Two brothers who are reeling from their parent’s death must try to survive by themselves in the secluded woods.
Fast forward to the end credits where we are greeted with a warning; a message that enlightens us to the films core meaning. This is a film about bullying, domestic and mental abuse, with the villain being the physical embodiment of all the victims when they lash out, or even if the very thought has ever floated through one’s mind. So, the essence of this film is a very relatable message – one that is dark enough as is – but slathered on top is a strange and slightly inconsistent horror film, that at times, borders towards comedic – you’ll see what I mean further on.Slapface does have a strange atmosphere attached to it though, one that is very apparent from early on. The horror norms are abundantly clear it seems because that eerie atmosphere is assisted with a very noticeable score that intensifies throughout the film, warning you about the incoming weirdness – and there are few of them so watch out.
Jeremiah Kipps quirky horror features August Maturo as Lucas (if it is possible to possess good and bad acting qualities in one performance, then Maturo has nailed it). He is a loner and lives in a rundown home with his brother Tom (Mike Manning) and regularly seeks solace in the nearby woods. His only “friend group” are the local female bullies, but surely, there is more than meets the eye with one of them? Maturo (known for his work in The Nun) is believable as the inquisitive but naive kid brother – there is something about troubled lonely kids that really sells in horror films. And yet, as the story progresses and the secrets are discovered, I often found him to be slightly overwhelming and annoying. Although, the same cannot be said for his brother Tom, whose character feels very forced and unnatural, very underwhelming in fact.
The adventurous Lucas encounters an isolated monster, and the two develop a tentative trust, and a bizarre friendship is born, with Lucas feeling the brunt of the monster’s antics. The monster (that happens to be an ancient witch) is properly creepy though; she looks revolting and sends a chill up your spine at times. But away from the typical witch behaviour, there is an unusual caring side (which brings me back to that comedy aspect I mentioned earlier) to this surrogate mother of sorts, which seems oddly out of place and off the genre. These bonding moments felt very off-key and borderline comedic, like that moment in a stoner comedy where the two characters have a little song and dance that results in musical montage – it really must be seen to be believed.
It’s a pretty run of the mill concept though; laden with jump scares under the leadership of a hideous monster who enjoys tormenting people – as it should – (although the art of running is really lost on some of these characters. Who knew effective running would be so hard to mirror?) and being a mother, which I guess is unique, if not a strange and unexpected turn. Both boys are extremely troubled; they both lack empathy and love living in their own little world – beating a rat to death is probably not the best thing to do in front of your new girlfriend. The underlying theme of abuse does shine through though, whether it is the torment from the witch, the emotional and physical abuse from family, or the “harmless” teasing from supposed friends. It does hit home that abuse can come from all angles.
Slapface doesn’t break any new ground with its plot, or any of its characters (most of whom were kind of formulaic), but nor was it supposed to. I would be telling a lie if I didn’t say I jumped at some moments, and there was a suspenseful aura that lingered as well, so on those fronts… it succeeded. It was enjoyable at times, but for the most part, it felt kind of cheesy, and who would have thought the final scene would mirror the first, with a nice old game of slapface.