If you’re a fan of 80s and 90s slasher films, reliable Dark Star Pictures has a treat for you: Maximiliano Contenti’s explosive new feature, The Last Matinee. Evoking gory and suspenseful Italian Giallo horror mixed with the stalk-and-slash of greats like Friday the 13th and Halloween, The Last Matinee reminds us that sometimes keeping it simple is the key to genre success. Set in 1993 Montevideo, entirely in the doors of a movie theater, we follow a variety of the patrons and employees as a mysterious killer infiltrates a film screening. All hell breaks loose as this man begins picking off the patrons in increasingly nasty methods.
Setting a horror film in a movie theater is nothing new (see: Lamberto Bava’s 1985 masterpiece Demons), but The Last Matinee at least aims to be the best of the hugely popular slasher subgenre that share this setting. The film uses every area of the theatergoing experience to its full advantage, and I can only imagine that seeing this in a theater would practically make this an immersive experience. A line early on where an employee remarks “I’m not paid enough for this” is a grossly-accurate portrayal of the lazy subset of real-life theatre employees. A patron who loves watching movies he knows nothing about (“it’s exciting!”) is relatable and very clever writing. Palpable tension, especially in the second half, is made even bolder thanks to the confined specificity of the movie theater setting.
The biggest selling point are those gnarly kills. This is one gross movie that holds nothing back, complete with tons of blood (and even some jizz!) and some eye-popping visuals. Making many of these characters into mere moviegoing stereotypes (disruptive obnoxious drunk kids! insufferable woman who thinks it’s okay to smoke in an auditorium!) was a smart decision that makes the elaborate, brutal death scenes that much more enjoyable to watch. Each kill is visceral, intense and gory. The brutality reminded me of 2005’s High Tension. The pace is lightning-fast, and these moments of unpredictability are a satisfying payoff. When we get to a chase scene complete with 80’s synth music, it’s hard not to be practically giddy with glee.
The killer stays shrouded in darkness for most of the runtime, showcasing mystery and intrigue. Maximiliano Contenti, who both writes and directs, clearly has an affinity for the 80’s. His attention to detail makes all the difference. Punctuated by graphic death scenes, a shadow-drenched raincoat killer, and a score injected with banging 80’s synth beats, The Last Matinee is masterfully-executed throwback horror.
The Last Matinee hits screens on Friday, August 6th, with on demand release to follow on Tuesday, August 24th.