Southold, New York, 1843: Young Mary (Stefanie Scott, Insidious Chapter 3), blood trickling from behind the blindfold tied around her eyes, is interrogated about the events surrounding her grandmother’s death.
As the story jumps back in time, we witness Mary, raised in a repressively religious household, finding fleeting happiness in the arms of Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman, Orphan), the home’s maid. Her family, who believe they are seeing, speaking, and acting on God’s behalf, view the girls’ relationship as an abomination to be dealt with as severely as possible. The couple attempts to carry on in secret, but someone is always watching, and the wages of perceived sin threaten to become death, with the tension only heightened by the arrival of an enigmatic stranger (Rory Culkin, Lords of Chaos) and the revelation of greater forces at work.
The Last Thing Mary Saw Review
There’s no shortage of period horror flicks, or those with Evangelical Christian setups. Even the queer-romance-Evangelical-period-horror subgenre isn’t unprecedented. So, what does The Last Thing Mary Saw do differently to scare us?
The brief version of my assessment? Not that much, unfortunately.
The Last Thing Mary Saw represents a bit of missed potential for me. I had high hopes for the narrative framing device that opens the film; I love a story that jumps back and forth in time, that makes you unravel a mystery and subverts expectations as it progresses.
But rather than use that framing to keep audiences on the edge of their seats with a thrilling retelling of events, TLTMS guides us through an incredibly slow-moving first act dedicated to demonstrating Mary and Eleanor’s “sinful” relationship and the Evangelical nature of Mary’s family. They try to find a way to secretly continue their romance. They’re found out by someone in the family. They’re punished. Rinse and repeat.
(Sidebar complaint about TLTMS and countless other films: It’s too dark!!! Please, filmmakers, I’m begging you. I know you’re creating an AtmosphereTM. But if you want me to watch your movie, I need to actually be able to SEE your movie.)
Ultimately, the film does shift into something more otherworldly sinister in nature. A little black book ushers in the shift, the contents of which then begin to (cause? predict? parallel?) the dark goings-on in TLTMS. Again, I thought this was another interesting narrative approach with a lot of potential. But the overarching story muddles the intention and purpose of the book itself.
The Last Thing Mary Saw lays out some interesting plot points throughout the film. But instead of forming a followable breadcrumb trail to the big finale, it’s a more of a scattered game of connect-the-dots. (Where a few of the dots seem to get forgotten entirely.) The slow opening pace combined with a lack of cohesive buildup undercuts the excitement of the film’s climax. It’s not bad; it’s just clearly a case of missed potential.
The Last Thing Mary Saw begins streaming on Shudder January 20.