The Last Matinee film review

The Last Matinee (2020)

⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars out of 5)

The Last Matinee (2020) Directed by Maximiliano Contenti

Effusive gialliesque tribute that surprises more times than not, it works analogously as any other stupid and hollow low budget 80’s slasher, where the gratuitous grotesqueness of the exacerbated violence is outrageously designed to enamor the fans of the genre. Premeditatedly this production is organized to give absolutely nothing substantial nor does it intend to have anything fresh and intelligent, it is intentionally exploitative, formally euphoric, and I would even dare to say anti-narrative, bluntly in essence, it is also a film that makes conscious use of the genre’s shortcomings and emphatically has fun with its implausibilities; the script has no clear destination in its narrative and its slasher methodology is even more farcical than many of the worst slasher films ever made, obviously these effective actions have a pragmatic personality, it avoids giving a fluid sense of storytelling, which in itself has no plot with argumentative content.

The film is just a collection of iconographic idiosyncrasies of slasher horror cinema, or rather a collage of everything that made this genre so memorable with all its flaws, it is elementally anticipations of brutal set pieces, one after another in a narrative vacuum, which is only sustained by the feverish enthusiasm of this film to transmit the vehemence of two genres that are narratively very compatible yet aesthetically very dissimilar. We are in an era where everything is retrospective, and lately it is already a recurring trend to make horror films that evoke other iconic eras, and The Last Matinee enters into that same dynamic with noisy flaws but significantly brings a great deal of kinetic panache that is intensely entertaining. Not a sterling example of how to resurrect the past, but it is nonetheless an extreme exhibition of wild fusions, ranging from the baroque ornamentation of an Italian exploitation film to the provocative sleaze of American slashers.

Being a film that opts for visual anarchy, and dramatic trifles, it inevitably has sequences that feel anemic, starting with its abusively long first act, which prolongs a dull mimicry of unbalanced comedy that despotically prevents the goddamn movie from getting started. Still, it’s worth the wait, worth the time invested in acting blandness and amateurish dialogue, because what comes next is like candy to a child, metaphorically referring to the genre’s insatiable fans (myself included).

In 1993 in Montevideo, in a decaying movie theater during a stormy night, a mysterious man dressed in a black trench coat enters one of the rooms. Later, Ana, a young daughter of the projection manager, arrives to relieve her father of his shift due to his delicate medical condition. Although the father protests at first, he agrees to step down since his daughter knows how to operate the projector and has experience from a very young age. During the screening of a thriller called “Frankenstein: Day of the Beast”; the hooded man kills an old man who was in the room while other attendees, such as a couple on a date, a boy who snuck into the show, a girl waiting for her partner and three teenagers Goni, Esteban and Angela, watch the movie. Each of them will live an electric nightmare locked in the claustrophobia of the celluloid, trying to survive…

When the slaughter inside a dark, nostalgic and grungy film theatre stops being stealthy and languid, that’s when the bloody exhilaration takes its course and simply doesn’t stop. Sinuous steadicam movements and vertiginous lighting contrast the primary colors, densifying the tenebrous atmosphere of a cinema of sedative darkness, where the miraculous volumetric light of a glorious 35mm projector exhibiting a horror film seems to reflect the terrifying beauty of a film within a film. Director Maximiliano Contenti guarantees gory fun and kinetic razzmatazz, but in parallel he also guarantees a contemplation brimming with longing, nostalgia that cinephilia will automatically capture in symbols that are scattered in every corner of this film, like the cozy sensation of being immersed in the hypnotic experience of a cinema, and the sour premonition of its imminent decadence.

It’s the kind of film that promises no more than it can deliver, knows well enough the dangerous limitlessness of exploitation cinema and never breaks the barriers of bad taste, it’s a love letter to the irreplaceable pleasure of watching movies in a movie theater and a silly but effective tribute to the stylistic excesses of the genre. There is no plot, it’s an eccentric exercise that locks us in the cinema chapel with a bloodthirsty, black leather-gloved, eye-hungry psychopath, no motive, no mystery, no plot development, just a jumble of vicious set pieces. Long live movie theaters!


Matteo Bedon

Written by

When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them. Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.

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