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Heckle (2020) Review

Heckle opens with the murder of superstar comedian Ray Kelly (Steve Guttenberg, Break Even, Police Academy) and his much younger wife. Followed by the announcement ten years later that Joe Johnson (Guy Combes, Rookie, Kill Ben Lyk) has been chosen to star in his biography. Johnson’s ecstatic as Kelly was his inspiration to become a comedian. But his good mood is quickly ruined, however, when he becomes the target of an aggressive heckler during his show. His angry response scares them into silence, or so he thinks.

Then the phone calls start, and the feeling that he’s being watched. Hoping to take his mind off of it, he and his girlfriend Evelyn (Madison Clare) head off to a 80s themed Halloween party. When they stop along the way, he gets another call, and this time it’s obvious the caller is in the bar with him. But that’s nothing compared to the horrors waiting for him at the party.

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Heckle was directed by Martyn Pick (Blood Clots, Evil Never Dies) and written by Airell Anthony Hayles, who wrote and co-directed They’re Outside. Unfortunately, they seem uncertain of what kind of film they’re making. Almost nothing happens in the first half except for a couple of displays of just how big of an asshole Ray was, and how big of a one Joe, and almost everyone around him, is.

The phone calls themselves don’t sound overly threatening, no matter what the caller says or how much knowledge of Johnson’s life they reveal. The other attempts at putting the viewer on edge similarly fall flat, mostly due to poor execution. That and the fact in what would have been Heckle’s most disturbing scene, you just know it’s all bluff and the filmmakers won’t actually go there.

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Once we get to the party, Heckle turns into a slasher film, but since we know almost none of the guests apart from Joe and Evelyn, there’s no reason to care who lives or dies. If the stalking and killing was handled with some flair, that might have at least partially made up for it. Unfortunately they’re bland with little in the way of build up and while they’re not bloodless the effects aren’t impressive and the camera quickly cuts away from them.

In its last act, Heckle does throw out a bit of a twist and goes back to the opening murder. The Christmas setting could have given it a Silent Night, Deadly Night vibe, but like every other opportunity the film has to impress, that’s wasted too. The ultimate explanation for what’s going on is, to put it mildly, confusing and ridiculous. To add insult to injury, the film’s final resolution is an extremely tired cliché.

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Steve Guttenberg does get a fair amount of screen time as the dead comedian, but he really doesn’t do much besides swear, smoke and die. There’s also appearances by Dani Dyer (We Still Kill the Old Way, Vendetta), the late Clark Gable III, Grandson of the real Clark Gable, and singer/actress Toyah Willcox (The Ghosts of Borley Rectory, Invasion Planet Earth) to try and keep things interesting.

Heckle could have been an interesting and offbeat thriller, and should have been a serviceable slasher outing at the worst. Instead, it manages to consistently misfire and waste potentially good ideas and situations. The result is a film that doesn’t just deserve to be heckled, it deserves to be booed off the screen.

Heckle made its debut as part of 2020s FrightFest and is now available on Digital and VOD platforms via Uncork’d Entertainment. You can check their Facebook page for more details.

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