The surgeon, Dr. Génessier, is cutting off their faces to graft them onto his daughter, Christiane. She was injured in a terrible car accident. She appears to have healed from all her wounds, except her face, which was torn clean off. She is forced to wear a creepy white mask for most of the film, but we do get to see her actual face once.
I put off watching this film for years because it actually sounded too scary for me. But it's not really scary. The film actually shows the surgery and doesn't cut away during the actual incisions like I thought it would. It looks way too simplistic for what it would actually take to transfer a person's face to someone else. The first real-life successful face transplant wasn't until 2005. I thought the makeup was pretty great especially at this part. One scene shows the pictures displaying the progress of her body rejecting her new face and the makeup used here looks almost modern.
The main thing that takes away from the enjoyment of the film is the police officers' complete incompetence. They have an idea of who is kidnapping the women and send someone as a decoy to the hospital where Dr. Génessier works. They should have sent an undercover officer or someone who was completely aware of the situation and knew what to do. Instead, they chose a woman almost at random, did not inform her of the situation or the danger involved, and didn't even follow up until much later when she is captured. She could have died and it would have been their fault. You would think they would have known better.
Christiane is the saddest character in the film. Understandably, she hates living without a face, and her own father has claimed her as dead. She lives as a human guinea pig for her father, who also cuts up dogs for experiments. The dogs love Christiane, who comes to visit them. Christiane uses this against her father and sets all the dogs free. Finally I have an answer to the song, Who let the dogs out?. It seems strangely fitting that the first real-life recipient of a face transplant was a victim of a dog mauling. Strange. I will give this film a 7/10.