Faces in the Crowd (2011)
Written and directed by Julian Magnat
It’s easy to see why Faces in the Crowd is bypassing theaters and heading straight to DVD. It ought to just skip DVD and debut on the Lifetime Network where it belongs. That’s exactly what this is - a lame Lifetime Network original movie with a bigger budget, better name actors, and slicker direction. Not only do you have the disease-of-the-week melodrama of a woman trying to get her life back together after being stricken with a life-altering ailment, she also finds herself at the mercy of a sociopathic stalker out to make her his next victim. This is the quintessential Lifetime Network movie all wrapped up in a nice glossy bow.
The disease in question is “face blindness”, an actual brain disorder that causes a form of amnesia making it impossible to remember faces. Even your own face in the mirror will never look the same way. There is no cure so one has to learn to cope with the disease by learning to distinguish friends and family by their clothing or focusing on one particular distinguishing feature that never changes.
Writer-director Julian Magnat (Bloody Mallory) visualizes his heroine’s condition via special effects that superimpose the same face on multiple heads or by using different actors in the same role. At first these mind-bending devices succeed in being kind of unsettling and conveying a good sense of her daily disorientation. It doesn’t take long before it just becomes a manipulative gimmick that raises questions the movie doesn’t address. If this disorder only affects faces, then why would their hair and body type change as well? Why doesn’t she recognize voices?
The most likely answer is because this movie is designed to be so predictably trite you better believe the climax whips out the worn out which-is-which twin routine with the killer and the cop dressed in identical clothing, leaving her unsure which one of them she should shoot because her face blindness makes it impossible for her to tell them apart otherwise. Yep, it goes there.
Milla Jovovich spends the entire movie in total damsel-in-distress mode as kindergarten teacher Anna, the only survivor of a serial killer known by the ridiculous moniker “Tearjerk Jack”. If I understood correctly, he earned his silly moniker because of his m.o. of weeping over the corpses of the women he’s raped and murdered. Not sure how anyone would know that fact since the only witnesses are dead, and I’d like to believe if they’ve collected teardrops off of the dead bodies, the cops should have his DNA on file. Maybe I missed something along the way. I was struggling to pay attention by the hour mark.
Anna narrowly survives the attack only to fall off a bridge. The bonk she took on the head during the fall has left her with Prosopagnosia, the brain defect better known as face blindness. The cops want her to identify the killer, but she can’t remember faces. She just wants to try to go on with her life, but that’s not so easy when everyone always looks like a stranger. Of course the killer also knows who she is, putting her in constant danger because she can be standing there talking to him and she wouldn’t know it because she can’t remember his face.
If the premise of Faces in the Crowd sounds familiar, then odds are you’ve seen similar early 1990’s thrillers Jennifer 8 and Blink. Both are about women with vision impairments at the mercy of a serial killer who fall in love with the cop trying to protect them.
Anna has a live-in boyfriend (Michael Shanks) from whom she is trying to hide the severity of her condition, fearing that she’ll scare him off, but we know that won’t work out because hunky cop Julian McMahon is waiting to be her shining knight. Don’t you just love how protecting a witness being stalked by a serial killer involves a handsome single policeman and a beautiful witness having to spend the night together all alone at a romantic lake house? Anna may not be able to recover from face blindness, but her broken heart sure mended quickly.
Their romance is easily the crummiest aspect of a film marketed as a terrifying thriller that spends entirely too much time working to be anything but. I again refer back to my Lifetime Network movie comparison. I’d dare say about two thirds of Faces in the Crowd’s bloated running time is her going to therapy and trying to cope with her condition, not the maniac after her. The serial killer side of the story is treated as such a minor subplot early on Magnat has to repeatedly resort to cheap nightmare sequences to remind us this is supposed to be a suspenseful film.
For hardcore Milla Jovovich fans and Lifetime Network movie enthusiasts only. Everyone else can forget this face.
1 1/2 out of 5