Following the death of their mother, a boy and his older brother do what they can to survive together. As the boy looks for guidance and support, he finds something in the woods that may or may not be what he needs.
Written and directed by Jeremiah Kipp, Slapface is both a supernatural horror tale and a family drama that hits right on both fronts. The film here is a drama about a grief and family, about making do with what you have, about missing parents and their guidance, about so much more than simply the monster that comes out of the woods when the younger brother needs someone. There is a lot here to unpack and each viewer should make their own interpretation of what is in this film, at its core. However, it can definitely be said that the film is a powerful one with plenty to dig through besides the scares and the creature. Which, it must be said, are successful in getting to this viewer and adding a lot to the mood of the film.
Lead character Lucas is played by young actor August Maturo who gives the feeling of being lost in grief a face and clear emotions. His work here is what pulls the viewer in and what keeps them invested. He gives a powerful, nuanced performance that is appropriate for the character’s age and the events happening to him. His work is definitely the best in the film. Playing the older brother Tom is Mike Manning who gives a very good performance as someone who has a lot thrown at him and who is trying his best to deal with a situation that should not be. Playing the town sheriff is Dan Hedaya who makes you want to get more of him on screen, his time is too short here, but he makes the most of it. Playing the twin bullies are Bianca and Chiara D’Ambrosio who do really, really good work as they get on the last nerve by the time the film gets to the last third of the story. Their work shows that they can play mean girls and two-faced really well, so well that it leaves one hoping they are actually playing and are nice outside of film. The rest of the cast includes a few more fully fleshed characters, all played well, and The Monster played by Lukas Hassel who clearly has an affinity for the more physical and physically subtle parts. Here he makes The Monster both scary and caring in a way that creates a complex, complete creature. This helps sell the film and its scares in just the right way.
The film also has a look to itself that shows attention to details and great selection of colleagues to create images that last. The cinematography by Dominick Sivilli is done with care and shows that the images were important during filming and it brings the pain and fear forth, giving the grief a place to be expressed that is not overdone or under shown. There is a lot here and how it is all shot works just right.
Slapface is a horror film yes, but it’s also a film about grief and how young minds and hearts can deal with everyday difficulties while also managing their grief and the expectations put on them. Yes, it has effective scares, but once the credits roll, these are not what will stay with the viewer. The performances, images, and emotions will be there long after the film ends.