A Film Of Many Faces
The Faceless Man is a film of many faces. With elements of comedy, slasher horror, gangster crime and even familial drama beats, The Faceless Man jumps sporadically between different tones and ideas, sometimes nailing them perfectly and other times missing the mark. Amidst the myriad of different themes on offer, there’s enough in The Faceless Man to make for an enjoyable watch, but it’s also a film that feels torn, unsure on which direction to really go.
The story begins with Emily and her estranged Father in hospital. Having neglected his daughter throughout the time she’s had cancer, we then cut forward 3 years to find Emily fully recovered and living the fast life, topped up with a steady cocktail of drugs and alcohol. Along with five of her friends, they venture out to a country holiday house to party over a weekend where things quickly turn from bad to worse.
Between a biker group hell bent on maintaining a drug-free community, a paranormal creature stalking and murdering the teens and a criminal relentlessly pursuing his stash of cocaine, The Faceless Man has an awful lot going on. These three distinct narratives are interwoven throughout the film and while they mostly maintain a decent enough arc, at times they don’t always blend that well together.
Having said that, the camera work and general cinematography is pretty impressive throughout the film. The unintentional comedy is arguably the strongest feature here and there were a few moments I genuinely laughed out loud – mostly involving straight-faced biker Barry. These moments use a lot of steady cameras while the horror plays on that claustrophobic, up-close-and-personal feel that makes this genre so effective. Nestled around this are some lovely long shots, involving a good 10 minute segment early on during the Father/Daughter argument that sets the tone of the film.
Aside from Emily there really aren’t many empathetic characters you can get behind here. Most of the teenagers aren’t that likable and whether intentional or not, the drug-fueled shenanigans actually help you empathise with the red necks a lot more. Despite feeling like the antagonist for a lot of the film, Barry ended up being my favourite character by the end and his acting perfectly personifies the off-the-wall vibes I wish the film doubled down on.
I can’t help but feel if The Faceless Man had really gone all-in on its comedy elements and played off its horror like Shaun of the Dead, the film may well have really hit its stride. Tonally though, The Faceless Man doesn’t quite nail either angle; it’s not quite scary enough to play off as a slasher thriller and the laughs aren’t maintained to offer up a delightful dish of comedy.
Ultimately then, The Faceless Man is a bit of a missed opportunity, despite managing to bring it all together for a surprising final twist at the end. The clashing tones and ideas don’t always mesh well but there are some faint glimmers of brilliance here that never quite get enough time to breathe. As a first-time feature from Director James Di Martino, the film is a decent enough effort but doesn’t quite do enough to distinguish itself as a diamond in the rough.
Verdict - 4/10