Anna Marchant (Milla Jovovich) was a schoolteacher living an ordinary life, she had moved in with her businessman boyfriend recently, nice apartment, and liked to spend time with her two friends, one a nymphomaniac (Valentina Vargas) and the other single, but with a serious Martini habit (Sarah Wayne Callies). It was after an evening in a bar with them that Anna was walking home through the streets when she noticed a couple canoodling nearby; she did not see the man's face but the woman appeared to be enjoying herself. That was until Anna heard the slash of a razor and looked around to witness the woman being raped and murdered: the city's notorious serial killer had struck again!
Every so often, some time after their nineteen-seventies heyday, filmmakers will attempt to revive the Italian giallo format of horror thrillers, often movies with farfetched solutions to their mysteries. Director Brian De Palma was the most visible of them carrying the torch for giallo, but Faces in the Crowd was an international co-production from director Julien Magnat (who returned to screenwriting after this flopped) that was intent on outdoing him on just how preposterous they could make their picture and still make it enjoyable. Make no mistake, it was not a good movie, not at all, but could make bad movie fans laugh long and loud at what passed for its thrills and spills.
First up, the premise: Milla has face blindness. She gets this from cracking her head when she falls off the bridge while escaping from the killer, who carries the awkward nickname Tearjerk Jack thanks to his habit of crying while carrying out his crimes, not with laughter, surprisingly. Anyway, she wakes up in hospital unable to recognise the phizogs of her boyfriend and her two gal pals, but she is the only person alive who has witnessed the killer going about his crimes, so it is imperative the cops find a way of jogging her memory. That they do this by encouraging her to identify his arse in an identity parade should offer some indication of precisely how hilarious this was able to get.
Anyway, the actual murderer could only be one other character, so as a whodunit this was far too telegraphed. As a comedy, however, it was funnier than many intentional efforts in that genre, not least for Milla's love interest Julian McMahon, who played the world's worst police detective and is the only one apart from Jovovich whose face doesn't change - not because she recognises his painted-on black eyebrows, but because of his light brown, doesn't match his hair goatee. This meant you had a thriller that not only had Chekov's gun, it also had Chekov's goatee, Chekov's stripy tie and Chekov's text message, among other examples of heavy plot foreshadowing. In addition, there was Marianne Faithfull as a therapist who only had to turn up for a couple of scenes and dub her voice over other little old blonde lady actresses playing Anna's confused visions.
When you see Faithfull was playing someone called "H. Langenkamp" for no good reason other than to point out Magnat's appreciation of the star of A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was a signal that you were in for some prime absurdity, and Faces in the Crowd didn't let fans of the ludicrous down one jot. From Anna spending her time at her teaching job seemingly chasing her young charges around the school to her finding a new appreciation for sex because it feels like she is shagging a different man every night (!), you were left wondering how much more stupid this could get, and how much more of an insult to people who genuinely do suffer face blindness it could be. Needless to say, there was precious little scientific in its depiction here, and was about as convincing an affliction as Madeleine Stowe's similar condition in nineties thriller Blink, also a daft movie, but this one took the biscuit in the unbelievably silly stakes, right up to an ending that was supposed to be poignant, but merely had you wondering why they didn't put a goatee on the little girl and be done with it. Music by John McCarthy.