Slapface Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Released by Epic Pictures
Written and directed by Jeremiah Kipp
2021, 85 minutes, Not Yet rated
Grimmfest Northern UK Premiere on 8th October 2021
August Maturo as Lucas
Mike Manning as Tom
Libe Barer as Anna
Lukas Hassel as The Monster
In its evolution from an eight-minute short to a full-length feature three years later, Slapface has matured its perceptive window into a child’s bereavement into a powerful dark fairytale that fuses heartfelt family tragedy with supernatural chiller.
Following the sudden death of their mother in a car accident, young Lucas (August Maturo) and his older brother Tom (Mike Manning) live strained lives together in a rundown home, struggling to face up to what's happened and channeling their anguish into on a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin game called 'Slapface'. One day, when Lucas – troubled, angry and friendless – is playing in the nearby woods he meets a voiceless witch-like monster and ends up finding comfort in their ensuing friendship. It's his escape from his emotional troubles and the torment from the twin girls that bully him, and the one true friend he can confide in – until the relationship balance shifts and things take a fateful turn for Lucas and those around him.
Kipp's fully realised story succeeds as a powerful and considered child's eye view portrayal of grief and the disastrous repercussions of untreated post-traumatic stress and emotional neglect, delivered not only through a well-crafted metaphor full of subtlety and soaked in eery, dark fairytale-esque, folklore imagery but also two exceptional central performances by former TV reality star Manning and, especially, Maturo. Their chemistry undoubtedly carries the film as their devastating shared circumstance is overthrown by Lucas’s lack of understanding and comfort and Tom’s inevitable struggle to grasp his unfair new parenting duties and the disregarded grief of his own.
There's the unwavering presence of a sinister atmosphere that lingers beneath every sequence, and that’s permeated with climactic scares that do the job. Both are kept alive and heightened by Barry J Neely’s original score, which effectively conveys Lucas’s terror and the monster’s threat. But ultimately it's the raw and very real emotion behind the tough real-world subject matter and family strife, and Kipp's sensitive handling of it, that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
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