Nyla Innuksuk’s Slash/Back is an alien-infested sci-fi thriller set in a remote Innuit village of Nunavut, Canada. After encountering an alien creature while all the adults of a small fishing town are out partying, a group of young girls are forced to defend the world from these space invaders. Luckily, one of the girls recently watched John Carpenter’s The Thing for the first time so they’re pretty much alien-fighting experts.

Slash/Back recently celebrated its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. The sci-fi/horror/comedy, from a script Innuksuk co-wrote with Ryan Cavan, stars actresses Tasiana Shirley, Alexis Wolfe, Chelsea Prusky, Frankie Vincent-Wolfe, and Nalajoss Ellsworth. We were fortunate enough to sit down with Nyla Innuksuk and a few of the cast to discuss shooting on location in Nunavut, and where the idea for this hyper-specific genre-mashup first came from.

Read Nightmare on Film Street’s full review of Slash/Back HERE.

 

“..the tradition of scary stories is very strong in Nunavut and in Inuit culture. That’s something that we’ve been doing for a very long time”

 

Nyla Innuksuk: I think the initial inspiration really came from me being a kid loving movies, watching a ton, particularly horror movies. And so, when I was just figuring out this idea of doing something that was kind of a horror adventure kids movie, like Goonies or E.T., I just thought that it would make so much sense it set it in Nunavut. Growing up there, it’s just such a great place to have adventures with your friends and grow up. 

Jonathan Dehaan for Nightmare on Film Street: Is this the first Nunavut horror movie? I can’t think of another one. 

Nyla Innuksuk: Umm yeah, maybe. I think, probably, but the tradition of scary stories is very strong in Nunavut and in Inuit culture. That’s something that we’ve been doing for a very long time. 

NOFS: I love lesser-known monsters from folklore. Does anybody have a monster from legends they heard growing up that they’d like to see on the big screen one day?

Chelsea Prusky: Well, for me, where I grew up was Arviat, Nunavut so I was near the water and I was always so terrified of what’s called Qalupalik. They live in the water and they take you with them. There are books about [them] but I’m not sure there’s a film. I’ve always been scared of those.

Nalajoss Ellsworth: For me, it’s not exactly a monster but there’s this myth that the Northern Lights would come down and chop off your head, and play soccer with it if you don’t wear a hat or anything covering your head when it’s cold. 

 

 

NOFS: That definitely sounds like a monster that Mom made up. 

Nyla Innuksuk: [laughs] Well, you know, I think a lot of these are cautionary tales [becuase] the thing about Nunavut is that the Arctic is a very dangerous place so there’s lots of things to be scared of. 

NOFS: I understand Slash/Back was filmed on location in the Arctic, right?


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Nyla Innuksuk: Yeah, we shot in the community of Pang (sic) which is very remote and small. The cast is all from Iqaluit, that’s where their parents live, and so we all went for the summer and moved into the grade school and the high school and lived together in Pang to make a movie. 

NOFS: That’s so cool. It was also super brave of you to make a horror movie that’s set only in daylight. Was that a challenge?

Nyla Innuksuk: Yeah, it kind of was sometimes but it was always kind of cool. You know, I think of Leatherface walking through town in the daylight, but I think that’s also what makes Pang so special. There’s this 11 day period where the sun just doesn’t set. It just circles around the horizon and that’s when all the kids just go out and there’s no expectation that you’re going to bed at 9:00 pm because it is the one time of the year where you can just be walking around and hanging out and doing whatever you want, like going boating or being with your friends, so you do. 

 

“…we all went for the summer and moved into the grade school and the high school and lived together in Pang to make a movie.”

 

NOFS: Did you shoot at all during that period of time?

Nyla Innuksuk: It was challenging. Because it is just 11 days where that happens in Pang, and obviously our shoot was longer than that, but we wanted [Slash/Back] to feel like that so we shot in the summertime but it was just a logistical thing. Pang gets very cold in the winter so filming just practically made a lot of sense but it’s also when all the teachers leave and kids aren’t in the classrooms.

Once we got to Pang and decided that’s where we wanted to film, we realized very quickly that if we wanted to bring in a huge crew we would be imposing on the town, and there really wasn’t room for us. So, because of the housing issues in Pang, we had to go to the principals of the high school and the grade school and ask if we could move in. We shipped up 60 beds and mattresses and turned all of the classrooms into bedrooms for crew and for cast. All of our meals were served in the gym- there were no restaurants in town. It was a real adventure. 

NOFS: Dang, that pretty much means you all were in school for almost an entire calendar year. 

Tasiana Shirley: [laughs] Yeah, but during the summertime when we were [living] in the schools, it wasn’t a “school” experience it was like everything you wanted to do while you were in school, but you couldn’t. Like playing hide-and-go-seek around the school. It was like living in the school and using it to its fullest extent and just having fun inside of it with no teachers. […] it was more of an epic adventure inside the grade school than school all-year round.

 

“The night before we filmed, […me and the girls,] we ate so much much candy and we watched The Thing

 

NOFS: Slash/Back has a really creepy-looking alien creature disguised as a polar bear. Can you tell me a little bit about creating the look of the alien?

Nyla Innuksuk: That was actually really cool and that bear, I really wanted to do practically- I really like some practical effects- and we did. We shot it practically, believe-it-or-not with Troy, or contortionist. I had our practical VFX team build a gigantic bear suit for Troy to wear but it was built for him to be wearing it upside down so that he could be walking backward.


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The bear was supposed to run down a hill and we shot it all over a couple of days, just Troy coming down [the hill] in this polar bear costume. It was very painful for him and physically challenging. And so, I thought it looked really really cool and also really really weird [laughs]. In the end, we decided to do it with VFX and replace the bear but it was great to have those movements that Troy had developed. We took a lot of those, and some of his jerky movements when he’s in human form, and we applied those to the VFX bear so it was really great to have his movement be an example for us.

 

I think there might be some life out there but it’s probably nothing like how movies depict aliens.”

 

NOFS: So how about aliens? Does anybody believe in aliens, or has anyone seen something they can’t explain?

Chelsea Prusky: I definitely think there’s something out there but I don’t know if there’s such a thing as “aliens“.

Nalajoss Ellsworth: There’s so much “space” in space. It’s hard not to believe that there’s not at least one other life form out there [in] all the galaxies.

Tasiana Shirley: Yeah, I agree with you Nalajoss. With the infinite universe, it’s quite literally impossible that there isn’t life forms other than us. And it’s really cool to think about. I don’t think of it as a scary thing. I think it’s really cool and exciting because you never know. There are unexpected species’ and I just think they’re super cool and interesting.

Rory Anawak: I think there might be some life out there but it’s probably nothing like how movies depict aliens. It’s probably just like a plant or something. 

 

“…I really like some practical effects…”

 

NOFS: Slash/Back has a lot of classic horror movies in its DNA. Were there any films in particular that you pulled inspiration from?

Nyla Innuksuk: There were so many different influences throughout, certainly for me, like Hitchcock. The Birds in particular, Psycho– not that Psycho influenced this movie but Hitchcock was definitely important to me growing up. Even Nalajoss running up the stairs and jumping into a boat; I loved Scream growing up and that is a Sidney Prescott move. There are lots of different influences [including] 70s horror, Leatherface- those kinds of things, they find their way in.

NOFS: And was there anything specific you had the cast watch before shooting?


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Nyla Innuksuk: The night before we filmed, […me and the girls,] we ate so much much candy and we watched The Thing and I remember that it was such a bad idea for me because we all agreed to have a sleep over and I could not sleep on the mattresses on the floor so I had to sneak out at one point and then come back early in the morning to act like I had been sleeping [there] all night. But, you know, it was fun to have a little movie night before.

 

There are lots of different influences [including] 70s horror, Leatherface- those kinds of things, they find their way in.”

 

Slash/Back celebrated its world premiere at SXSW 2022 in the Narrative Feature Competition. Check out more of our coverage of the 2022 SXSW film festival here and be sure to let us know if you’re excited to checkout Slash/Back over on Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord!

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