The Last Stop in Yuma County Poster

The Last Stop in Yuma County (2023) Review – Fantastic Fest

Somewhere in Yuma County Arizona, sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, The Knife Salesman (Jim Cummings, The Block Island Sound, Halloween Kills) pulls into a gas station with his car running on fumes. Unfortunately, the station’s tanks are drier than his and the fuel truck is running late. As he sits waiting in his car, he hears news of a bank robbery on the radio.

Thus begins writer/director Francis Galluppi’s (High Desert Hell, The Gemini Project) debut feature, The Last Stop in Yuma County. Shortly after the sheriff (Michael Abbott Jr., The Dark and the Wicked, Organ Trail) drops his wife Charlotte (Jocelin Donahue, I Trapped the Devil, House of the Devil) off to open the diner, he decides to wait in there.

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As he and Charlotte make small talk, two other travellers needing gas Travis (Nicholas Logan, Summoning Sylvia, Dark Winds) and Beau (Richard Brake, R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned, Vesper) pull up. They’re not in the mood for small talk, they’re fleeing the scene of a lucrative bank heist and want to be on their way to Mexico. Suspicious, Charlotte tries to call her husband, which in turn makes them suspicious. Guns are drawn, leading to a hostage situation.

But that’s only the start of what The Last Stop in Yuma County has to offer. Because the gas truck still hasn’t shown up, and more and more people end up in the diner, each one adding another complication to the already volatile situation. Galluppi also gives the viewer one detail he didn’t give the characters, the fuel truck isn’t coming. In a beautifully macabre scene, the camera circles and inspects the truck with its dead driver lying on it’s side as the instrumental “Love is Blue” plays on the soundtrack.

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The soundtrack feels like a character, or a Greek chorus, at times with aptly placed tracks from Roy Orbison, Lou Christie and the Grass Roots. The Orbison tune, while I won’t spoil it, plays into one of the film’s best scenes, both incredibly tense but still grimly funny.

One of the things that prevents The Last Stop in Yuma County from becoming just another hostage film is the variety of people who end up at the diner. Among them are Gavin (Connor Paolo, Ambush, Stake Land) a Barney Fife type deputy, Miles (Ryan Masson, Dank Shadows, Proximity) and Sybil (Sierra McCormick, The Vast of Night, Exploited) a bickering young couple who have criminal ideas of their own and Native American Pete (Jon Proudstar, Deep Woods, Reservation Dogs).

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The Last Stop in Yuma County has an excellent cast, and we also get appearances by Barbara Crampton (Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls, Superhost), Sam Huntington (Kill Command, Fanboys), and Alex Essoe (Faceless, Midnight Mass). They manage to draw not just the suspense out of the script, but a considerable amount of very dark humour, much of which comes in the film’s blood and bullet filled last act.

For a film that wasn’t even on my radar, The Last Stop in Yuma County turned out to be a major surprise in a year more prone to major disappointments. Whether you want to call it a modern western, a neo-noir, or just a plain old thriller, Galluppi’s debut film is also one of the year’s best films.

The Last Stop in Yuma County had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest, and there’s an encore presentation on the 25th. You can get more information here. Its next screening is scheduled for the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival. There’s no word about a release yet, but it shouldn’t have any trouble finding a distributor.

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