The Last Thing Mary Saw has had a big week. Along with making its world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, it was also picked up by horror streaming service Shudder. The movie is set in 1843. Mary (Stefanie Scott) is being questioned after the mysterious death of her mother (Judith Anna Roberts). Her story is a shocking one that involves family, trust, and destiny.
The film starts with a quote from John Calvin. The French theologian was instrumental in the development of the branch of Christianity that eventually came to be known as Calvinism. One of the basic beliefs of the religion is the idea of predestination. This includes the ideas that it has already been decided what is going to happen that some are destined for salvation and others are eternally damned.
This is a major theme in The Last Thing Mary Saw. While the plot centers around a mystery, the characters live with the constant fear of impending doom. Mary’s father seems to be fighting against the inevitable while others work to ensure things happen as they should. By the end, audiences will wonder, if everything went as planned or if the end result was going to be the same no matter what Mary did.
Discovery is an important part of any mystery. The same is true with this film, but there are added layers. It is not just about a resolution but people discovering who they really are. There are touches of a coming of age story, but The Last Thing Mary Saw is also about a sexual awakening and finding independence. Everything is seamlessly weaved into the movie.
The Last Thing Mary Saw touches on many themes, but it is a horror movie through and through. Filled with muted colors and gray days, it easily creates a gloomy atmosphere. The setting is appropriately creepy and the decision to build to moments instead of using jump scares is a great idea. The film is filled with genuinely terrifying scenes that mean more as things progress.
The narrative is essentially one long flashback broken into chapters. It is a nice storytelling device as the setting is very familiar to a recent Netflix release. The Last Thing Mary Saw is a much less salacious and more mature take, however. It is a great addition to religious horror and a frightening watch.
The Fantasia Film Festival takes place in person and online from August 5 – August 25
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