The Movie Waffler Screamfest LA 2023 Review - FACELESS AFTER DARK | The Movie Waffler

Screamfest LA 2023 Review - FACELESS AFTER DARK

Faceless After Dark review
The star of a cult horror movie takes violent action against her online detractors.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Raymond Wood

Starring: Jenna Kanell, Danny Kang, Danielle Lyn, Max Calder

Faceless After Dark poster

As an actress, Jenna Kanell knows a thing or two about being menaced by killer clowns, having starred in both Terrifier films. In director Raymond Wood's Faceless After Dark, which she co-wrote with Todd Jacobs, Kanell plays Bowie, an actress best known for playing the final girl in a slasher movie featuring a killer clown. Kanell was also one of the stars of the late Stacy Title's under-rated supernatural thriller The Bye Bye Man, and it seems Title may have had a profound influence on the young star/writer as Faceless After Dark borrows its plot from Title's 1995 thriller The Last Supper.

In that movie, a group of young liberal friends invite various people of a conservative bent to dinner, only to bump them off. Faceless After Dark sees Bowie do likewise, though the menu is considerably more limited.

Faceless After Dark review

After starring in a killer clown movie, work has dried up for Bowie, who ekes out a living selling signed autographs at horror conventions and knocking out three second greetings to fans on a Cameo-like app. She resents her friend Jessica (Danielle Lyn) for getting a role in a superhero movie which sees her jet off to London, and she's likewise jealous of her other friend Ryan (Danny Kang) for having rich parents whose wealth allows him to pursue his creative ambitions. Bowie seems ungrateful for Jessica allowing her to live in her unfeasably large home and for Ryan helping her out with audition tapes. Jessica and Ryan are both Asian, and I'm not sure if this is simply colourblind casting or some point the movie is trying to make about white women failing to recognise their privilege; regardless, it certainly doesn't make Bowie look good.

Alone in Jessica's sprawling home and feeling sorry for herself, Bowie gets drunk and dances around to some ear-splittingly awful punk pop. When an intruder wearing the killer clown mask from her film makes his way into the house, Bowie defends herself capably, ultimately killing the stranger despite his feeble pleas that he was just goofing around. After dumping the body and hiding his pick-up truck, Bowie comes to the realisation that murdering one of her deranged fans was just the cathartic release she needed. As with the anti-heroes of The Last Supper, Bowie decides to make a habit of inviting "guests" to her home and bumping them off.

Faceless After Dark review

Faceless After Dark has none of the nuance of Title's ahead-of-its-time thriller however. The people Bowie invites over – selected from the abusive comments she receives online - are little more than cartoonish caricatures of conservatives and never come across as remotely realistic. One horny middle-aged misogynist complains that the vegan Bowie hasn't cooked him a steak, while a woman styled after a Fox News presenter uses the online handle "SoccerMom." Yeah, we're not exactly dealing with nuance here.

The movie has no interest in getting into the meat and potatoes of America's cultural divide; it's simply a violent masturbatory fantasy for any liberals who might possess a reductive us-against-them mentality. This student film level of immaturity is compounded by the gimmicky visuals, all quick edits and strobing effects, and the use of a clichéd selection of classical music tunes on the soundtrack.

Faceless After Dark review

Kanell is certainly a striking presence, but her entitled character is so unlikable that it's difficult to get behind her, no matter how awful her victims might be. It's certainly possible to sympathise with such characters (check out Jill Gevargizian's The Stylist for how to pull off this premise), but it requires a level of filmmaking absent here. Bowie is never placed in any real danger of being caught, so there's little scope for tension or suspense. Instead we're simply left to watch as she enacts violence. If that's enough for you, knock yourself out, but most of us demand such things as story, plot, character, suspense etc from our horror movies.

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