24.3.11

There is no way 'The Last Horror Movie' would ever have worked.

There's plenty of ways to attack a review of 'The Last Horror Movie' - the preposterousness of much of the premise, the fact that the main character's shaky understanding of ethics leads to any number of dull diatribes on morality (seriously, this is the kind of blather you expect to hear coming from a slightly tipsy and wholly obnoxious first-year college taking an intro to philosophy course), most importantly, though, is that the film's very nature sabotages any chance it has of successfully creeping out an audience. Since that creeping out in the last five minutes is the film's only goal, this is a fairly key flaw.

That's the DVD cover. In moments, you'll understand both why the film reel that replaces the 'o' and the fact that this movie has a DVD cover at all are fundamental mistakes.

This is Max. He's a wedding photographer who sidelines as a cannibal serial killer in the greater London area. The conceit of the film is that he has rented (or 'hired', as the Brits, like him, say) a horror movie, then recorded over it so that someone who'd planned to spend an evening with a generic slasher film will wind up instead watching his experiment in film-school snuff.

In point of fact, the entire last ten minutes of the movie, in which Max outlines his master plan - he watches who rents his 'special' copy of the movie, follows them to their house, then interviews them about being complicit in the production of a snuff film, then kills them. As a result the movie ends with Max implying that he's entered the viewer's 'flat', and that it's only moments before they become part of 'the last horror movie' themselves. Which would be a little creepy, if the credits didn't roll five seconds later.

The film's central flaw is that it was produced in 2003. While it's true that video stores were still going strong in 2003 (they wouldn't erode until 2008), VHS wasn't such a popular format any more. Which means that anyone who watches this movie on a DVD isn't going to have the desired reaction. Likewise the movie can never work if shown in a theatre - just as Drive-In Massacre doesn't work when watched in the comfort of your own home.

Even the film's VHS packaging works against it. The only prayer this film had of succeeding at what it set out to do was if it had been packaged in such a way as to suggest that it actually was a movie about three escaped convicts murdering a bunch of sexy teens in a small town. Then, once they got it home, they'd be shocked by something that claims to be a snuff film - and they'd have no reason to doubt its claims... unless they weren't watching it on VHS in London (Max obviously isn't going to fly to Wisconsin to kill a cheesehead who rents the tape).

Is that a small target audience? Sure - but at least, under those circumstances, there existed the possibility that someone would have the desired experience - as it stands, there's no way you can get out of The Last Horror Movie anything it wants you to. Which is sad, because while it might have been a bad movie, it could have been an interesting experiment for people to take part in.

For the love of god, the filmmakers cared so little about verisimilitude that they didn't even artificially degrade the end of the film, despite the fact that, at that point in the story, it's been recorded over half-a-dozen times.

Come on, guys - even if the packaging was out of your hands, at least you could have had the self-respect to 100% commit to the actual film.

2 comments:

Robert said...

The description of the main "twist" for this movie, and the failure to account for the different scenarios in which the twist would need to occur for the film's life-cycle reminded me of a scene in Gremlins 2....yes, Gremlins 2.

Spoilers.

There is a scene in G2 in the theatrical release in which, during a scene featuring main-characters-exposition-dialogue, the film appears to catch in the old school projector reels, melt, and be replaced with the blinding white of the projector bulb shining onto the screen...after a few seconds, the voices of the gremlins can be heard over the speakers laughing, and then providing shadow puppets and brief commentary before the scene changes to a theater in the building that was overrun by Gremlins reacting to the film breaking and the gremlins harassing them.

It's hilarious for the initiated/unspoiled (well, to me, with my sense of humor).

When it come time for the VHS/DVD rental version, they replaced it with the gremlins interrupting the playback with static, and breaking into the TV (old school CRT), and switching the channels, and so on.

I loved that they had different versions, and maintained some integrity for the first generation of rental copies.

But keep in mind, Gremlins 2 was a parody of Gremlins, in its own right, and not a film intended to build on the nature of the first movie.

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