The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Arrow] - THE LAST MATINEE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Arrow] - THE LAST MATINEE

the last matinee review
A maniac kills off the staff and patrons of a cinema.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Maximiliano Contenti

Starring: Luciana Grasso, Ricardo Islas, Julieta Spinelli, Franco Durán

the last matinee poster

Cinemas have featured heavily in horror movies down the decades. William Castle went meta by letting The Tingler loose in a cinema, both on screen and in the actual real life cinemas showing that movie, with seats rigged up to deliver electric shocks to patrons. Willard Hyuck's masterpiece Messiah of Evil utilised a cinema auditorium in a terrifying homage to Hitchcock's The Birds. Lamberto Bava's Demons sees its tiular baddies run amok in a German picture palace. Both versions of The Blob have their eponymous monster attack movie theatres. More recently, indie horrors Porno and Nightmare Cinema have employed a cinema setting.

The movies Uruguayan thriller The Last Matinee apes most heavily are 1991's Popcorn and Bigas Luna's 1987 thriller Anguish. Like both of those movies, The Last Matinee sees the patrons and staff of a cinema bumped off by a psychopath. It even goes so far as to borrow Anguish's killer's modus operandi of stealing his victim's eyeballs.

the last matinee review

Based on its neon drenched aesthetic, director Maximiliano Contenti would likely prefer to have his film compared with '80s Italian thrillers like Dario Argento's Inferno and Opera (a poster for the latter displayed prominently in the lobby of his fictional cinema) and Michele Soavi's Stage Fright. With the aid of his cinematographer Benjamín Silva, Contenti certainly nails the surface aesthetic of such movies, but in terms of crafting suspenseful sequences he falls significantly short of the Italian masters.

Set in 1993, likely for a combination of nostalgia and dispensing with those pesky cellphones, The Last Matinee defies its title by setting its action in the evening. Student Ana (Luciana Grasso) relieves her sickly father from his job at their family run cinema in downtown Montevideo. Settling into a night of studying in between reel changes, Ana is initially unaware that her customers are being butchered by a maniac in a hooded raincoat, who removes his victim's eyes and keeps them in a jar, later chomping on them like pickles.

the last matinee review

The patrons/victims are a generic bunch. There's an old homeless duffer, a couple on what seems like an awkward first date, and a trio of teens. We spend a considerable amount of time in their presence, with close to an hour passing before the action finally ramps up, but the movie never does enough to make us care about any of them before they get massacred.

The same can be said for the villain, who has no defining features or backstory. We don't get so much as a news bulletin warning of an escaped maniac. He seems to have no motivations beyond his hunger for a crunchy eyeball.

the last matinee review

Save for a clever moment in which a victim is bludgeoned in a projector as their blood stains the cinema screen red, Contenti stages his kills in uninspired fashion, and the editing is often confusing. The director also struggles to make the most of his limited location. A cinema auditorium is essentially a big open space, so it's baffling how nobody is noticing the killer at work. Contenti's failure to establish the geography of the setting means that when the finale kicks in we're never sure of where the killer is in relation to his potential victims, erasing much of the potential tension and suspense. The soundtrack - a selection of synthwave tracks - is clunkily deployed, with music just dropped over scenes with no real attention to how it might compliment the editing.

The Last Matinee is clearly a love letter to horror movies of the past, but it's penned with an unsteady hand. Ironically, the film within the film - which appears to pay homage to the Spanish horrors of cult filmmakers like Jess Franco and Paul Naschy - seems more well crafted than the stylish but unconvincing nod to Italian horror that plays host to it.

The Last Matinee
 is on Arrow from December 1st.

2021 movie reviews