After his mother's death, a young street magician (Jacob Latimore) turns to dealing drugs at parties to support his little sister. When she is kidnapped by his supplier, he uses his sleight of hand and keen intelligence to find her.
April 28, 2017
J.D. Dillard and Alex Theurer
Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Dulé Hill
Sleight, written & directed by up-and-comer J.D. Dillard, isn’t exactly a horror movie, but it defies easy classification. The film blazes trails through several genre classifications, one of which is extremely horror-adjacent; there are moments of the film that are absolutely harrowing, dreadful, and nauseatingly suspenseful. This film earns its R-Rating without a single nipple, ass-crack, or even abundant profanity. Ultimately, Sleight speaks to both the arbitrary nature of genre classification and the pervasiveness of horror tropes in all walks of cinema.
You may have heard Sleight compared to Chronicle, a scrappy found footage film about a trio of teenagers who gain superpowers, only to find themselves seduced by the dark side. Sleight is not a Chronicle clone by any measure. In fact, Sleight isn’t a superhero movie at all. Those who see Sleight may be startled to learn within the first 10 minutes that this is not the film they thought. Like a sleight of hand magic trick performed by a magnanimous street magician, Sleight pulls a fast one that will have you pleasantly surprised and looking forward to something truly original.
Official Synopsis: After his mother’s death, a young street magician (Jacob Latimore) turns to dealing drugs at parties to support his little sister. When she is kidnapped by his supplier, he uses his sleight of hand and keen intelligence to find her.
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Knowing that Sleight features a teenage street magician, Bo (played by Jacob Latimore) might have you thinking it’s another illusionist tale along the lines of the recent Now You See Me movies. But Sleight doesn’t have an ounce of cheese; there’s nothing contrived or mainstream about it. This isn’t the story of a merry trickster. Bo is a hustler. He has a girlfriend but Sleight isn’t a romance; he has a little sister who he takes care of, but Sleight isn’t a feel good movie. Yes, there’s triumph and hope (emotions not unheard of in horror), but it arrives after gut-wrenching beatings, grotesque mutilations, and stunning betrayals.
If you think a young, African American drug dealer will be a difficult protagonist to relate to, think again. Bo isn’t an urban stereotype and his situation isn’t exclusive to his race, his economic standing, or even his sex. Bo had to put his own bright future on hold after the sudden death of his parents; in this sense, he represents anyone who had had a dream deferred. As his sister’s only permanent caregiver, he was forced to become an adult before his time, a predicament that will resonate with anyone who has had to become a de facto parent unexpectedly. Bo is doing something he doesn’t feel good about, but it’s not something he planned to do forever—just to make some immediate ends meet; in this capacity, he speaks to many who find themselves trapped in a career/lifestyle/relationship that they once considered temporary.
Bo’s room sports a poster of Houdini, and it’s more than just a nod to the world’s most famous illusionist and escape artist. It’s a metaphor for Bo’s desire to escape his own prisons, toss off the chains of responsibility, and sever ties with the dark influences that keep him bound to poverty and crime.
Sleight combines the low-tech sci-fi of Primer with the sickening tension of Reservoir Dogs and the chaotic brutality of Green Room. Sleight will draw comparisons to Get Out, not because both films feature African American leads or speak to a specifically black experience, but because they both represent outstanding innovations and fresh, exciting methods of storytelling—things our beloved genre can always use more of. Hopefully, this will encourage studios to open their doors to more newbies and outsiders, as those entrenched in the entertainment industry rarely make major breakthroughs.
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Horror, family drama, urban violence, and even sci-fi: These are some of the disparate elements that combine to make Sleight. Don’t see it expecting the same old same old horror tropes; see it expecting to be horrified, inspired, and vastly entertained.