Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Jeremiah Kipp's Slapface

Cody watches a horror movie that's now available on the Shudder streaming service.

In the Fishkill, New York area there stands an abandoned building called the Wakefield House, which is said to be home to a creature called the Virago Witch, a supernatural being that has been terrifying people for years. Some say the witch has even been responsible for disappearances, and has driven people to murder. That’s the back story for writer/director Jeremiah Kipp’s horror film Slapface – and over the course of his movie’s 86 minute running time, we see just how dangerous it can be to cross paths with the Virago Witch.

At the center of Slapface is young orphan Lucas (August Maturo), who lives in an isolated home, not far from the Wakefield House, with his older brother Tom (Mike Manning). These two survived the car crash that killed both of their parents, so they’re understandably a bit troubled… as is most evident from the game they like to play to clear their minds. A game called slapface, which involves them taking turns slapping each other in the face. While Tom works, Lucas spends his days unsupervised. Which gives him a chance to mess around the Wakefield House too much.

Lucas encounters the Virago Witch quite early on in the movie, which gives Kipp the chance to take things in a very unexpected direction. The witch doesn’t immediately cause terrible things to happen. Instead, this strange creature appears to take quite a liking to Lucas. She lurks around the edges of his life, gazes out at the sunset with him. Gets quite friendly. Very oddly friendly. Which makes Slapface a fascinating movie to sit through, because we’re watching a young boy befriend a monster. And it’s not a charming monster like Frankenstein’s Monster in The Monster Squad. It’s obvious that the Virago Witch is going to do something awful at some point. This is one of those movies that holds you tight in its grip because you’re waiting for something bad to happen, you know it’s going to happen any minute. You’re just not sure exactly what the horrifying events are going to be.

I have to say, I was also fascinated by the way Tom’s burgeoning relationship with a young woman named Anna (Libe Barer) is handled. Tom and Anna meet in a bar, he takes her home for what you assume would be a one night stand… but then she doesn’t appear to leave. Even their first night together is strange, as Tom leaves Anna alone in his bedroom so he can wander off into the living room and play guitar by himself. But it gets stranger when she’s making breakfast for the brothers in the morning, then apparently staying at the home by herself while Tom goes to work and Lucas goes off to do his thing.

Surprisingly, Anna is the most level-headed of the three characters, as she disapproves of the way Tom and Lucas are living. She’s not into this slapface game, she doesn’t think Lucas should spend so much time alone. It starts to seem like Anna is going to turn out to be the heroine of this movie – which, of course, puts her on the bad side of the Virago Witch. One of the coolest scenes in the movie is when Anna and the witch find themselves in the same location at the same time.

In addition to the brothers, Anna, and the witch, there are some prominent supporting characters like the twin sisters (played by Bianca and Chiara D'Ambrosio) that relentlessly bully Lucas (so much that there’s an on screen message about bullying at the end of the film), and Lucas’s sort-of girlfriend Moriah (Mirabelle Lee). Plus there’s Dan Hedaya as the local sheriff. Each one of them, in their own ways, bring something to the film that makes it more and more certain that disaster is coming.

I didn’t know what to expect from Slapface going into it, but what I got was really well-made, captivating, and unsettling film that was carried by strong performances. Slapface is currently available to watch on the Shudder streaming service, and I highly recommend that any horror fan who's in the mood to see a movie that disturbs while doing some unexpected things check it out as soon as possible.

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