Director: Jeremiah Kipp
Writer: Jeremiah Kopp
Starring: August Maturo, Mike Mannig, Libe Barer, Dan Hedaya
After showing at various festivals around the world Slapface has found a home on Shudder. August Maturo stars as Lucas, as a lonely teenager, struggling with bulling both from other children and at home. His mother has recently died and since then he’s been living with his older brother, Tom (Mike Manning) and Tom’s girlfriend Anna (Libe Barer).
The title of the film comes from a ‘game’ that Lucas and Tom play, taking it in turns to slap each other, with increasing force. It’s how the film opens, with an extended scene showing them playing he game. It may sound silly, but the film plays it completely straight and it’s very unsettling. It sets up something that immediately has you hooked and intrigued. Shortly afterwards we see Lucas in the woods being chased by a trio of girls from school who are bullying him, although one is also secretly dating him. His cries for help carry out into the woods and no one hears him.
He’s dared by them to go into an abandoned building, where he finds a monster. Slowly, Lucas and the monster start to bond and become friends, with the monster being incredibly protective of Lucas. Anything that poses a threat to Lucas is quickly taken care of, in a violent manner. Lucas is inevitably blamed for whatever happens, with people not believing his stories of monsters.
The film does quite nicely walk the line between whether the events are really happening, or if it’s all in Lucas’s head. He’s been a bit of a troublemaker, almost getting arrested early in the film and the sheriff telling his brother that his ‘get out of jail free cards’ are running out. There are also strange outbursts of anger that make you believe he’s capable of it, but at the same time some of the things that happen are too extreme. You’re never quite sure whether it’s real or not, and that’s left ambiguous throughout.
August Maturo is excellent in the film, giving a strong central performance that essentially carries the entire film. It’s everyone else that lets it down. A lot of the acting is really flat and wooden, with some incredibly awkward dialogue and very unnatural interactions, especially one scene in a hospital in the later half of the film.
While the film is a horror, beyond the unsettling opening and a stomach-churning scene with a rat being killed, there’s nothing really that stands out. The monster isn’t as creepy as it should be. Then the biggest issue is the pacing. The first twenty-five minutes or so are really strong and keep you interested, then it just meanders along with predictable plot points until it’s over.
Slapface is a very interesting look at bullying through the lens of horror. It doesn’t quite hit all of the marks it’s aiming for, but it’s an interesting film. August Maturo is excellent in it. It’s not worth going out of you way for, but if you’re a subscriber to Shudder and have some spare time, there’s worse things to do with it.
Slapface will be available on Shudder from 3rd February 2022
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