THE LAST MATINEE (2020) Reviews of retro cinema-set slasher

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The Last Matinee is a 2020 Uruguayan-Argentinian slasher horror film in which a maniac is loose in an almost empty cinema. Original title: Al morir la Matinée [translation: “When the Matinee Died”]. Also known as Red Screening 

Directed by Maximiliano Contenti (Neptunia; Muñeco viviente V) from a screenplay co-written with Manuel Facal, the movie stars Yuly Aramburu, Hugo Blandamuro, Daiana Carigi and Pedro Duarte.

Any room in the hearse for yet another self-referential tongue-in-cheek gore-horror chiller/tribute? Yes, there do seem way too many of them. However, the gimmick here is that the filmmaker doing the honours in The Last Matinee is not some Hollywood wannabe still counting Scream franchise returns or a backyard-video outfit from Staines in rainy Angleterre. No, it’s Uruguayan filmmaker Maximiliano Contenti setting his blood-soaked feature in a movie house in Montevideo, expressly in 1993 (which gets the plot a bit around elements such as mobile phones, and which also lends a twinge of analogue/VHS-era nostalgia).

A madman in a menacing hood and rain-slicker infiltrates the cinema. Amidst contemporary posters heavy with Spielberg dinosaur and robot-cop imagery, the afternoon show is an odd-looking English-language Frankenstein horror picture (against expectations, this is not a counterfeit but a real movie, Frankenstein: Day of the Beast, hailing from 2011 rather than 1993 but shot by another Uruguayan horror auteur, Ricardo Islas). The item has attracted only a meagre, motley smattering of patrons – a nervous man on a date with a very lascivious woman, some young street kids, and a grouchy old man, possibly a vagrant, who is rudely hustled out the door by an usher for staying through too many shows. Thus, he is lucky to survive what’s next…

The killer seals the exits and begins to murder the small staff and the filmgoers, with a sickening, sadistic appetite revealed only belatedly and serving as its own explanation for the rampage. For much of the narrative – which unreels practically in ‘real time’ – the small cast of characters have no idea that unspeakable mutilations and impalings are taking place in the aisles, sometimes coincident with the bloodletting on the screen.

Contenti puts the grisly narrative together with a sure hand and strong feel for the grand Guignol stuff, nice use of sound and scattered bits of humour to set off the shocks. Nonetheless, roundabout the one-hour mark the gruesome elements and minimal plot start to drag, and climactic scenes suffer an excessive use of slow-motion (there goes the real-time plotting out the window). Studious horror fans may invariably wind up comparing this to Lamberto Bava’s splattery cinema-set Demons (1985) and perhaps even the tacky American entry Drive-In Massacre (1976). Well, somebody has to, I suppose.

Though a bit of a twice-told tale, The Last Matinee at least assures Uruguay a place in the international retro-nostalgia slasher-tribute pantheons.

Charles Cassady Jr, MOVIES and MANIA

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