Set in Montevideo, Uruguay circa 1993, The Last Matinee pits an eye-gouging serial killer against innocent movie patrons. What begins as a usual night of going out to the cinema, watching a B-horror picture turns into a night of terror as the employees and moviegoers are being killed one by one. Blood, guts, and buttered popcorn fill this terror of the cineplex. Taking some inspiration from Scream, The Last Matinee matches horror tropes with spine-chilling kills.
Ana (Luciana Grasso) is the daughter of a theater owner/projectionist. Due to her father’s failing health, Ana decides to run the reels herself so her father can rest. What begins as a typical night at the movies quickly takes a turn for the uneasy when an employee goes missing. As Frankenstein: Day of the Beast plays on the big screen, moviegoers are picked off by a malicious killer lurking in the shadows.
“…pits an eye-gouging serial killer against innocent movie patrons.”
The Last Matinee on premise alone piques your interest, and director-co-writer-producer Maximiliano Contenti spares no expense on the kills. The film is a gross and gruesome affair right up to the closing credits. As morbid as it sounds, kills are a vital currency in the slasher genre. On this point, the film, co-written by Manuel Facal, more than delivers. Along with over-the-top kills, the film uses its setting to intensify the build-up to each victim, making this large theater feel so congested that you feel as trapped as the theater patrons. It is consistently doubling down on its killer in the theater premise, all the way to the blood oozing across the projector screen.
For all the promise in its premise, the film is far from perfect. The first act is a classic slow burn but never uses its slower pace to develop the characters or take advantage of its period setting. This slower progression does lead to the pure carnage of the second and third acts. However, the unbridled violence feels cheapened without the stakes of a relatable final girl or compelling characters. While not every horror film can bring you to tears like Train to Busan, we still have to invest in our potential victims on some level. Otherwise, as is the case here, a film loses a considerable amount of tension, the most valuable currency in a slasher film.
Throughout The Last Matinee, I noticed how much it has going for it, yet its promise never fully pays off. The narrative is good but never takes advantage of the setting or establishes its characters. There is plenty of blood-soaked fury for the genre fans, yet not enough stakes to make the sequences memorable. Contenti has a good eye, and the film is filled with fun nods to classic tropes. However, too much of the film is literally showing a different horror film playing on the big screen (more of Frankenstein: Day of the Beast plays than one would think). There’s just enough spectacle and slasher creativity to merit a watch but, I am uncertain how many rewatches it has in the tank.
"…enough spectacle and slasher creativity to merit a watch..."