsworth) suggests that the thing they saw was an Ijiraq, a shapeshifter from Inuit folklore. Maika tells him that she is just repeating “stories of old people, made up because they didn’t have the internet yet”. Later, Uki comes up with a new theory: “Not Ijiraq, no, but aliens? Oh yes. Definitely aliens. Most likely.”

Content of the article

Slash/back fits perfectly into a recent revival of First Nations gender images that includes Jeff Barnaby quantum of blood and night raiders by Danis Goulet. It features a dreamlike lo-fi feel that doesn’t rob the film of its intensity. And while the plot stutters and skips multiple times like a vinyl record that’s been left too long in the midnight sun, the fun, frenetic pace will keep viewers invested, forgiving any minor missteps. It turns out that of all the places aliens could land, Nunavut is one of the most dangerous and entertaining.

Slash/Back opens June 24 in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Kingston and On Demand.

3.5 out of 5 stars

About Walter J. Leslie

Check Also

RangeWater and Nippon Steel Kowa Real Estate Acquire 228-Unit Apartment Community in Prime Atlanta Neighborhood

The Dakota Range Water Real Estate “The Dakota is a great addition to our local …