What is so magical about going to the cinema? Is it the giant screen that allows us to get lost in the world of the film? Is it the dark and immersive environment that takes all the distractions away? Or maybe it is the incredible smell of that popcorn along with a feel of wonderment? I still get bewitched by the movie theater experience and I love films that highlight such wonderful experiences. But what if a film decided to bastardize that magical experience? Not only that, but what if that film gave homage to some of the greatest in horror films? That is what is so special about The Last Matinee.
What makes Maximiliano Contenti’s new horror film so special then? If you love cinema, then this film will grab your attention. The crux of the film is we as the audience are introduced to a disturbing man…a killer…who wanders into a beautiful old cinema one day. The lives of the patrons of a cheesy American horror will never be the same. Contenti captures the disruption of this Argentinian town. This killer will lay waste to a variety of movie goers. You have the young boy who sneaks into a film to mature for him. You have an old man enjoying a good picture. An awkward date occurs between a nervous and nerdy young man with a too cool and aggressive young woman. A crew of friends support one friend to flirt with a beautiful young woman. Finally, you have the daughter of the projectionist acting as the voyeur over the whole proceedings. These characters might lack depth, and many will just be cannon fodder, but it is still fun to see them experiencing the cinema.
Where does Contenti draw his inspiration from? There is a heavy influence of giallo horror from the likes of Dario Argento. As a huge fan of Argento’s work, I saw the textured and classic look of this cinema along and heard synthesizer score while immediately realizing what was being channeled. The small detail of Opera’s film poster hanging was a great Easter egg for Dario Argento. The violence and gore are even straight out of one of his films. There is a certain level of camp that works so well. You can also feel the influence of American slashers in that direction. The use of the background to show some of the damage is a clever directing choice.
Even with plenty of suspense and strong direction, where does this film falter? Like I mentioned before, the characters lack depth and are just representations of ideas. The narrative is also overly simple as it just comes down who will die next. There are no greater messages for the film than just being a fun and enjoyable homage to giallo horror and American slashers. If you just want to enjoy some horror thrillers and appreciate some homages, this is a great choice for you. Make sure to show The Last Matinee some love.