The Last Thing Mary Saw (2022) Will Haunt You
Title: The Last Thing Mary Saw
First Non-Festival Release: January 20, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Edoardo Vitaletti
Writer: Edoardo Vitaletti
Runtime: 89 Minutes
Starring: Stefanie Scott, Isabelle Fuhrman, Rory Culkin
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
In the winter of 1843, the secret relationship between Mary (Stefanie Scott) and Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman) is discovered by Mary’s strictly religious family. A course correction is implemented to guide both young women down the paths that the family desires. Eleanor receives the brunt of the abuse since she is the family’s maid. The girls hatch a plan to free themselves of their torment, but supernatural forces come into play which may alter their destiny. When the family matriarch dies under mysterious circumstances, the stakes get raised even higher, and the consequences even deadlier.
A simmering period piece that haunts more than it outright scares, The Last Thing Mary Saw highlights the horrors of intolerance.
Told in three chapters, The Last Thing Mary Saw starts right when the action picks up, which does great things for its pacing. Conflict is understood from the beginning and all the pieces come together to explain the supernatural horror permeating over the family. There’s an immediate feeling of hopelessness established in the very first few minutes that raises the stakes immediately and keeps the audience guessing on what exactly happened to Mary. Deliberate pacing allows The Last Thing Mary Saw to be a dark and unflinching meditation on family dynamics and cruelty shown to those who are different.
Dealing with homophobia in the mid 1800s, The Last Thing Mary Saw, chooses to tread on unusual territory for a horror film. The horror doubles as the supernatural presence clearly dabbling in the family affairs but also the very real horror inflicted upon the leading women, Mary and Eleanor. From the very first frame, we understand what the two have done to earn themselves this treatment and that the consequences will be severe. It’s clear that further punishment and greater plans for them are in the works, but the audience, like the pair, are left in the dark.
Throughout the film, overt and covert references to silence are used strategically to deliver the message of the film. The silence imposed by the entire family after the passing of the Matriarch (Judith Roberts) works doubly to convey how the family refuses to speak on their issues openly. This metaphor doubles down on the idea that Mary and Eleanor’s relationship is met with duplicitous action, an almost open secret that is understood by all but rarely spoken out loud. Before any words are spoken to the two, backup has arrived in the form of the more dogmatically religious side of the family. From there, the fate of the family is sealed. Their silence and complicity in the guise of moral purity leads to devastating results for everyone.
The lead players give fantastic performances. Stefanie Scott’s measured performance as Mary keeps the story going and gives a more assured sense compared to Isabelle Fuhrman’s more damaged Eleanor. Furhrman yanks at heartstrings in The Last Thing Mary Saw. She is given the task of accepting the brunt of the family’s abuse and vitriol. Her pain causes her to take more drastic action to rid herself of the chains binding her to service. Rory Culkin gives a riveting but brief appearance as the intruder, injecting some action and much needed punch to the overall narrative.
There’s plenty to appreciate in a horror drama that doesn’t give the audience any easy answers. Everything is predictable, in a sense, while simultaneously subverting expectations. A quiet horror, The Last Thing Mary Saw prefers to unsettle with the murmured truths in early American homophobia over the more fantastical terrors plaguing the family. Actions have consequences and silence in the face of adversity leads to tragedy. These lessons and more stem from the “correction” of two young lovers. A slow yet rewarding watch, The Last Thing Mary Saw is indeed something you will want to see.
Overall Score? 7/10