Growing up with an older brother and younger sister, there were conflicts that arose that were a by-product of any family. Arguments and fights would transpire where do unto others was vastly inconsistent with do unto you as the Golden Rule was tarnished multiple times throughout childhood. Despite the complaints, wanting revenge, and the whataboutisms that were flung at my parents, my mother’s boilerplate statement would emerge: “Two wrongs never make a right”. This truism has thundered into my head many times and something I have used more than once in a discussion.
The Last Thing Mary Saw, a period film by Intrinsic Value Films and distributed by Shudder, brings us an intense and graphic tale that is immersed in fables and folklore.
It is winter in the year 1843 in a large Protestant house in Southold, New York. Mary (Stefanie Scott) who is part of the community is questioned by an Interrogator (Daniel Pearce) and a Deputy (Philip Hoffman). Mary, holding a book of fables who, at first looks blindfolded but upon further inspection, blood is dripping down from where her eyes are covered. It is not a blindfold that covers her eyes but a bandage.
Mary’s story, told in three chapters tells the tale of an illicit love affair between Mary and the family’s maid Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman) which goes against the family’s strict religious teachings. They are set upon by the elders of this religious commune where The Matriarch (Judith Roberts) punishes and humiliates Mary and Eleanor through various methods of “correction”. “Fear and weakness keep us here. Not devotion”, states Theodore (P.J. Sosko) who guards the house. When Mary and Eleanor are caught in the henhouse by the family, The Matriarch eerily and brutally punishes Eleanor by pushing a bobby pin through her neck, shredding her vocal cords.
Angry and full of vengeance because of these sadistic “corrections”, Mary poisons the Matriarch and most of the family. Just when Mary and Eleanor think their revenge is complete and are free from the shackles of their family’s religious oppression, an old parable from the past comes back for its own form of retribution.
Written and directed by Edoardo Vitaletti, a remarkable job is done with this debut feature as he crafts and helms a period piece of folklore with terrific atmosphere rife with heightened intensity and unnerving mayhem. Vitaletti’s muted earth tones and light-starved palette throughout the film meshes nicely with the spare Protestant tendencies, historical context, and the subject matter where fables at candlelight emerge from the darkness.
Rory Culkin does a creepy turn as The Intruder who assaults and terrorizes the cursed couple.
The folklores and fables that are recited throughout become excellent connective tissue that makes this film a disturbing and intense watch. The film burns slowly but is a necessary function that fills this film with anticipation at what the shadows will reveal in this house of dread.
The Last Thing Mary Saw will premiere exclusively on Shudder on January 20, 2022.
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