Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: Winter, 1843. A young woman is under investigation following the mysterious death of her family’s matriarch. Her recollection of the events sheds new light on the ageless forces behind the tragedy.
Review: Frustrating but intriguing might be the best way I can describe my experience with The Last Thing Mary Saw. On one hand, this film debut by Edoardo Vitaletti is beautifully shot with the director utilising natural lighting to give this puritanical story set in the mid-18th century an atmosphere that feels eerie and void of hope, which works very well with the themes. On the other hand, this being a Shudder release, a service which is basically Netflix for horror fans, I expected something more chilling or haunting. And while there are elements of the supernatural at play here, this movie is more a drama than anything else.
Starring horror alum Stefanie Scott (Insidious Pt. 3) as Mary, a young Puritan woman who has an illicit (for those times) relationship with her maid Eleanor, played by fellow horror alum Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), the movie beautifully illustrates both the hypocrisy of the patriarchal system as well as the dangers of religious zealotry. Mary’s father believes that her sexual desires stem from a book he brought into their home and asks their community leader The Matriarch (played by Dead Silence’s Judith Roberts, who will always be terrifying to me, and a woman born to play these types of roles) to basically “pray the gay away”.
Scenes of the young women being forced to kneel on raw rice for hours while they pray, only to have the men take advantage of them while also blaming them (wrongfully) for all the negative things happening, had me eagerly waiting to see these bastards get their comeuppances. It’s an early example of aversion therapy which sadly is still a thing to this day. Surrounded by men who abuse the power they have over them, Mary and Eleanor hatch a plan to escape their situation and it’s at this point The Last Thing Mary Saw began to frustrate me a bit.
There’s so much to applaud here as the cinematography, pacing and acting as well as the atmosphere all work extremely well. What doesn’t is the fact this is billed as a horror movie and going in with that mind set will leave many a viewer frustrated with what is actually a very well-constructed drama with a few supernatural elements. There was never a point where I was bored with the story and the sense of dread I felt for both women only builds as the time went on, but every time they introduced something that could be deemed supernatural (by the way, these moments also were well executed and quite effective) the tone of the film would shift into one of ambiguity, and with that my frustration would go up a notch.
In the end I think The Last Thing Mary Saw is a very well-made movie that sadly suffers from an imbalance of tone. I’m positive most horror fans who go in expecting something akin to The Witch or The Haunting (the good one) will walk away angry and sadly write this off as a failure, when the truth of the matter is this isn’t a bad movie; it’s just not what the marketing is making it out to be.
Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
You can check out The Last Thing Mary Saw along with other great horror content on Shudder by clicking below:
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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