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THE LAST THING MARY SAW: 3 STARS. “Repression covers the entire film like a shroud.”

“The Last Thing Mary Saw,” a new film about sexual repression, and now streaming on Shudder Canada, is more about mood and atmosphere and the toll that fear takes on people than it is about horror.

When we first meet Mary (Stefanie Scott), she is blindfolded, blood tickling down her cheeks, under interrogation regarding her grandmother’s (Judith Roberts) “sudden departure.”

Suspected of being a witch, one of her captors assesses the situation. “It is not our responsibility to give the devil a chance to repent. He must perish with her.”

Sombre and creepy, it is just the beginning of Mary’s unsettling journey.

Jump cut back in time to 1843 in rural Southold, New York. Much to the horror of her devout parents, Mary is having a love affair with Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman), the family’s maid. “Our daughter’s ears are deaf to the Lord’s preachings,” her father tells the soon-to-be-gone the family matriarch. “She continues to engage in acts with the help.”

Instead of sending the maid on her way, it’s decided the young lovers will be subjected to “corrections,” a torturous religious punishment wherein they are forced to kneel on grains of rice and recite Bible passages. “Mary and the maid played dangerous games and were punished accordingly.” Unsurprisingly, the rudimentary conversion therapy doesn’t work, and Mary and Eleanor continue to clandestinely see one another.

When they are discovered, lives are shattered as a mysterious character named The Intruder (Rory Culkin) enters the story.

“The Last Thing Mary Saw” isn’t particularly scary in its violence or visuals, save for a deeply unpleasant dinner scene, but it is chilling filmmaking. First time director Edoardo Vitaletti calibrates each scene, including a long, virtually silent middle section, for maximum discomfort.

Repression covers the entire film like a shroud, as Mary and Eleanor attempt to live their lives away from the fear and religious fervor spawned by Mary’s pious parents. Human nature is the boogeyman here, not Mary’s alleged witchcraft.

The forced clandestine nature of their relationship is enhanced by Vitaletti’s shadowy, candle lit photography. It is restrained and sophisticated throughout, etching some unforgettable images in the viewer’s imaginations.

On the downside, the restraint, while moody, feels as though the movie is holding back, stopping just short of fully embracing its horror elements. This straightforward, serious treatment undersells the creepy elements that could have made the story as memorable as the images.

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