The Last Matinee (Al Morir la Matinée, Red Screening) is the latest in a long line of films where an audience looking for scares finds they aren’t on the screen, but in the seats with them. Films as varied as Demons, Popcorn and Anguish come to mind. Others, such as The Blob, An American Werewolf in London, and the criminally underrated Messiah of Evil have unforgettable scenes set in a cinema.
Now Uruguayan director Maximiliano Contenti (Muñeco Viviente V, Neptunia) and co-writer Manuel Facal (Achuras, Achuras 2: Feto Voodoo) have combined a love for giallo and slasher cinema and a love of the theatres themselves in The Last Matinee. at times the theatre is as much a character as any of the humans.
It’s 1993 and Uruguay’s capital city of Montevideo is suffering under a cold rain. At the Cine Opera, the last regular show of the day is letting out. Next up is a special showing of Frankenstein – Day of the Beast, (this is a real film though, from 2011, not 1993. Its director, Ricardo Islas, plays the killer).
“I wanted to make a film that was a tribute to these two forms of horror cinema but I also wanted to pay tribute to the movie theatre, to the ceremony of going to see a movie in a theatre, to the dark, to the mystery that projections have, which is something we may be saying goodbye to”Maximiliano Contenti director of The Last Matinee
Up in the projection booth, Ana (Luciana Grasso, Mucama de Vampiros ) has taken over for her ill father. The small crowd settles in. Some drunk teens, a couple on their first date, Thomas (Franco Duran) a young boy who snuck in. And a man in a trench coat and leather gloves…
The Last Matinee takes the visual and audio stylings of a giallo, the leather-gloved killer, key scenes bathed in neon coloured lighting, and occasionally pulsing score. It mixes them with the uncomplicated plot and seemly unstoppable killer from an 80s slasher. Then it adds a dose of gore either genre would be proud of.
Granted the film takes its time getting to that gore, a jar full of eyes is all we get in the first half-hour. Then we get a vicious throat-slitting that lets loose blood and cigarette smoke in equal amounts. It’s a taste of what’s to come as the remaining viewers and staff find themselves locked in with a killer. A killer determined to stab, bludgeon and mutilate all of them.
The practical effects by Christian Gruaz are about as good as it gets and are the film’s highlight. A scene where the killer has to perform a bit of impromptu surgery on himself being a particular stand-out.
Since The Last Matinee takes its plot cues from slashers, the stories and characters have no real depth to them. We know nothing about the killer at the start or end of the film. The characters are sketched out just enough to let us know if we should hope for their survival, or cheer their death.
As the obvious final girl, Grasso delivers the requisite doses of cuteness and likeability. She’s also one of the few cast members who had previous film experience, something that unfortunately is impossible to overlook at times. That doesn’t stop it from building up to a tense final act as Ana and Thomas fight to survive until the police arrive.
There’s nothing new or groundbreaking about The Last Matinee. It was intended as an homage to the genre’s old school and that’s exactly what it is. It just needs some bare breasts to be the dream film of every teenage boy who was a horror fan in the 80s. And in a time where more and more slashers are bloodless and dull like Joker Scarecrow and Sleepaway Slasher, we need that reminder of what the genre should be.
Already released in its home country and Germany The Last Matinee will be playing North American festivals ahead of a summer release from Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting. You can also check out the film’s website, it’s in Spanish, but that’s what Google translate is for.