I know what some of you are thinking. With a name like Slapface, could this film really be anything other than bottom-of-the-barrel nonsense? Admittedly, that was my reaction when I first heard about it, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. I checked out the trailer, and I was actually very pleasantly surprised. This looked like a good, atmospheric monster movie with a great new villain, so I was sold.
Slapface was written and directed by Jeremiah Kipp, and it stars August Maturo, Mike Manning, Libe Barer, Dan Hedaya, and Mirabelle Lee. It’s about a lonely kid named Lucas who befriends a creepy monster, and soon enough, the creature shows that it’s not as benevolent as Lucas thought.
That sounds like a great, somewhat Guillermo del Toro-esque premise, but unfortunately, Slapface fails to make the most of it. It’s not a bad movie, and I’m still going to end up recommending it, but stick around to see what caveats I put on that recommendation! It has some big flaws that keep it from reaching its full potential.
Most egregiously, this film didn’t do nearly enough to sell me on its characters. For example, the acting was decent at best, so even though it never took me out of the movie completely, I never fully believed that I was watching real people instead of actors playing roles. In particular, I found Lucas’s older brother Tom especially unconvincing. He basically just sleepwalked through the entire film, and I didn’t buy any of his emotions.
Along similar lines, I was never able to forge the kind of emotional connection with Lucas that I wanted. His parents are both dead, his older brother neglects him in favor of his new girlfriend, and his one real friend pretends to be mean to him when she’s around her other friends, so on paper, he should be super sympathetic. But for some reason, I just never felt his pain as acutely as I should’ve.
I was even able to relate to him because I’ve always been kind of a loner, and I was made fun of as a kid too, but despite all that, I still didn’t completely buy into his plight. I think the problem was that he never really seemed to be hurting all that much. Sure, he showed some pain when bad things happened to him, but it never really lasted beyond those particular moments. When he was by himself, I never got the sense that he was especially unhappy or depressed, so I didn’t feel nearly as much sympathy for him as the film wanted me to.
On top of its poor characters, Slapface also struggles with its message. I think the movie wanted the monster to be some sort of metaphor for loneliness, and maybe it was supposed to represent the ways loneliness can weigh on us and cause us to take our emotions out on other people, but it never really came together in anything more than a vague, nebulous way.
I found that particularly frustrating because like I said, I related to Lucas’s loneliness, so I wanted Slapface to say something meaningful about it. I was waiting for a message that would really speak to me and my own life experiences, but unfortunately, the details just never lined up to say anything concrete.
The film’s only real saving grace is the monster, but even that was kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I love monsters, so just watching this creature do its thing was pretty fun. Whether it was killing people who hurt Lucas or playing with the kid like it was a child, too, I always enjoyed seeing this thing on screen.
On the other hand, if I’m being a bit more objective, I have to admit that there wasn’t much to this monster other than the mere fact that it’s a monster. You never really find out what it is, where it comes from, or what it truly wants, and while that sounds like it would make for a good Lovecraftian villain, it doesn’t work here. This monster just felt really undercooked, so I would’ve liked to learn at least a bit more about it and what makes it tick.
Similarly, the look of the creature was also pretty hit or miss. From certain angles (particularly from the back) it looked awesome, but its face was just not up to par with the rest of it. I won’t spoil what it looks like, but I will say that it reminded me a bit of a cheap knockoff of another, much better-known villain.
From all that, you might think that I really didn’t like Slapface, but that’s not exactly true. Sure, I didn’t love it, but as I said, I’m a huge fan of monsters, and I always enjoyed seeing this creature on screen. That basically saved the film for me, so while I can’t say that I have a particularly burning desire to ever watch it again, I can say that it was an enjoyable enough way to spend about 85 minutes on a Sunday afternoon.
So if you’re like me and you love monsters, I’d recommend giving Slapface a shot. I don’t think it’s going to become one of your favorite movies of the year, but I do think you’re going to have enough fun to justify spending your time on it. However, if you’re not a huge fan of monsters, you’re probably not going to get much out of it, so in that case, my suggestion is that you skip it and check out something a bit more substantial.
Slapface hits Shudder on February 3.