In recent years, a cinematic trend has arisen. Period pieces about lesbians, set in the late 18th century through the mid-19th century are not just becoming popular, they are also well-received.

Movies such as “Wild Nights with Emily,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Ammonite,” and “The World to Come,” practically go out of their way to leave a queer mark on the past. Remember, representation is important.

“The Last Thing Mary Saw” (Shudder Original), now streaming on Shudder, adds a twist to the trend. It’s a horror movie that takes several digs at religious extremism, a subject familiar to many LGBTQ people living in the 21st century. Set in a puritanical household in Southold, New York in 1843, “The Last Thing Mary Saw” opens with a John Calvin quote.

We learn quickly that, much to the dismay of her devout family, led by her sinister and severe grandmother the matriarch (Judith Roberts), titular Mary (Stefanie Scott) is romantically involved with housemaid Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman of “The Novice”). We also discover that the scenes with Mary’s family are set in the recent past.

The more current scenes take place in an interrogation room where Mary, wearing a blindfold over her missing eyes (we know they’re not there because of the streaks of dried blood on her cheeks emanating from where they used to be), is being questioned by an interrogator (Daniel Pearce) regarding the tragic events at the family’s home following her grandmother’s sudden death. The interrogator admits to being at a “crossroads” as to whether he should do his duty or “lend an ear to curiosity.”

Separated into three chapters, all related to an unholy book that Mary’s father regrets having brought into the house, the movie moves back and forth in time between Mary’s interrogation and the abuse and degradation she and Eleanor suffered at the hands of her family of zealots. Corrections were doled out regularly, including a favorite punishment involving kneeling on uncooked rice while reciting bible passages.

But Mary and Eleanor remained undeterred, their attraction stronger than any religious adherence, wishing to experience their love “in bright sunlight” instead of stolen moments, including those they managed to arrange in the chicken coop. A partnership with the house guard Randolph (P.J. Sosko) affords them a few moments of intimacy. However, Mary’s kid brother, Matthew (Elijah Rayman) shares the rest of the family’s distaste for Mary and Eleanor’s bond. Caught together again, the matriarch spares Eleanor’s life, but does irreparable damage to her vocal cords, leaving her unable to speak.

Meanwhile, a plan is hatched, resulting in the death of the grandmother. On the day of the funeral, a disfigured intruder (Rory Culkin) arrives at the house setting off a series of shocking events, including rape, the loss of a digit, and mass poisoning. But just when you think everything has come to an end, a dead person’s finger moves just enough to startle you.

Writer/director Edoardo Vitaletti makes an effort to honor both the queer and horror subject matters, but in long run does neither justice. Gloomy and plodding (too long at under 90 minutes), “The Last Thing Mary Saw” succeeds as a mood piece, but most viewers will no doubt want something more than that.

Rating: B-

Gregg Shapiro is the author of seven books including the expanded edition of his short story collection How to Whistle (Rattling Good Yarns Press, 2021). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.


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