‘These gals seem like they could take on an alien invasion,’ says Slash/Back creator

Nyla Innuksuk explains why she was adamant her science-fiction horror be set in a very particular Far North community

Article content

There’s a moment in Nyla Innuksuk’s science-fiction movie Slash/Back in which one of the characters describes a scene out of John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing. Sure, it’s homage. But it also tells us something about the Inuit filmmaker.

Article content

“I am a fan of movies first,” she says. “And I think that was kind of how I got into making movies. My mom is a lover of Hitchcock and introduced me to his movies when I was really young. Maybe way too young,” she says with a laugh.

She adds: “When you get introduced to horror when you’re younger, you almost feel like you’re getting away with something. I also think I grew up at a great time for horror in the late ’90s, early 2000s. I mean, there is a scene in Slash/Back where a character gets chased up the stairs and then has to jump out of a top-storey window into a boat, which is pretty much taken right from Scream.”

“And so they’re these little kind of nods to my love of horror and sci-fi. And, of course, movies like Goonies and E.T. were a big part of growing up. When I was a kid growing up in Nunavut and having adventures with my friends and my brothers, I think I was probably on my bike humming the E.T. theme half the time.”

Article content

Slash/Back tells the story of a group of girls in the Inuit town of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island who must repel an alien invasion. Innuksuk was not only adamant that the film be set amid the gorgeous scenery of “Pang,” but that it be shot there, too.

“It was important for me at the beginning to be Pang mostly because I had been there and was like, this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. And then I’d met some people from there – some girls in particular – and was like: These gals seem like they could take on an alien invasion.”

And so, despite location scouts who kept waving the word “impossible” in front of her, Innuksuk set out to make her movie in Pang. It brought its share of difficulties, to be sure, but also some pleasant surprises. For instance, had they shot in Iqaluit, some 300 kilometres to the south, it would have meant expensive hotel accommodations for cast and crew. Because Pangnirtung didn’t have those facilities, they made do with the local high school.

Article content

“And as crazy as it sounds, a school is almost free! Because you pay for cleaning and stuff like that. So this was one of the ways we figured out how to make it. We basically asked if we could move in for the summer. And they said yes. We ended up shipping nearly 60 beds and mattresses and turning every classroom into bedrooms with two beds per classroom. And so all of our crew got a roommate for the summer. It was this crazy ask of anyone. But we ended up getting the most amazing people to come up with us for the summer to make the movie.”

That was the summer of ’19. Innuksuk had planned to return in March 2020 for some additional filming, but when the pandemic struck, she was stuck down south. Seven months later, she managed to fly in with a small crew and quarantine for two weeks in a hotel before heading to Pangnirtung to finish the shoot.

Article content

“We did all of our ADR (additional dialogue replacement) remotely. So the girls were recording themselves underneath a tent made of blankets. It was an interesting post process. And now we’re feeling like finally we’re able to get this out there. We just went back a few weeks ago, me and the teenage cast, and we shared the movie with the community. And it was so great to be back, and it very much felt worth it for us.”

Slash/Back may be Innuksuk’s feature directing debut, but it’s not her first artistic endeavour. She founded Mixtape VR, which produces virtual and augmented-reality content. She co-created a Marvel Comics character, Snowguard, a.k.a. Amka Aliyak, who hails from (you guessed it) Pang. And she’s created a short film that will show on a huge, wraparound screen at this year’s Venice Biennale.

Article content

“The Indigenous people of Norway, the Sami, have these tents that are similar to a teepee, but huge,” she explains. “And this one is going to be 14 metres in diameter. And the wall is going to be this seven-foot screen that circles the room. And we had been told at one point by one of our producing partners: ‘There’s no way you can make something that’s 24k because it’s never been done before.’ And I was like, ‘Well, that’s the point! We’re trying to do something that we’ve never done before.’”

The subject of the short film? “A little monster movie,” she says with a laugh. “Which is kind of funny, because it’s this fancy arts festival and I figured out the one way to make a monster movie to show there.”

Slash/Back is playing now in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Kingston and on demand.


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Share this post

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *