A man in a horrifying clown mask pursues a woman in an abandoned warehouse, his maniacal laughter echoing through the chambers as the two engage in a tense physical altercation. No, this isn’t a scene from “Terrifier,” but a sequence from Raymond Wood’s “Faceless After Dark,” whose metanarrative connections with the 2016 Damien Leone slasher converge in Jenna Kanell’s Bowie Davidson.

Kanell’s Bowie gets her acting break after starring in a killer clown B-movie — titled “Flesh Eating Freaks” — but the toxicity that comes with the obsessive, dangerous pockets of the fandom leaves her frustrated and on edge. This simmering rage is anchored by the film’s opening, where a close-up of Bowie looking straight into the camera intrigues and haunts, her expressive face bathed in multicolored strobes of light that tint our perception of her with tentative concern.

A pointed sense of discontent defines Bowie’s presence as we get to know her, and it is clear that her niche stardom has come at a heavy, unfair price. Senseless harassment on social media hounds her, along with deeply misogynistic male fans who project their loser-coded fantasies onto Bowie as if she is just a pliant extension of her character without meaningful agency.

Surrounded by those who are doing significantly better in their careers, such as the well-meaning Ryan (Danny Kang), who disappoints her by casting someone else in his project, and her condescending lover Jessica (Danielle Lyn), an accomplished actress who makes snide remarks about her B-movie success, Bowie’s rein over self-control slips ever so slowly. Between hastily recorded Cameo requests and unsatisfactory typecast auditions, Bowie spirals inside her swanky apartment, letting loose just a tiny bit by channeling her rage into smashing a 1.5-star framed review of her film and setting it on fire.

Faceless After Dark (2024) Movie Review
A still from Faceless After Dark (2024)

Things take an aggressively unsavory turn when an obsessive fan breaks into her home, seemingly bent on killing with a pair of giant pliers while donning a battered clown mask. These moments of anxiety-riddled suspense are artfully done: Bowie’s drink-addled vision adds to the precarious nature of the horrifying situation, where she scrambles to charge an old Samsung phone to call 911, only for the power to be shut off before she is ambushed from behind.

The power struggle between the two — as clumsy as it feels in comparison to films that deal with similar tropes and themes — feels visceral, especially when she unmasks the man and threatens him with a prop cleaver. We root for her even when she slashes the assailant’s neck, who claims to be an innocent fan too caught up in a twisted fantasy, and calmly clears up the evidence of his arrival and speaks to the authorities to evade suspicion, cool as a cucumber.

What occurs after this pivotal juncture is best experienced as articulation robs most of the impetus that comes with such a shocking 180, where rage and artistic madness coalesce to give way to ruthless, cathartic revenge. As satisfying as some of these ideas are, an unpracticed sense of awkwardness lurks beneath the surface, as the film does not quite know what it wants to be.

Perhaps its hamartia is that it wishes to don too many masks, where only some aspects work at the expense of others, and Kanell’s raw, unhinged turn as Bowie is not enough to salvage the haphazard vision embedded forcefully into the narrative. There are glimmers of perfection, especially in how the tables of established tropes are overturned, with Bowie sinking deeper into the pit of rage and retribution she has dug for herself, coolly confident in her warped, violent swan song that she gifts to the world.

Is there any rhyme or reason for the way a person might snap? Yes and no. Kanell is intoxicating to witness when she reveals what her character is truly capable of, and even when Bowie’s actions make little sense, Kanell fills in the gaps with an overwhelming intensity that lingers even after the credits roll. There is a kernel of mirrored truth in the way the film exposes the rotten underbelly of fame, rife with unsolicited, vitriolic expressions by certain parts of society, especially towards women who are seen as blank slates for the projection of these dangerous instincts.

Although some moments hammer down on these sentiments full throttle, with honesty and point-blank rage, others feel strangely tacked on, such as the impressionistic edits that cram in half-hearted social commentary about the rage-inducing state of the world we live in. These insincere aspects only feel pretentious, warping the kinetic, beating heart of a slasher-horror that could have been infinitely more.

Read More: 15 Great Psychological Crime Thrillers with Shocking Plot Twists

Faceless After Dark (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
Faceless After Dark (2024) Movie Cast: Jenna Kanell, Danny Kang, Danielle Lyn, Jason MacDonald, Catherine Corcoran, Max Calder, Michael Aaron Milligan, Kathrine Barnes, Alexis Louder, Israel Vaughan, Erin Day, Jason-Jamal Ligon, Jeff Sprauve, Vance Kanell
Faceless After Dark (2024) Movie Genre: Mystery & Thriller/Horror | Runtime: 1h 23m
Where to watch Faceless After Dark

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