12th Oct2021

Grimmfest 2021: ‘Faceless’ Review

by Jim Morazzini

Stars: Alex Essoe, Brendan Sexton III, Terry Serpico, Richard Haylor | Written by Marcel Sarmiento, Ed Dougherty | Directed by Marcel Sarmiento

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl, Totem) who co-wrote it with Ed Dougherty (Paint it Black, 7 Witches) and co-starring Alex Essoe (Midnighters, Homewrecker) Faceless (no relation to the Jess Franco film from 1987) is worth attention just for the talent involved. The kind of talent that strongly hints this may be a film will push a few boundaries.

George (Brendan Sexton III; Empire Records, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) goes to a dog fight. There he runs into someone who has it in for him for reasons we don’t know and ends up mauled by one of the dogs.

He’s given a full face transplant at the mysterious Klein Institute. While that may have at least partially repaired the physical damage it can’t bring back his memories. Memory loss is apparently an expected side effect of the drugs used in his treatment. He’s released with no memories of his past life and a regime of drugs that can cause, among other things, hallucinations. Are they the explanation for the masked and hooded figure he sees stalking him?

Shot through with flashbacks, hallucinations and just plain bizarre events, Faceless isn’t an easy film to get a grip on. The viewer is every bit as clueless as George as he tries to discover just who he is and why these things are happening to him. Was he really attacked by a man with no face or was it just a drug induced hallucination? And, for that matter, why was he chosen for this experimental procedure in the first place?

Faceless opens with some gory surgical footage and blurry footage of assorted people coming in and out of George’s hospital room while he lays in a medicated haze. As his conditions improve he’s given instructional videos to watch. These videos, hosted by Dr. Klein (Terry Serpico; The 5th Wave, The Purge: Election Year) himself, are like something out of an early Cronenberg film. Actually, if he had directed a medical thriller, one a bit more straightforward than Dead Ringers, the result might have been something like this.

It’s hard to say too much about the plot without giving away details that would take away from Faceless’ impact. It’s one of those films that the less you know going in the better you’ll enjoy it. Much of the film’s effectiveness comes from not knowing what’s going on, or even what’s real, at a given moment.

Although Alex Essoe has less screen time than I expected, she still gives a solid performance as Sophie, whose motives for helping George are never clear and add another layer of tension to the film. Richard Haylor (Pain & Gain, Plastic) also gives a solid performance as Dr. Metzger.

While not as challenging or transgressive as Deadgirl, Faceless certainly doesn’t fit the mold of a normal thriller or horror film. It’s a grim, twisty little film that’s worth the time and attention that it requires.

**** 4/5

Faceless screened as part of this years Grimmfest.
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Review originally posted on Voices From the Balcony.

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