The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - THE LAST THING MARY SAW | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - THE LAST THING MARY SAW

The Last Thing Mary Saw review
In 1843 New York, a young woman and her family's maid are punished for their affair.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Edoardo Vitaletti

Starring: Stefanie Scott, Isabelle Fuhrman, Rory Culkin, Judith Anna Roberts, PJ Sosko

The Last Thing Mary Saw poster

An opening quote from John Calvin sets the austere tone for writer/director Edoardo Vitaletti's folk-horror The Last Thing Mary Saw. It's New York in 1843, and it seems the puritanical instincts of the pilgrims who landed not too far away a couple of centuries earlier still linger in this neck of the woods.

The Last Thing Mary Saw review

Whatever the last thing Mary (Stefanie Scott) saw actually was, it seems to have left her mentally and physically scarred. We meet her as she's interrogated by local constables who accuse her of some unspoken crime. A blindfold covers a pair of bloodied eyes, dried crimson streaks on her cheeks giving her the appearance of a human Rorschach test.

Through flashbacks we learn of Mary's affair with her family's maid (Isabelle Fuhrman, so great in the recent The Novice but given little to do here). Her family reacts with puritanical outrage, turning to their sinister matriarch (Judith Roberts), who devises a series of physical and mental punishments for Mary and her lover. What the family doesn't realise is that Mary and the maid are conspiring against them with the aid of a mysterious book of wood-carvings and the assistance of the estate's guard (PJ Sosko).

The Last Thing Mary Saw review

The Last Thing Mary Saw is torn between folk-horror and period romance, but fans of either sub-genre may be left feeling a little dissatisfied. The horror elements are so few and far between that it's a jolt when a supernatural element pops up in the climax. The lesbian affair is so thinly sketched that it's hard to believe these two young women would risk so much for what seems like a passionless relationship.

The period recreation never quite convinces. There's something a little too modern about the faces of the cast, a lack of a lived-in quality in both the people and the spaces they inhabit. Keegan DeWitt's cacophonous score is interchangeable with a dozen other folk-horror adjacent movies of recent years, all ominously plucked strings and breezy woodwinds. The slowburn atmosphere too often comes off as misjudged pacing for a story that could have easily been told as a 30 minute segment of an anthology show.

The Last Thing Mary Saw review

The film is ultimately enlivened by a late cameo by Rory Culkin as a mysterious, facially-scarred figure who arrives with seemingly sinister intentions. The plans of both the matriarch and the young lovers are scuppered by the arrival of a figure we surmise might be the devil himself. Culkin doesn't seem an obvious choice to portray Old Nick, but there's something undeniably creepy about his soft-spoken delivery and unblinking eyes here. His presence gives the by then running on fumes narrative the jolt it badly needs.

The Last Thing Mary Saw
 is on Shudder from January 20th.

2022 movie reviews