Prior to getting the chance to review SLAPFACE I was only vaguely aware of writer/director Jeremiah Kipp from a mention of his film BLACK WAKE. Turns out he has an extensive body of work to his name, but since most of it consists of shorts and TV work he slipped under my radar. And that’s a shame because if this is typical of his work he should be much better known.
An eight-minute short, SLAPFACE delves into childhood trauma and abuse in a way that reminded me of PAN’S LABYRINTH to a certain degree. A boy (Joshua Kaufman) has recently lost his mother. Relationship with his father (Nick Gregory) is problematical and potentially abusive. He forms a bond with an Ogre (Lukas Hassel THE BLACK ROOM), something with potentially dangerous consequences.
SLAPFACE starts off like a conventional horror film, with the boy alone in the woods sensing something is out there and running away. The creature chasing and grabbing him, only to have it turn into a motherly hug. At that point, Kipp flips everything you might expect to happen on its head. By the end of the film, you’ll be questioning the definition of a monster.
In its short running time, SLAPFACE deals with some potent and controversial issues such as medicating children to control their behavior and the line between physical punishment and abuse. It also deals with love, loss and parental affection. For a short film, it covers a lot of ground and does it well.
The director has said the short is a proof of concept for a feature. I’m always apprehensive about taking such a short piece and blowing it up to feature length, but I’d love to see a longer version of SLAPFACE. There’s so much potential here, and so many places the story could go. I’m very interested in the Ogre’s story as well as the boy’s. That’s how compelling these eight minutes are.