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Faceless Mary short film review


Directed by: #NickydelaVega

Written by: Nicky de la Vega

Poster for film showing the two main characters. A close up of the father next to a shot of Faceless Mary hanging upside down.father

We’ve all heard something go bump in the night, stories of boogeymen and monsters hiding under the bed. Rational thought shall deduce that the noise you heard at 2:00 am is the wind, maybe an animal but perhaps there’s a chance it’s a creature from beyond, stalking you as prey. Faceless Mary from writer-director Nicky de la Vega attempts to invoke that common fear we all have of noises in the dark but fails to bring the terror as poor editing and sound mixing sucks the atmosphere right out of the picture.

Nicky de la Vega’s direction initially is promising, with attempts to build a foreboding atmosphere as a father slowly inspects his house at night, trying to find the origin of a hideous sound. Shot composition relies on darkness, only fragments of the home or father visible in the frame while hard to see at times; I appreciated how hostile it made the environment. Places we’re familiar with seemingly transform in the night, and the camera work reflects how alone the father appears in his own home. Bathed in shadows, the few areas that are seen by moonlight become sinister; curtains in the living room, a clock at the top of the staircase. These visuals, however, are undermined at every turn by the obnoxious and near comical sound design.

The sound work of Faceless Mary mostly consists of effects (mostly an irritating ticking clock sound effect) that lack any realism and ruin’s the film’s atmosphere. It really is a tension killer as it makes everything about the film’s verisimilitude feel artificial, so when de la Vega is ready to begin her jump scares, nothing is grounded. The flawed soundscape along with peculiar cutaways to a television set featuring a blurred out figure speaking about the ‘myth’ of Faceless Mary adds only confusion to the film. I assume that these cutaways are of the main character’s son, perhaps in a counselling session talking about Faceless Mary haunting him. It allows de la Vega to mythologise her movie monster similarly to its obvious inspirations. When revealed, Faceless Mary is unsettling to look at, with its clear similarities to Sadako Yamamura from the Ring series (famous for crawling out a television set) and internet horror sensation Slenderman (also faceless), characters that are known for relentlessly stalking their victims.

These cutaways to try and build lore for this monster are where de la Vega’s direction and the film's editing again undermine what’s actually working. Whether these cutaways are from a nightmare or a visual trick played by Faceless Mary remain unclear. These television bits may be critical for the film’s grim ending but none of it feels harmonious for an engaging payoff. It’s off-putting and confusing to the detriment of de la Vega’s vision, for me, at least it seems less is more would definitely work here. The practice of less is more would probably benefit Faceless Mary. There are small kernels of interest and some creepy imagery though it's mostly undone by the unfortunate overcompensation of ill-conceived elements.



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