Happy Pride! For the uninitiated, June is LGBTQIA Pride month, and in celebration, I will be dedicating my blog posts to Queer Horror. And Shudder has a Queer Horror collection for the occasion! The first movie I chose from this offering is The Last Thing Mary Saw, reviewed on this site when it was released in 2021.
But I am going to examine the romantic relationship between the two leads: Mary, played by Stefanie Scott (Insidious 3), and Eleanor, played by Isabelle Fuhrman (ORPHAN) who gives an intense and emotional performance despite spending half of the film mute.
At this point, the homosexuality vs. religion trope is well established in literature – this movie does it some justice even while falling back on overdone Puritanical punishment and lesbians-as-witches plot points. The difference here is the girls are not witches, the religious Matriarch (the iconic Judith Roberts) claims that occultist role. While The Last Thing Mary Saw does not examine how the two girls came to be together, it does express the depth of their affection, and how, in a world where they are stifled by their patriarchal cultish community, their love is worth dying (or killing) for. There is no tawdry sex here – just two young women desperate to touch and be touched, to love and be loved, free from violent religious oppression.
In an almost psychic story arc (although one doesn’t need to be psychic to know that history would repeat itself here), fingers are pointed at a dangerous book as the cause for Mary’s desire for Eleanor, as if homosexuality is an unnatural thing and not an intrinsic human quality. Mary’s father believes that banishing the book is the only way to stop the terrible chain of events from continuing to unfold. It is important to note, though, that the book is almost biblical in the stories-as-warnings against the dangers of otherness and homosexual desires.
When you’re a lesbian in an unjust world, even oppressed men take advantage of their gendered power.
Even after being forced to kneel on rice while reciting Bible verses, being robbed of her voice in some occultist ritual in a chicken coop, and continually separated from her one respite in this totalitarian community – Eleanor must endure the worst violation by another excluded member of society. In a subplot, an intruder with a birthmark covering half his face (Rory Culkin) forces himself on Eleanor – taking advantage of his physical dominance and her inability to scream. Parallels can be drawn here between this man ostracized for wearing his otherness on his face and the violent tendencies elicited by his exclusion from the community, and the otherness the ladies were also born with, none of them having control over how they were born, and all of them enduring tortuous punishment for their birthrights. Regardless, the patriarchal values supersede the otherness as cis male power trumps female bodily autonomy.
What statement is The Last Thing Mary Saw trying to make?
The Last Thing Mary Saw is almost a good movie. The problem is that it is impossible to understand the statement it is trying to make. Is it a movie about the lengths to which people will go for blind faith? Is it a movie about the patriarchal control and punishment of women’s bodies in the style of old Salem? Is it a movie about the dangers of repressing sexuality and demonizing those deemed other for traits they are both with? Is it a movie about a Necronomicon-type book that dooms the holder to enact the story to the same devastating conclusion time and time again? It approaches each of these themes, but doesn’t fully embrace any of them leaving this viewer to appreciate the cinematography, period costume, and performances, but wondering at the end what the actual point was. At ninety minutes long, The Last Thing Mary Saw is worth a watch for the cinematic value alone – and the scene in the chicken coop is pretty cool.
The Last Thing Mary Saw was released on Shudder in 2021 and is currently still streaming.
Do you have any Queer Horror suggestions?? Let me know in the comments!