REVIEW: Faceless (2021)

dir. Marcel Sarmiento

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl) – who shares screenwriting duties here with Ed Dougherty – Faceless is a disorientating puzzle-box of identity and a bewildering exploration of self.

When George (Brendan Sexton III, Empire Records) goes to a dog fight, he’s confronted with unknown assailants and ends up mauled by one of the canines. Later, he awakens to find he’s been given a full face transplant at the mysterious Klein Institute. Partially repairing the physical damage, the procedure however causes psychological issues: memory loss is an expected side effect, and he’s later released with no recollections of his past life and a regime of drugs that can cause, among other things, hallucinations. 

Shot through with flashbacks and waking-dreams, Faceless isn’t an easy film to grapple with. These sequences are stilted at times, and narratively difficult to comprehend; scenes of an attacker with no face stalking and assaulting him feeling unstable and liminal. It’s hard too to speak about the plot further, the journey best taken with audiences being as bewildered as George – unpicking the narrative like scabbed-over surgical scars. However one touchpoint comes as George’s condition improves and he’s given instructional videos to watch: hosted by Dr. Klein (Terry Serpico) these are somewhat a transplant from a David Cronenberg story, the film itself playing out similarly to Dead Ringers.

Whilst not as shockingly transgressive as Sarmiento’s astounding Deadgirl, Faceless certainly eschews the mould of a run-of-the-mill thriller or gross-out body-horror: instead it emerges as a gory, twist-filled mystery that sometimes buckles under the weight of its threadbare narrative.

⭐⭐⭐

Brad Hanson

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