Slapface follows a troubled boy who must live through an older brother left in charge after the loss of their parents and a group of bullies. He finds friendship in a feral witch that violently defends the boy.
[This movie was viewed via Shudder at the time of this review.]
Perhaps I'm alone in this, but with a title like Slapface, I was fully expecting some humor. But it is pretty clear from the beginning that this movie had no intention on taking its subject matter lightly. In fact, the film is dead set on delivering a very serious message, quite literally typing out a moral lesson to the audience just before the credits roll. But is the journey substantial enough to make the message stick? It will be hard to dive into without some spoilers, so I'll have to throw up the warning earlier than I normally would in a review.
Slapface is a far more somber tale than I expected. So much so that the subject matter and execution teeters on awkward at times. We open with a game of "slapface", in which the older brother and the boy slap each other in the face...Yes...just like it sounds. But it is a dead-serious ritual that feels to have some significance to their lives. Yet, it remains an ambiguous behavior nearly the entirety of the film. This is not the only moment of the movie that is ambiguous and limited in its explanation. I would argue a majority of the film lacks foundation for the establishment of many of its key components.
The feral witch figure is perhaps the most puzzling. We get no explanation for its actions throughout. It behaves like a loyal dog with a tendency for violence, but randomly performs witch-like behaviors/rituals with the child with no explanation or resolution. Now, given the big twist at the end, this makes some sense...**ENDING SPOILERS**...It turns out the witch is [likely] in the boy's head and all the violence in the film was committed by him. Now, this opens up a whole new can of worms...
If it was all in the boy's head, why are we stuck with random, ambiguous interactions between the child and the witch that have no bearing on the rest of the story? Why does the older brother's girlfriend react defensively to the boy if the witch standing in on screen is just the boy? But most importantly...HOW DID THE BOY TAKE OUT A WHOLE POLICE STATION BY HIMSELF??? (It is worth noting that my lack of attention span in some of the regards may clear up these plot holes, but it still feels disjointed.) Now, this could be that even this event was in his head. But if that's the case, who knows how much of the story actually happened and how much was made up in his head.
So the moral lesson is to stand up against domestic violence and bullying. The lesson is present throughout, but it lacks direction and focus. I think that may have been part of the point. The violence in bullying and domestic violence spreads with a lack of a moral compass. There is no reasoning for it the further down the path of violence you follow. Rarely does it process as vengeance, it often processes as chaotic acting out or reserved self-hate. I think the film's ambitions exceeded their storytelling ability. It doesn't connect enough dots in hindsight of its reveal, and it's missing a balance of urgency or build with its somber and dark tones. It's a flawed, but courageous view into a topic that is often glanced upon in horror, but rarely immersed into.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 5/10