Faceless (1987) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Faceless (1987) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on February 22nd, 2022 | Movie Review | Drama, Medical, Mystery, Gore, Body Horror, Mad Scientist

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It’s about a mad scientist who devotes his maniacal ends to nearly-lifeless tissue.

Faceless was directed by Jesús Franco (Snakewoman, Killer Barbys, and White Cannibal Queen). It stars Helmut Berger (The Bloodstained Butterfly and The Biggest Battle), Brigitte Lahaie (Fascination and Calvaire), and Telly Savalis (Kojak! and also Horror Express, Cape Fear, and The Killer is on the Phone). 

Can Docteur Flamand avoid capture for his plastic surgery shenanigans?

Faceless Review

In the 19th century, Mary Shelly extended scientific ambitions to their logical conclusion; monstrosity. Mix body parts, some test tubes, and electricity and “poof!” you’ve got a creature. In 1818, the greatest ambition of a scientist imaginable was to recreate life. 

Life – that which separates rot from breath – is just as elusive now as then. Except now we don’t care. We’ve lost interest in life. We care about power; beauty. Whatever it is that gives the power of generation is still unknown. But life is as medieval; outdated; uninteresting.  Curiosity about life is as old-fashioned as alchemist nerds and steampunk vixens. 

Life itself is old fashioned. In the 1980’s this was true, and even more so. In the 1980’s, beauty and power were not just attractive. They were everything. Indeed, beauty and power were equivalent. To be beautiful was power.  And for women, the only path to power was physical beauty. Thus, for men, the primary means by which to achieve power would be to market beauty to women. A commodity of riches.  

This is the premise of Faceless: A selfish doctor who sells beauty to rich, aging women. He lures young women like Caroline Munro into his clinic, drugs them, and sells their skin to aging socialites. It’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus for 1988. Faceless is a 1980’s Frankenstein

I wonder if centuries from now when a history student asks his professor, “What were the 1980’s like?” whether the professor will respond: “Just watch Jesús Franco’s Faceless.” The helicopter shots of Manhattan; the soundtrack of a Wham! tribute band – they really sum up that decade. 

So, that’s the premise: a white-coated doctor without a moral compass who extracts beauty from young women and transfers it – for a profit – to his aging clientele. 

Is that enough to sustain a movie? Sort of. Franco felt he needed to throw in some trash – gratuitous S&M, a Nazi doc, an Igor-type, and a power tool tormentor – to sustain the viewer’s interest. There’s also a private eye angle. But there’s a reason Franco is known as trashy. He confirms the label rather proudly.

Worth Watching?

Honestly, no. Faceless is not worth your time. Unless you’re studying the vibe of the 1980’s.

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