- 1 hr 38 min
Faceless, released in 1988, is a European horror-thriller that delves into the dark and gruesome underbelly of high society and the stark horrors of an underground medical world. The film boasts an international cast, including the Austrian-born actor Helmut Berger, French actress and former adult film star Brigitte Lahaie, and the legendary Greek-American actor Telly Savalas in one of his final film roles. The film is directed by Jesús Franco, a prolific and controversial filmmaker known for his work in the exploitation and horror genres.
The narrative revolves around a Parisian clinic run by the enigmatic and charming plastic surgeon, Dr. Frank Flamand, played with a suave yet sinister edge by Helmut Berger. Dr. Flamand is renowned for his miraculous work in facial reconstruction, a talent that brings the elite and the damaged to his doorstep in search of beauty and a second chance at life. His practice is not only financially lucrative but also covers darker, more illicit activities happening behind the closed doors of his clinic.
A twist of fate throws Dr. Flamand's carefully constructed world into chaos when a failed kidnapping leaves a young woman horrifically disfigured. This sets off a chain of events that pulls the audience into a nightmarish quest as the doctor becomes obsessively driven to restore what was lost. Together with his equally ambitious and coldly stunning girlfriend, Nathalie, played by Brigitte Lahaie, and a hulking, disfigured henchman, the doctor embarks on a grim and morally desolate journey.
In the midst of this spiraling descent is Ingrid Flamand, Dr. Flamand's sister, who manages the clinic and its day-to-day operations. Ingrid brings another layer to the unfolding plot, allowing for a family dynamic that is both tense and revealing as the clinic's hidden facets come to light under increasing scrutiny and pressure. Her loyalty and complicity are tested as they navigate the ever-growing web of criminality and desperation.
Adding to the film's gravitas is the presence of Telly Savalas, who portrays the character of Terry Hallen, a private investigator hired to probe the case of the disfigured woman. Hallen's dogged investigation provides a contrasting perspective to the unraveling madness, serving as a bastion of rationality against the gory, unfathomable practices that Dr. Flamand represents. With a keen eye and relentless determination, Hallen's character reflects the traditional hard-boiled detective archetype, adding a layer of suspense and justice-seeking intrigue.
Faceless is characterized by its hybrid genre elements, combining the giallo tradition with the macabre and morbid fascination of body horror. The film doesn't shy away from explicit scenes and shock value, often pushing the boundaries of comfort with its graphic depiction of surgery and violence. The atmosphere is thick with a sense of forboding and claustrophobia, while the moody, stylized cinematography encapsulates the audience in a world where the beautiful and the grotesque collide.
Jesús Franco's direction ensures that Faceless is populated with his trademark elements: a compelling yet disturbing storyline, sleazy undertones, and an undeniable flair for visually arresting scenes that are both horrific and artistically crafted. Franco's ability to weave eroticism with horror creates a tension that keeps viewers simultaneously repelled and captivated by the gruesome narrative unfolding before them.
The score of Faceless, with its chilling and sometimes ethereal melodies, complements the film's dark themes and intensifies the moods of dread and suspense that permeate the plot. As the narrative progresses, the soundtrack serves as both a companion and a herald to the increasingly deranged events that spiral towards a chilling crescendo.
A particular mention also goes to the special effects makeup which is both impressive and unsettling, crucial for a film where the manipulation of flesh and the grotesque alterations of the human form are central to the plot. The practical effects contribute an authentic, visceral edge to the horrors that unfold, at times leaving little to the imagination and providing a stark realism to the body horror sequences.
Faceless is not for the faint of heart; it is a film that will appeal to fans of cult horror who can appreciate the blend of artful cinematography and the explicit demonstration of gore. The movie offers a commentary on the obsession with beauty, the lengths to which people will go to obtain or maintain it, and the ultimate cost of vanity. It's a disturbing exploration of the moral abyss that might lie just beneath the polished surface of high society, pulled into the light by a director unafraid to confront the viewer with the visceral reality of physical corruption and the human capacity for evil.