Review: Eduardo Vitaletti’s ‘The Last Thing Mary Saw’ Loses It’s Religion On Shudder
Period pieces have seen a boom in recent years within the horror genre and Eduardo Vitaletti’s directorial debut The Last Thing Mary Saw is here to transport us all the way back to 1843 for a dose of religious cult horror. The movie follows Mary (played by Stefanie Scott) as she recounts the events that led to her eventual capture through a series of flashbacks. There’s themes of religious sexual oppression and fanaticism that all feel quite familiar but the suffocating atmosphere and performances certainly help elevate this movie beyond its familiar tropes.
The story is split into three acts, the first of which chronicles Mary’s affair with the house maid Eleanor (played by Isabelle Fuhrman) and the ire that draws from the families overly religious matriarch. The central relationship between Mary and Eleanor certainly adds a bit of a unique spin on the themes of forbidden love that have been shown time and time again, but there isn’t a whole lot of time spent fleshing out the relationship to make you really care about them beyond the surface once it all comes to a head upon the unexpected death of the matriarch. There’s a lot of conversations taking place between members of the household about the relationship but it’s hardly anything we haven’t seen tackled in other films before and it’s done at a pace that’s likely to turn off some viewers.
Viewers that prefer more fast paced scares should look elsewhere as this movie really takes it’s time to allow the world to seep in and is more looking to unsettle you than it tries to actively scare you. In some ways The Last Thing Mary Saw plays out more like a period drama than a traditional horror film but the films suffocating atmosphere and brooding musical score certainly gives it credibility as a horror film. From the sets to the costumes the movie really makes you feel transported back to the year 1843 and if it wasn’t for the supernatural element that’s introduced with the arrival of a mysterious intruder, played by Rory Culkin, whose cryptic appearance and dialogue really injects a much needed sense of danger to a movie that felt very safe and reserved up until that point, this movie could’ve been passed off as a historical drama.
From the moment he appears the intruder commands the viewers attention and his detailing of his physical scars to a silent Eleanor is very unsettling. Rory Culkin’s performance definitely adds to the mystique of his character with his slow delivery and raspy voice that make the intruder a highlight despite limited time on screen. Shortly after his arrival things really kick into gear and the third act definitely picks up the pace quite a bit and it all leads to a satisfying but safe conclusion. Those looking for concrete answers are going to be left disappointed as the movie doesn’t fully explain the events that transpire and instead leaves a lot open to viewer interpretation. There’s some strong individual sequences but it’s hard to not have expected a bit more considering the amount of time taken to set up the finale.
Visually the film is about what we’ve come to expect from the genre although there is a bit of an extra dash of color that helps differentiate it from others within the genre that feature more muted color palettes. Sonically there’s a fitting musical score that accompanies the visuals and definitely doesn’t ever detract from the experience but rarely elevates it either. That’s a thought I have on almost every aspect of this movie is that it’s all serviceable but it’s also incredibly safe and I would’ve liked to have seen the movie take a little bit more risk with it’s material.
The Last Thing Mary Saw is certainly a movie that expects you to read between the lines of the individual events happening on the screen as there’s a lot of underlying themes at play here that certainly amplify the relatively simple tale being told. The camera movement that seemingly crawls through sequences and the accompanying musical score both combine to create a sense of atmospheric cohesion that’s as miserable as the lives of the characters featured within. Overall this one is seemingly made for fans of slow burn period pieces but it’s hard not to have expected a little more originality in the end result. The Last Thing Mary Saw is streaming on Shudder and AMC+ now.