Faceless After Dark Poster

Faceless After Dark (2023) Review

Faceless After Dark opens with a warning about the film’s use of strobing lights, and immediately we see Bowie (Jenna Kanell, Terrifier, Terrifier 2) sitting staring at the camera as neon purple lights flash on her face as the image grows progressively smaller and unintelligible voices babble louder and louder. That and several long, eye straining montages scattered through the film make the warning more than justified

Next we see her armed with a machete making her way through a human butcher shop, only to be confronted by the killer clown responsible for the carnage. And then mid-fight, she stops and complains about having to deliver the line, “Haven’t you heard, the circus left town bitch!”

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Bowie is an actress, and that role has given her a certain amount of marketability. She gets booked for convention appearances, but other performers on the film are getting a better deal for their appearances. And landing her next role isn’t proving to be easy. Worst of all though are the sleazy and harassing calls and DM she gets from the kind of people who make it impossible to forget that fan is short for fanatic.

As if to rub salt in her wounds, her girlfriend Jessica (Danielle Lyn, Nappily Ever After, The DUFF) has just landed a role in a superhero film and has to leave for London ASAP. Left alone, and receiving more bad career news, Bowie responds by going on an epic bender, only to wake up to find that someone dressed as a clown is stalking her.

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Apart from starring in Faceless After Dark, Jenna Kanell also co-wrote the script with Todd Jacobs (Dead by Midnight (Y2Kill), Trap Door in the Sun) with whom she’s collaborated several times in the past. Given the meta nature of the story, an actress best known for a pair of killer clown films writing and starring in a film about an actress known for a killer clown film, it’s probably safe to say it has its roots in her own experiences.

The problem is, they and, director Raymond Wood (1st Summoning, The Canadoo), who has directed Kanell in 35 episodes of Jenna Misconstrues Everything, frame things in a way that makes it hard to care. Most of Faceless After Dark’s first act revolves around Bowie’s inability to land a new role, and her anger at not getting the same treatment as more famous colleagues. The sleazy messages, which are nasty and sound uncomfortably realistic when we do hear them, are barely mentioned.

Similarly, the stalker subplot mentioned in the film’s publicity appears out of nowhere and is actually dealt with fairly quickly, allowing the plot to go off in yet another direction. I’m not going to spoil it, but while it could have been interesting, it’s handled in a way that quickly becomes predictable rather than tense and compelling. Not to mention it’s an idea that has been done before, one might even say it has been done to death.

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Faceless After Dark does have its heart in the right place, but its execution is a mess. The only character we really get to know is Bowie, and she’s not a very likeable person, even before her sanity leaves the building. In the end, there’s nobody to care about, and I just wanted it over with. The killing are neither inventive nor well enough staged to let Faceless After Dark work as a slasher. And the social commentary is heavy-handed and poorly presented, causing it to fail there as well.

With only a couple of effective scenes, darkly funny rather than frightening, such as actor’s releases pinned to dead bodies and the believably cynical ending, Faceless After Dark ends up becoming a well-intentioned failure. Those who’ve been on the receiving end of unasked for explicit messages and dick pics may find it cathartic, but most other viewers will just find it hard to sit through.

Dark Sky Films will release Faceless After Dark to select theatres as well as on VOD and Digital Platforms on May 17th.

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