Monday, March 21, 2022

The Last Thing Mary Snoozed


Nothing pleases me more than when the trends I've longed for finally seem to catch on. For YEARS now, I've been begging the gods for more historical horror, something that was a true rarity for quite a while. Sure, we had sprinkles and sprinkles of some low budget attempts (and some were actually good) but I'm a greedy, greedy woman.

Robert Eggers' The VVitch answered my call, and has since helped usher in a small, quiet trend. Shudder's latest original seemed to fit that bill. But is it any good?

Quick Plot: It's 1843 on eastern Long Island, and teenage Mary is not living her best life. With blood dripping from her blindfolded eyes, she's forced to recount her past to the strict Calvinist town constable. 

Her story is not particularly cheery: after falling in love with Eleanor, the maid (Esther herself, Isabelle Furhman), Mary was put through a variety of cleansing rituals at the behest of her eerie grandmother. The rest of her extended family joined in her reprogramming, some with more enthusiasm than others. 

Things take an even darker turn after Granny's sudden death. The quiet funeral is interrupted by Rory Culkin as a mysterious agent of evil...or something.

I like to think of myself as an intelligent film fan who enjoys a thoughtful genre tale, but I have to say it: I am, it would seem, not smart enough to follow the plot steps of The Last Thing Mary Saw.

This is the debut of writer/director Edoardo Vitaletti, and as first films go, it's technically quite impressive. Period stories on limited budgets are never easy, but Vitaletti crafts an incredibly authentic landscape for his cast to moodily shuffle through. 

Of course, "moody shuffling" isn't always a positive way to define your movie. For an 85 minute runtime, The Last Thing Mary Saw feels awfully laborious. A forbidden queer love story should be compelling, but the film's tone is as Puritan as its characters. It doesn't help that Mary and Eleanor are both extremely bland in their romance and even dumber in their inability to cover it up. There comes a point where, because the film hasn't really decided its stakes, it becomes kind of impossible to understand just how aware of their danger these girls are. 

From both a plot and character place, this movie is muddy. It plays with big ideas about God and Christianity without coming to any clear conclusions (or really asking challenging questions). But worst of all, it's, I hate to say it, mostly very dull. 

High Points
EVENTUALLY, The Last Thing Mary Saw managed to surprise me with a fairly shocking act of violence that unfolded in a sufficiently disturbing way

Low Points
Having said that, two seconds before said shocking event, I wrote in my notes, "I want to like this movie so much but it's so boring and nothing is happening"

Lessons Learned (the 1800s Edition)
19th century firearms took a few minutes to reload, but moving slightly out of the way of said firearms apparently took even longer

If you can't manage to hide your illegal romance, at least learn how to make a decent pair of kneepads

Locks on doors were luxuries even the most upstanding families couldn't afford

I wish I could tell you to dim the lights and queue up The Last Thing Mary Saw on Shudder with a buttery bowl of popcorn in your lap. I'm not NOT telling you to make the popcorn, but sadly, I think there are better films that pair with it. A valiant effort. 

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