The Last Thing Mary Saw is a beautifully photographed and deliberately paced horror film about a cruel community that sees Satan in the loaded glances between two young women and takes drastic steps to destroy it.
Writer-director Edoardo Vitaletti makes an impressive feature-length debut that takes some time to pick up steam before its grisly finale. It’s of a kind with a lot of modern horror, in fact. It lacks the anthropological underpinnings of The VVitch but aspires to capture the same old-school folk-horror angle. The horrors are rarely seen, and whether or not they’re real or imagined is a major element of the dramatic tension. In the end, are humans just as terrifying as whatever might lurk in the woods?
It’s the winter of 1843. Mary (Stefanie Scott) is blind, her eyes gouged out in some heinous but unmentioned way. A man known as the Interrogator (Daniel Pearce) is tasked to find out how Mary came upon her injury and what evil spirits might have caused it. You see, her family’s Matriarch (Judith Roberts) is dead. Mary supposedly killed her. The Interrogator is set on understanding Mary’s side of the story and what she saw with her last bits of sight.
What follows is a story of love, loss and suspicion, told with dark filters and the aid of dark cabins visible only in candlelight. It isn’t worth spoiling the nature of the true crimes committed or what supernatural impetus they may or may not have. Vitaletti does an impressive job at crafting a period-piece story and establishes a clear time and place for his (mostly) nameless characters to inhabit as they stumble toward inevitable tragedy. I use the phrase “deliberately paced” to underscore that Mary may not appeal to all horror audiences. However, it has a bleak and upsetting payoff that makes the journey worth it.