Every once in a while, a film comes along that defies categorization. Director D.W. Thomas’ micro-budget amalgamation of horror and comedy, Too Late, manages to surprise, if not necessarily impress, at every turn. While not particularly frightening, it nevertheless serves as a compelling showcase of several talented young comedians. Think of it as The Little Comedy Shop of Horrors.
Violet (Alyssa Limperis) is an aspiring comedian, working as an assistant to the (literally) monstrous host of the iconic but struggling Too Late show, Bob Devore (Ron Lynch). To earn some extra cash, Violet has a little gig of booking and hosting a show at a local coffee shop. The side-hustle has its perks: it allows some truly ingenious talent to shine. It also has its downsides: Violet is harassed and almost raped by a desperate creep from Boston called Dax (Billy Breed). So she feeds him to Bob.
Yes, part of Violet’s duties is to bring folks for her centuries-old boss to devour. She must’ve been doing it for a while because she is quite nonchalant about the whole murder thing. Until, that is, she bumps into Jimmy (Will Weldon) while hiding from a fornicating couple at a party. It’s not only his looks and charm that impress Violet – Jimmy’s also a natural on stage. Bob comes to recognize that. I won’t spoil the rest for you; I will point out that the ending is utterly ridiculous, but if you’ve stuck along to reach the conclusion, chances are you’ll enjoy it.
“…part of Violet’s duties is to bring folks for her centuries-old boss to devour.”
The sharp dialogue, penned by Tom Becker, who co-produced with Thomas, goes a long way in making this all work. “Bob, who’d you eat?” Violet asks her boss. “Some open-micer,” he replies. “No talent at all but a lot of bourbon and nicotine…” In response to Jimmy’s bewildered “You eat people!”, Bob calmly responds: “Jimmy, you and I both know that comedians aren’t really people.”
Becker and Thomas certainly know the world of a struggling comedian, and the movie provides some insight into their lives simply by observing quick-witted, charming folks doing their thing. Limperis and Welson are the heart of the story, and their rapport is believable. Fred Armisen and Mary Lynn Rajskub pop by in minor parts to provide some gravitas. Ron Lynch bites into his role with fervor, ensuring that is Bob delightfully creepy.
Where Too Late missteps somewhat is the lack of a driving momentum, a truly compelling hook. There’s a semblance of an idea here, a seed of a deeply satirical and dark study of a comedian’s depressing life, a-la Louie masquerading as a retro-cheap-o-80s-horror-flick. Alas, it’s never truly fleshed out. It’s all a bit too inconsequential, too fleeting. I won’t even go into the make-up, which looks shoddy, to say the least – the parts of it you actually get to see, as there are very few gory moments. Bob always emerges looking the same: chin extended, shirt unbuttoned. The cheapest exploitation films have boasted some incredible make-up effects – all it takes is time and creativity – so for a movie revolving around a human-gobbling antagonist to screw this up is nigh-inexcusable.
Too Late is worth a look for its oddball vibes and roster of skillful comedians. Considering this is the director’s feature-length debut, it does establish D.W. Thomas as a filmmaker to watch. Perhaps next time, she should go over the final draft of the script one more time – before it’s too late, and half-baked, albeit intriguing, ideas make their way onto the screen.
"…Limperis and Welson are the heart of the story..."