Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 30/08/2021

SLAPFACE [FrightFest 2021]

Trying to cope together following the death of their parents, brothers Lucas (August Maturo) and Tom (Mike Manning) live in the middle of the woodland, away from everybody. Lucas, however, is constantly getting into trouble with the local police. Being only a few years older than Lucas, Tom doesn’t know how to measure punishment for his waywardness so he created a game: slapface. Each boy slaps the other as hard as they can. Assumingly, this way Tom can rid himself of any guilt chastising Lucas might bring.

When Lucas is bullied into going inside an abandoned hospital by a group of girls, he is confronted by a monster. However, despite his initial terror, he finds the creature means him no harm, and the two become friends. Unfortunately, anyone who might want to hurt Lucas won’t be so lucky.

With a fantastic creature at the centre of the story that is not given too much screen time, you would naturally expect more horror than we see. Slapface isn’t a traditional monster movie, nor is it even a horror film, more a family drama with added fantasy. How much of that fantasy is in Lucas’ mind is open to debate. The location is used to its full potential, creating a lonely, desolate playground for a teen to play, but also the hunting ground of bullies, who are female in this case. Lucas is keen on one of them, but she wants to keep any proper relationship between them secret, as she’s terrified by the peer pressure of the others. So rejection plays a big part in his psyche, perhaps even believing his mother rejected him by dying? It’s only the monster who accepts Lucas for who he is.

Jeremiah Kipp’s film is a haunting story of wayward innocence and family strife. How not having a proper moral guidance can be a problem. It uses everything it has to the best potential, but is still a difficult film to fully enjoy.