‘…while most horror turns out to be a damp squib, Slapface haunts the mind with its ambiguous, tricky evocation of our darkest childhood fears…’

‘I saw a monster today’ intones Lucas (August Maturo) at the dinner table in writer/director Jeremiah Kipp’s elevated horror film; as is tradition in such films, no-one listens to the boy until it’s too late. But Lucas has seen a monster, or at least conjured one up from his own unhappiness; Lucas and his brother Tom (Mike Manning) have lost their parents in a car crash, and are living by themselves in a shotgun shack in a sparsely populated backwater. So what exactly is the monster that Lucas sees? It’s to Kipp’s credit that, for once, the creature revealed is not an anti-climax, but a frenemy the like of which we’ve not quite seen before.

The film opens with the two brothers playing Slapface, a game in which Lucas and Tom slap each other harder and harder. It’s hard to watch, largely because we don’t yet have context; is this a shared ritual, or is it bullying, or both? As the story develops, we discover that Lucas is also being harassed directly by a group of girls, who dare him to explore an abandoned building where he encounters a creature named the Virago Witch (Lukas Hassel). As the name suggest, sexual orientation is important here; the gang of malicious kids reminds us of Stephen King’s IT, but the notion of male characters fearful of girls is fresh and original.

The witch, not surprisingly, announces itself with an effective jump scare, but then becomes a character in Lucas’s world, sometimes friendly and helpful, at other times deadly and malevolent. Is it a supernatural force, or does it represent Luca’s fears and anxiety about himself? Appearing while Lucas is in the bath, or searching through a box of his late mother’s clothes, connects the witch to the young boys sense of himself, sexually or otherwise, but it’s only in the film’s closing stretch, with the intervention of a tough but sympathetic local cop (the always great Dan Hedaya) that we can see clearly exactly what the witch’s function is…

Slapface is a thoughtful and original horror entry that should appeal to the many who enjoyed The Babadook, using childhood fears to say something about the way we externalise out inner fears. Maturo and Manning are convincing as the two brothers at the centre of the narrative, but there’s also good work from Libe Barer as Anna, Tom’s Wiccan girlfriend, and Mirabelle Lee as Donna, one of Lucas’s tormentors. Although there’s a traditional foreshadowing of ancient devilish images and worrying newspaper headlines over the opening credits, Kipp’s film never fully explains the backstory of the Virago Witch, and that’s a plus; while most horror turns out to be a damp squib, Slapface haunts the mind with its ambiguous, tricky evocation of our darkest childhood fears.

Slapface is on Shudder US and UK now, free 7/30 days trials can be found at


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    • I’m trying not to normalise Smith’s awful behaviour by cracking jokes about it. Not entirely successfully…

  1. Slapface. Now THAT’S a mans game! cause nothing says “macho man” like getting bitch slapped and returning the favor. I bet this is where Smith got his inspiration from!

    • But it’s not slapface if no-one hits back! I think I should get an award for restraint for not mentioning Will Smith in this review…

      • I was very proud of you. I think you did an admirable job. Which is why I took it upon myself to broach the subject, thus allowing you to vent (as needed) guilt free as you hadn’t brought the subject up.

        • I’ve looking into the matter in detail, and the conclusion I came to is that Will Smith is a diddy.

          • Oh the tragedy! When will we all realize that words hurt as much as bitch slaps? I think Chris Rock should resign and give all he has to the poor and eat out of a dumpster for his remarks.
            But I also think that of about 90% of so-called comedians and their “humor”…

            • I take your point, and Rock going ‘off-message’ with his own ‘bit’ making fun of Smith’s wife isn’t much better…but doesn’t justify Smith’s act in the least.

              • And that is where you and I diverge. But that is going to go down a rabbit trail we’ve gone down before and pretty much know what the other is going to already say 😀
                As Solomon would say:
                “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

                • I can’t compete with Solomon, but I stick to my point; Rock and Smith are diddies for their show. What part don’t you agree with?

                    • A walloper. A knob. A twit. Rock is a diddy for being an unfunny comic, Smith for being a violent boor. Barely room to get a cigarette paper between them…

                    • Ahhh, so a diddy isn’t something specifically pejorative. I didn’t know if it was the name of some nasty thing you all have in your bins nowadays or something.

                    • No, in Scotland, a diddy is pejorative! That’s whay changing a name to P Diddy sparked hilarity over here…it would be like changing your name to P Sillyperson.

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