A supernatural thriller that finds itself in a crowded familial space
Score 5.5/10 - Standard Faire
Posted by Samuel Glass | April 21st, 2022
Young Lucas (August Maturo) and his older brother, Tom (Mike Manning) live alone, trying to get by with just each other to rely on, after the tragic deaths of their parents in a horrendous car accident. When things get unbearable in the way of the daily pressures bearing down on both of them, they play a blistering game of “Slapface” (hence the title). If this seems completely abnormal, brace yourself. In the absence of his mother, Lucas soon develops a close relationship with a monster…
But not just any monster; a local legend known as the “Virago Witch”, who watches over him, coveting his company and their bond. To the point that anyone standing in the way of that connection, or anyone out to harm Lucas or cause him trouble, ends up paying dearly. As far as films of this kind go, Slapface is going to find itself in a difficult spot, unable to truly differentiate itself from classic entries in a crowded field. This goes back as far as celebrated films such as Phantasm, Lady In White and The Lost Boys, in terms of horror films that depict iconic brotherly bonds.
Writer/director Jeremiah Kipp has done his best to ensure that this is a picture that’s well-made and has a consistent pace. The two things he’s most fortunate to count among Slapface’s pluses, are an impressive performance by the young Maturo, and a guest cameo by character actor legend Dan Hedaya (Blood Simple), who portrays a somewhat-sympathetic sheriff running out of chances to give the brothers, as things begin to spiral out of control. Besides the complicated relationship with Tom, Lucas also endures bullying from a pair of obnoxious twins (Bianca and Chiara D’Ambrosio), who are joined in their assaults by Lucas’s not-so-secret crush, Moriah (Mirabelle Lee), who is as much a victim of the twins’ taunts and jeering as she is an accomplice.
As the plot warrants, her complicated position between them and Lucas soon makes her a prime target for the Witch. Which brings us to another problematic aspect of the story here. The “Witch” (superbly played by Lucas Hassel in some impressive practical makeup and costuming), could easily be interpreted as a part of Lucas’s psyche…the darkness within him inherited from their abusive father, (which manifests itself in Tom by alcoholism). Even in a pivotal scene that involves a lot of deaths, the viewer can never be sure if the monster is truly real, or if it’s a part of the young boy’s dark and fractured imagination.
Even in a pivotal scene that involves a lot of deaths, the viewer can never be sure if the monster is truly real, or if it’s a part of the young boy’s dark and fractured imagination.
Even at the climax, you’re never sure, and while in some movies, this would be a plus, here it definitely hamstrings the movie, providing it with what feels like an unfinished, unsatisfactory ending. At least in another like-minded film, like the underrated horror gem from co-writer/director Scott Schirmer, Found, the evil is crystal clear, and there’s no ambiguity whatsoever as to who the monster is, or what they’re capable of. Another few passes at the script that more sharply defined what’s going on with Lucas and the Witch, could have put this into “must-watch” territory, especially with the striking choices of locations and the marvelous cinematography of Dominick Sivilli capturing them.
Unfortunately, Slapface is what it is, and the best I can do is recommend it only if you’re mildly curious. It might make an okay second-feature accompanying any of the other outstanding similar films I mentioned, but most especially Found, with which Kipp’s film shares a few similarities.