The Last Thing Mary Saw follows a young woman whose struggles with a romantic relationship with the house maid leads to a dark tragedy that leaves the young woman under investigation for the incidents.
[This movie was viewed via Shudder.]
The Last Thing Mary Saw Review
I feel like a horror trend that has popped up more frequently in recent years is that of the "single-scene" horror film. And what I mean by this term is a movie that is generally dark and somber drama in tone with perhaps the occasional foreboding atmosphere that is inevitably reliant on a single climactic scene to categorize it in horror. It is like an extreme version of a slow burn, with deeper valleys of gloomy drama and a more intense horrific payoff. This form of horror is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make itself highly reliant on the success of the third act to leave one satisfied. For me, The Last Thing Mary Saw falls short of that satisfaction to justify its plodding pace.
Now, to each their own. The plot may intrigue others more than myself, but personally I find the "church people are ignorant, evil, and hateful" to be a well-tread and unoriginal plot structure at this juncture. That isn't to say that there isn't plenty of fact to be found in that topic, especially the further back we go in the church's history and its various deformations of moral interpretation, but it is also something that has been beaten to death (pun intended, we are a horror blog after all) and explored ad nauseam with little in terms of widening the spectrum of its voice. It's to the point that I feel confident we could all accurately predict the lines within a few words/sentences of bigoted churchfolk within films like this. It's not necessarily wrong, it's just unoriginal. And while this film certainly has a valuable message to speak on, the way in which it goes about it requires you to wade through dialogue and plot points we've seen numerous times, and in recent memory (The Witch and Saint Maud first come to mind).
I am also not a big fan of the chapter structure in films, and in most cases I find it kills momentum and establishes an air of predictability that is rarely broken. Chapters in almost every case telling the viewer, "Nothing is going go happen until the final act." There's nothing wrong with focusing on the climax of your film, but chapters tend to add an inordinate amount of weight to the final act.
Everything piled on for the film to inevitably impress or disappoint depending on the final handful of minutes, and for me it wasn't enough. The subtlety of its horror was The Witch-esque and, while unsettling, it lacked the energy to push it towards anything memorable or mentionable.
The entirety of the film felt like an off-Broadway play, taking place almost entirely within the confines of a single house, only branching away from it to wander the grounds at night briefly. I love a claustrophobic setting as much as the next person, but it felt less like that and more like a purposeful stage to explore dialogue. But it does nothing to make the script more engaging and dilutes the horror elements.
The Last Thing Mary Saw isn't much of a mystery to horror fans with experience and an attention span. It isn't scary or disturbing for those with seasoned stomachs. And its story isn't terribly original for those that have explored recent films with similar themes and pacing structures. There was certainly quality to be found in the acting, and the writing performed admirably to its time period, but it lacked the impact to differentiate itself from films it appeared to be trying to replicate the success of.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 7/10