Grief can often overwhelm a person to the point that processing one’s feelings is akin to contending with a literal monster. At least that’s the exploration of Shudder’s latest original movie Slapface. Blending elements of family drama, coming of age themes, and monster horror, Slapface seeks to a face to grief itself, and that face is a grotesque one.
Keeping the Family Together
Following the loss of their mother, brothers Lucas and Tom try to adjust to what their new normal looks like. But between being busy with work and his girlfriend Anna, older brother Tom leaves his little brother Lucas feeling abandoned. Lucas copes by attempting to make friends with a trio of girls who end up bullying him.
However, he soon discovers a monstrous creature that he believes could be his mother, or at least something to replace her. It all seems very touching, until the creature’s destructive forces drive a wedge between Tom and Lucas, even causing the police to believe that Tom is an unfit guardian for his little brother.
Grief is something that we can all certainly relate to, but this movie takes things even further by providing a literal and tangible representation of what that grief is. The creature that Lucas first seeks comfort in seems capable of compassion, but also great anger and rage.
For those struggling with the iconic 5 stages of grief, the idea of going from one extreme emotion to the next is a very familiar one. All the angst, pain, and sadness that comes from something as traumatic as a young boy losing his mother is put into physical form.
It could have very easily come off as heavy-handed, but Slapface avoids this by never having the characters address this metaphor outright. Rather, it plays out like a family drama with this monster horror element that not only exemplifies the theme itself, but keeps horror fans interested as well.
Coming of Age Tragedy
The only real theme that the movie overtly addresses via text on screen is the very and potentially triggering nature of the bullying that Lucas faces at the hands of the trio of girls. At a time when Lucas is at his most vulnerable and most in need of a friend, the horrific treatment by his peers leaves us not surprised at all that he turns to the monster.
People forget just how cruel kids can be, and listening to them torment and mock him is far more disturbing than any monster ripping someone apart (which may or may not happen in the movie as well).
You get the sense that even with Tom’s girlfriend Anna being extra nice to him, Lucas feels all the more alone, as if she’s trying to replace his mother. All of it is the recipe for an absolute disaster that makes for a compelling, albeit unsettling watch at times!