The Last Thing Mary Saw
Short Synopsis: 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.
It was always going to be difficult for me not to like this film. This is what I usually spend my time searching for; period piece horrors and films with heavy religious undertones and/or hard-hitting, dark themes. They are often windows into the sordid pasts of our forefathers while often a guilty pleasure of mine, they are also stark reminders of how terrible humans were to each other—and oftentimes still are.
The Last Thing Mary Saw falls firmly into the aforementioned category, taking place in Southold, New York, in the year 1843. The film stars the talents of Rory Culkin (Waco, Halston), Stefanie Scott (Insidious: Chapter 3) and Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), and is written and directed by Edoardo Vitaletti, making his feature length film debut. The film follows the struggles of Mary (Scott) and her lover, Eleanor (Fuhrman), as they attempt to navigate the nightmare that is conservative America during the mid-19th century. The two young ladies literally risk both life and limb to keep their relationship alive while battling the norms and traditions of conservative Christianity, desperate to find a way out of their shared hell.
It is not only the same sex relationship around which our film rotates that takes centre stage. Rather, it is a culmination of numerous themes that converge around the central pillars of righteousness and piety versus sin and lust—yet not necessarily in the traditional sense that you are interpreting those words. There is a dark dichotomy at play in the film that I would rather not spoil, so let’s instead focus on the obvious; the true villain of the production: fervent religious belief.
What I really loved was how the big bad was rather the practice—or perhaps malpractice—of religion and the abuse of power that comes with it. If you’ve seen the Netflix series, Midnight Mass, you’ll understand the type of theme that I am trying to describe; how those with perceived numinous authority under the protection and guise of religious authority attempt to force their control and beliefs on those they perceive to be beneath them. Any and all actions or atrocities can be justified through the twisting of religious dogma to suit the needs of those looking to assert authority.
This is not to say that the film is entirely without elements of the supernatural, so fret not those that come seeking witchcraft and pagan practices…though know that these elements do take a backseat to the aforementioned horrors, similar to how the 2015 film The VVitch dealt with its own supernatural elements. In truth, one could draw numerous parallels between both films, so fair warning to those uncultured of you who disliked the latter as there is definitely a similar feel or vibe to both.
The quality of the performances is simply masterful and the settings, costumes, cinematography, and score are all artfully interwoven to create a truly spellbinding experience. The plot is unpredictable once we pass the film’s midway act and it all spirals beautifully out of control as the story crescendos despotically towards its final act.
The Last Thing Mary Saw is a unique, intriguing experience devoid of jump scares and your run-of-the-mill horror tropes. It is a love story cloaked in a freakish fairytale but still grounded heavily by its connections to the real struggles and tribulations of those that dared oppose the conservative, religious norms of the past. It is a story beautifully and emotively told, with careful attention to detail and a flawless cast. It is rather difficult to believe that this is Vitaletti’s first feature film as it really is something masterful.
Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. The Last Thing Mary Saw will be headed its way to SHUDDER for its streaming debut on the 20th of January, 2022. Trailer and artwork below.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.