Since its inception in 2015, Shudder has assembled an incredible library of original and exclusive horror content. Their latest such acquisition is SLAPFACE (2022), a dark, brooding tale of grief, loss, and dysfunction that will debut on AMC Networks’ horror streaming service soon. The folks at Shudder were kind enough to give us a sneak peek at their latest original film ahead of the February premiere. Early reviews have been very positive, and the film recently won the “Best Audience Award” for “Best Horror/Thriller/Sci-Fi” Film at the Cinequest Film Festival in 2021. So how does the film compare to other Shudder originals like SLAXX (read our review here) and HOST (read our review here)?
Watch the trailer below, then read on for our spoiler-free review!
SLAPFACE (2022) Synopsis
After the death of his mother, Lucas, a loner who lives in a rundown home with his brother Tom, regularly seeks solace in the nearby woods. With his only “friends” being a group of female bullies, he keeps to himself most of the time. But, after a strange encounter with an inhuman monster, Lucas begins to withdraw from others. When the two reach a tentative trust, a bizarre friendship is born, and Lucas is swept up in a series of primal adventures.
Jeremiah Kipp directed the film, which is based on his short film of the same title. It stars August Maturo (The Nun), Mike Manning (Teen Wolf), Dan Hedaya (The Usual Suspects), Mirabelle Lee (Blood Ties), Lukas Hassel, and Libe Barer (Sneaky Pete).
Here’s a look at the official poster art!
Slapface is, at its heart, a monster movie, but before we can talk about “The Virago Witch,” we need to talk about the film’s bigger monster: the struggles of real life. The film tells the tale of two brothers who tragically lost their parents in a car accident. Now all they have is each other. The older boy, Tom (Mike Manning), is a blue-collar twenty-something who suddenly finds himself a caregiver and breadwinner for his younger brother, Lucas (August Maturo). As one might expect, with childhood trauma comes dysfunction to spare.
The town sheriff (Dan Hedaya), a family friend, sees Lucas as a troublemaker walking down the wrong path. Tom’s girlfriend Anna (Libe Barer) agrees and is deeply concerned by the family’s dysfunction. Lucas is involved with a gang of female bullies and the Sheriff is constantly picking him up and bringing him home from places he shouldn’t be. Lucas is often gone all day and often spends his alone time at a creepy, abandoned hospital.
The boys’ only outlet (besides Tom’s drinking) is “Slapface,” a violent game they play that involves sitting on a bed, facing one another, and taking turns slapping each other in the face. Tom says it’s to deal with their shit. To take the pain away. As it is with so many troubled kids (and adults), sometimes you have to feel something just to prove you still can.
The “Other” Monster
As if real life wasn’t scary enough for Tom and Lucas, there’s the matter of The Virago Witch. She’s a legendary, local “ten-foot-tall” creature whose origin stretches back at least as far as the Sheriff’s childhood. Lucas encounters the monster and soon finds his life entwined with hers. Just what a troublemaking young boy needs, right?
Lucas’s relationship with the monster (played by Lukas Hassel) is as complicated as all of the film’s other relationships: his violent, yet loving relationship with his brother, his smitten pursuit of one of his bullies (Mirabelle Lee), who is his sometimes friend, and his burgeoning relationship with Tom’s girlfriend Anna. This film is, at its heart, all about complicated relationships.
Things soon spiral out of control for Lucas and Tom and for everyone they come in contact with. Is the witch good or evil? Is she malicious or is she trying to help? It’s not for me to say here, but suffice it to say that the complicated, emotional journey for this boy and this monster is a trip worth taking.
So What’s The Verdict?
Slapface (2022) is a captivating, emotional film driven home by stellar performances from Mike Manning and August Maturo. The entire cast is wonderful, but the boys, in particular, are next-level. You will genuinely care about these characters. You will feel their anguish, and it will resonate with you long after the credits roll.
There’s a creepy, atmospheric dread that pervades the film, which is a product of its beautiful cinematography and production design coupled with Barry J. Neely’s subtle, haunting score. I enjoyed every minute of this film, and I think you will too.
Shudder strikes again! Slapface will make a fine addition to their burgeoning library of horror originals and exclusives. Be sure to catch it when it premieres on February 3, 2022. Don’t have Shudder? Sign up for a free trial at www.shudder.com.