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In the sexy meta-horror-revenge-slasher “Faceless After Dark”, a struggling b-movie actor battles real-life demons with bloody consequences.

Faceless After Dark

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Faceless After Dark is the latest in thought-provoking meta-horror from director Raymond Wood, co-written by Todd Jacobs and star Jenna Kanell (Terrifier).

Early in the film, Kanell’s character, a struggling indie horror actress named Bowie, questions why she hasn’t been more successful after her breakout role in a horror film, and it’s a question you’ll be asking yourself after seeing her captivating, utterly intoxicating performance in Faceless After Dark.

The film opens with a clearly distraught Bowie (Kanell) staring into the camera, flanked by strobing lights, before rewinding a bit to find a familiar scene for Terrifier fans: Kanell’s Bowie being stalked by a sadistic clown in a low-budget indie horror film.

Sometime later, Bowie is working a horror convention with her former co-star, Kathrynne (real-life Terrifier co-star Catherine Corcoran). In between sporadically signing autographs, the two struggling actresses discuss the horrors of the industry, including lack of job security, internet haters, body shaming, and blatant sexism.

Bowie is living with her far more successful actress girlfriend, Jessica (Danielle Lyn), who has just booked a huge new gig in a superhero film. As Jessica heads to London to begin work on the project, Bowie is left alone to contemplate her lack of career prospects and perceived failures.

Some news from her well-connected filmmaker friend, Ryan (Danny Kang), makes her melancholy worse. His investment banker dad is funding his next film, and Bowie hoped to land a role in it, but his producers demanded an actual “name” for the role. Seeing her obvious disappointment, Ryan urges her to make her own film, writing what she knows.

In a twisted turn of fate, while Bowie is at her lowest, an obsessed fan breaks into her home to live out a fantasy of stalking her while wearing a clown mask.

The traumatic incident ignites the spark of creative inspiration she needed to make her own art — a sadistic snuff film that sees her take gleeful revenge on a parade of sexual deviants and bigoted haters that have been flooding her DMs.

What follows is a wild and gory ride that’s as disturbing as it is cathartic, as we watch an unhinged but still sympathetic Bowie giggle as she creatively lures and torments her captives.

Bowie becomes a deadly predator, but it’s hard to see her entirely as a monster, given the vile nature of her carefully chosen victims. She’s exorcising demons and purging trauma, and you won’t be able to resist cheering her on, no matter how far down the crazed rabbit hole she falls.

Kanell’s ability to make an AMERICAN PSYCHO-esque, slaughter-happy madwoman so damn likable is a testament to her powerhouse performance, exuding vulnerability and depth — a sensitive artist clearly broken by a soulless industry and the veritable horrors of humanity.

Inspired somewhat by Kanell’s own real-world experiences as an indie horror actress, she incorporates elements of her personal trauma into the film — including sexualization and commodification as an actress, the nature of parasocial relationships, and the stigmatization of being queer.

She admits to struggling with mental health issues, compounded by the dark side of the industry and the steady stream of exposure to the world’s real-life horrors. As a result, her character in the film is relatable and easy to root for.

She’s an empathetic and compassionate woman broken by the world — not just her immediate world filled with objectification and humiliation — but the world at large, filled with unspeakable atrocities and injustices.

It’s a story of feminist rage and revenge with something meaningful to say, but it never loses sight of its primary directive: to entertain the hell out of you, which it does in spades.

There’s ample blood and gore (far from Terrifier levels, but still quite satisfying) and fantastic practical effects. The well-shot and gorgeously lit frenetic action is scored by a killer feminist punk riot grrrl soundtrack.

Faceless After Dark also serves up pitch-perfect humor and deliciously snarky one-liners that keep things playfully fun despite the mounting carnage.

In the end, we circle back to the beginning, where we watch Bowie’s psychological collapse, a lingering closeup of her face as she traverses a range of emotions in a disorienting, strobe-lit scene that’s impossible to look away from and solidifies Kannell as an enormously gifted performer who could easily lead a franchise deserving of as much fan devotion as Art the Clown.

Kanell’s chilling, tour-de-force performance as a sensitive woman damaged by the world who descends into madness is reminiscent of Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker.

Faceless After Dark is also visually stunning, draped in striking neon bisexual lighting. The strobe warning at the film’s start is not to be taken lightly; those sensitive to this may have to pass on this.

As for everyone else, there’s no excuse to miss this smart, stylish exploration of psychological turmoil, exploitation, and “good-for-her” revenge fantasy.

FACELESS AFTER DARK is in select theaters and on digital platforms beginning May 17th. Make sure to watch until the very end for a couple of quite effective tags.
Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

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