Grimmfest 2021: Faceless

A few too many moving parts make this identity thriller a little muddled.

Synopsis: A disoriented and frightened man awakens in a hospital room to discover he’s the recipient of a full face transplant. Plagued by weird flashbacks, no memory and no visitors, he is unprepared when they release him from the hospital. When a mysterious red- haired woman, Sophie, befriends him, life gets even weirder. Suddenly a hooded man stalks him, his friends abandon him, and strangers give him odd looks. Distraught he goes out drinking only to end up in an altercation with a man – who has no face! Now he must investigate what has happened and who is stalking him before it’s too late…

Kicking off at a dog fighting event (following in similar footsteps to director Marcel Sarmiento’s ABC’s of Death segment D is for Dogfight) where George (Brendan Sexton III) ends up mauled after a run in with some people he has been trying to avoid, Faceless sets itself out early on as something that isn’t concerned with answering every question you might have about it, allowing the central mystery to stew.

The concept is a relatively simple one – after his attack, George awakes with severe memory loss at the Klein Institute, an advanced medical facility that has almost perfected the science of facial transplants. I say almost, there are side effects, including memory loss, tissue rejection and of course, the existential terror of waking up with someone else’s face. His discharge from the hospital feels premature and it isn’t long before he experiences even stranger fall out as a literally faceless assailant assaults him. With aftercare not exactly high on the agenda for the institute, it’s up to George to put together the pieces himself.

Throughout, screeching sonic flashbacks try to cast light on George’s predicament, including a vivid memory he seems to have of a woman he has never met. When he finally meets Sophie (Alex Essoe), their connection raises even more questions. This is much the way Faceless is constructed, constantly weaving more mystery before it fully unfolds another. This works to some extent, keeping things murky for as long as possible while dialling up the action. However, there is a sense that this teasing out takes too long and adds in too many moving parts to head into a satisfying conclusion. In addition, it feels like an attempt to unpick everything arrives late into the runtime, resulting in a lot of expositional scenes that would usually be handled early on so the introduction of so much late on does throw it off balance.

The prosthetics work is great here, which assists in the overall effect – George has to work on solving his mysteries all while his new face struggles to bed in, often drooping at one side. The other effects support this, offering a sense of impact in violent scenes in addition to the intricacy of the surgical scenes. The performances are solid, especially given the work with prosthetics and the need to sell the story often on very little outward information.

A little more cohesion would help it greatly and it feels sometimes like the film is struggling against its own weight – still, it’s a novel idea with a decently sketched conspiracy throughout.

2.5 out of 5 stars

2.5 out of 5 stars

Faceless plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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