Emily is a recovering cancer survivor of three years. To celebrate completing her treatments, her best friend Nina plans a weekend getaway at a remote country house with four of their closest friends.
Yep. It is party time—complete with drugs and booze. . . .
And it goes from bad to worse pretty quickly for the sextet—as it normally does for (unsympathetic) spoiled, life-is-a-perpetual-party city kids who “vacation” out in those parts where they don’t belong in the first place—especially when a biker gang shows up. And you act like shites at the local roadside diner. And smart mouth the local law enforcement. And the owners of your cabin rental don’t like you. And your friend stole a briefcase of blow for the occasion—and the gangster-owner wants it back. Oh, and there’s a serial killer, aka The Faceless Man, on the loose. And the cabin is haunted (maybe) and ties into the murderous nom de plume (who may be bogus). Oh, (there’s a lot of “ohs” in this movie) and Emily’s having treatment withdrawals and puking bile—accompanied by hallucinations of a spindly-fingered creature leaving blood-scrawled messages on mirrors. And the hallucinations and who-done-it murders-and-kidnappings of the others follow in quick succession.
Do the devil-may-care city kids deserve to have the collective Devil after them: the townsfolk, the bikers, the gangsters, their own drug-induced mind-fucks, and the serial killer? Yeah, even Emily the cancer survivor. This is a film where (because of great writing and acting) you end up identifying with the villain-antagonists (but the “good” city kids are their own worst antagonists).
You wouldn’t expect a film that markets itself as a horror film—with a protagonist that’s a cancer survivor—to run the gauntlet from slasher to comedy, fork off into a crime drama, and veer into the new-giallo supernatural. But, thick Down Under accents aside: it all works in a Tarantino-pulpy meets a (lighter touch) Shawn of the Dead-kind of way where the detailed set design reminds of Kubrick’s The Shining meets the color palate of a Dario Argento giallo. And keep your eyes open for the Tarantino “diner scene” and “interrogation scene” from Reservoir Dogs, along with the “basement bondage scene” from Pulp Fiction, and your ears open for the Carpenteresque scoring.
In the acting department (the entire cast is good) the two standout performances (among the affable, oddball-arced characters) (for me) come from actor Daniel Reader as the local redneck thug Barry the C*** (he’s so cool-feared, he has his own logo-coffee mug) and Roger Ward (yes, Fifi from Mad Max) as the gangster King Dougie. (Reader is relatively new the screen; he’s amassed twenty-plus credits in ten year across shorts and support roles in Aussie features; but I’d like to see him cross the pond and find work in larger, better-distributed American films.) All in all, The Faceless Man is an effectively-directed and expertly-shot feature film writing and directing debut by James Di Martino. We look forward to seeing more of his work in the streamingverse. And you’ll read those reviews first, on B&S About Movies.
This is the third, great film from Down Under we’ve watched since these COVID times; the others are the U.S. reboot of the neo-giallo Sororal, under its domestic title of Dark Sister, and the quality, fun horror romp Two Heads Creek. Both, along with The Faceless Man, are worth-the-coin-and-time streamers.
The Faceless Man was released as a DVD, PPV and VOD from Chapter 5 Studios and Freedom Cinema on August 28. Look for it on all digital platforms.
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.