Arrow Film Review – The Last Matinee (2020)

It’s a neon-bathed rainy night in early 90’s Montevideo. An eclectic smattering of filmgoers has gathered in the Opera cinehouse to watch shlock Hammer homage  Frankenstein: Day of the BeastOnly a stowaway kid is paying attention to the movie. The rest are chugging vodka and chatting shit, sheltering from the deluge outside, chain-smoking, speed dating, or getting an indifferent hand job.

When a black-gloved psycho unleashes a brutal assault in the aisles you can’t help but think most of them kind of deserve it. A pair of plucky young women must join forces to defeat the hooded menace and keep their eyeballs in their sockets instead of bobbing about in his beloved pickle jar.

Maximiliano Contenti‘s enjoyable horror flick is an unashamed hybrid of Giallo and slasher that hits the mark for campy fun and gruesome practical gore. Gloriously meta, the killer is played by the director of the movie screening as a backdrop to the slaughter, The Last Matinee is refreshingly dismissive of conventional logic.

Although the carnage takes place in 1993 the film showing was not actually released until 2011 and just how does the maniac transport his giant receptacle of scooped out peepers? However, backstory accuracy and plot sense are seldom essential components of the genres being pillaged here, and as such, The Last Matinee is being faithful to its roots.

Derivative to the max, it’s a movie consumed by the desire to evoke tactile memories of a golden era of horror. Even the name of the fleapit we are thrust into as voyeurs of violence is a direct reference to a vintage Dario Argento flick. All the Giallo checkboxes you would expect are marked off with deep red ticks. Hooded stalkers, pulsating electronic score, neon color palette, and stylishly staged murders are all present and correct.

The current trend for all things Euro sleaze, and more markedly Giallo homage, is startling in both its ubiquity and embodiment. It’s not just from one end of the financial spectrum either, some of the legions of directors influenced by its lurid intensity have managed to tap into the mainstream too.

On the one hand, we have the homespun idiosyncrasies of the endlessly creative Crystal Eyes and the narratively audacious Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes, and on the other the hysterical horror juggernaut of Malignant and the aesthetic overload of Last Night in Soho.

It is perfectly natural for filmmakers to reference their inspirations on screen, however, mining even the richest of genre seams too fervently leads to oversaturation. We are reaching a tipping point that may see a call to just go seek out the original masterpieces instead of embracing modernised blueprints.

That being said, The Last Matinee goes about its business with such impish charm and compact simplicity that its ocular-based madness remains engaging as a stand-alone slasher picture. The film’s intrinsic energy, bookended with evocative set pieces of devilishly stark contrast, it is impossible not to recognise its creative bravado and overlook the spectre of originative latency. 

For Giallo aficionados, The Last Matinee represents a nostalgic comfort hug at the slippery hands of a black-gloved ripper. For slasher fans, it will be a welcome throwback to the days of grisly practical kills and nonsensical character decisions.

★★★

Giallo/Slasher | Uruguay | 2020 | 88 min | ARROW| Dir. Maximiliano Contenti | With: Ricardo Islas, Luciana Grasso, Franco Duran

THE LAST MATINEE will premiere on the alternative streaming service ARROW 1st December and appears on Limited Edition Blu-ray on 6th December.