"The Last Thing Mary Saw"
review by Dan "Leatherface" Yeager
This movie is a bit of a modern oddity. Though it will no doubt draw comparison to The VVitch from a few years ago, they are very different movies, this one being more horror and less psycho-drama.
I went in cold. I didn't look up any information about the movie before I watched it. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I watched it on a TV rather than projecting it on the big screen. I always think movies are better on the big screen, though this one did not suffer too much for the smaller format. That's just the sad reality that most people will see it that way.
It's the story of two young women who cannot suppress their carnal desires for one another despite the brutal punishments of their fundamentalist family and community, particularly the father and grandmother. They sneak kisses and cuddles, but are found out by prying family members and are formally rebuked. Eleanor is played by the actress you'll remember from The Orphan. She's the maid and we are left to wonder if she's the wicked one leading astray the wholesome Mary, played by Stephanie Scott. They are both great and worked perfectly together.
We are left to wonder a lot. Half way through I found myself wondering if this movie was actually a remake of one of those old '60s Italian Gothic horror movies that I used see at the New Beverly in L.A. I was very pleased to see the Italian surname of writer/director, Edoardo Vitaletti in the end credits. I love those movies, even in their anachronistically decayed but authentic locations. This movie takes place in an authentic 1830-1840s house in Upstate New York, but judging from the state of the place, it could well be 1890 or later. We are told at the beginning that it is December of 1843.The decay adds to the atmosphere, so I let it slide.
In modern movies you are given things like character development and context-establishing story to distract from the fact that this house really is 180 years old and if you need that, this movie is probably not for you. We are not given anything but wardrobe, furtive glances, and reproving looks from which to nurture our empathy for any of these characters.
The movie is beautifully shot by David Kruta with an architectural precision that would tickle Kubrick. It's broody and atmospheric with every shot thoughtfully composed. The movie has plenty to sink your mental teeth into, but don't go in with the expectation of being spoon-fed the thing like a typical Hollywood movie. It asks a lot of the audience which is a gutsy move in today's movie business. The theme seems to be something like, “The Devil works in mysterious ways.”
The acting performances are all great. Everyone brings suitably creepy undertones to their roles leaving you disconcertingly unsure of who you should be rooting for. The Grandmother, played by the unforgettable Judith Roberts, whom I remember most vividly as the beautiful girl across the hall in Eraserhead. She is always beguiling on screen. In the interest of further disclosure, I did a music video half a dozen years ago with Shane Coffey who plays Eustace's Son. He has a screen presence that's unmistakable, even behind that puritanical beard.
I guess my advice here is, if you like those old Italian Gothic horror movies and would like to see a well crafted new imagining of the genre, you'll enjoy this picture. If you only go for slasher gore and jump-scares, it's not for you. I for one am pleased to see movies like this are still getting made and if I can ever score a Blu-ray, I'll show it on the big screen for my most sophisticated cinephile friends.
Interview with Edoardo Vitaletti director of "The Last Thing Mary Saw"
Interview with Judith Roberts
Sorry, commenting is currently disabled.