This was pretty much the perfect slasher double feature for me. Two “Last” slashers with vicious, gruesome practical effects. So what can you expect from this double feature?
THE LAST MATINEE (2020)
The Last Matinee is a Spanish film clearly inspired by Dario Argento movies (if the posters on the walls in the theater aren’t sign enough).
It’s also one of those slashers that gives no explanation for the killing spree, instead just indulging us with nasty, violent deaths and a perfectly played psycho who is all the more frightening because we know nothing about him. His presence kind of reminded me of the killer in High Tension.
The plot is simple. It’s 1993, and a young woman sends her sick father home and takes his place running the projection booth at the movie theater where he works.
Down below we meet a variety of audience members watching a horror movie, which is actually a real film directed by the guy playing the killer.
There’s a young boy who sneaks in by himself, three teens, a girl who gets stood up, a very horny woman and her man, and…well that’s mostly it.
The first kill establishes how hardcore the murder scenes will be—not to mention how Euro gory they will be. You know, just like something right out Argento.
We also get to know a little bit about each character and get an ooey-gooey jerk-off scene! Yay! Another sign of Euro horror—odd focuses on a random element, in this case an obsession with stains for a brief time.
Personally I didn’t find the film high on suspense, tension, or scares, and there are an excessive number of slow motion kill scenes, which lose their potency after a while. For me, the gory death scenes, the psychotic killer, the early 80s synth score, and all the well-orchestrated Argento-esque lighting and setup shots are most definitely the highlights.
Again, don’t expect any clarity as to why the killer kills…or why he carries eyeballs in a jar other than the fact that he snacks on them. That explains why there’s no one working the concession stand in this mysteriously empty theater.
LAST OF THE GRADS (2021)
I wasn’t even finished watching this slasher when I poked around the internet to see if it was available on disc yet, because I must own it! I haven’t been this satisfied by a slasher in ages.
I’ll admit, the two-hour runtime concerned me—and the early part of the film definitely could have been tightened up. It takes a while to get going. Also, there’s an unconventional approach—the back in 1995 opening scenes include narration. Not to mention, the characters feel a little over-the-top, so I expected the film to be really cheesy.
Instead it shifts tone in the present day. We learn of “The Coast to Coast Killer” from both news reports and a conversation between cops, including the daddy bear sheriff, played by Michael Vincent Berry, who also appears in the queer horror short Innocent Boy. Sadly, he isn’t in this film much, but he definitely makes an impression. I mean, this shot alone is titillating…
What unfolds next is a whole lot of character development as we meet all the teens going to a dance/pajama slumber party/movie night before graduating. The film has an oddly mesmerizing, chill vibe to it, with mood music, a romanticized tone during intimate conversations, and very natural performances by the actors.
It feels like watching a bunch of ordinary high school kids on an ordinary day, and it’s the first time I’ve actually liked all the characters in a slasher in ages. How I missed the days when teens in a horror movie weren’t all douche bags. In fact, even the hot douche bag here manages to not be such a douche after all in the end. It’s so fucking refreshing.
There’s a kill early on to demonstrate just how damn brutal the death scenes are going to be and to give us a preview of just how awesome the gory practical effects are going to be. And once the kids get to the dance, there are a few songs by a band called The Death of Pop. I will immediately be buying all their CDs and playing their new wave throwback songs on my Future Flashbacks show.
And finally, once we get to the dance, the kills come rapid fire. They fucking rule, from the gore to the chases—although it is a little questionable that the killer seems to have super human strength at times, like the power to squish a face with one stomp.
For a change we get a film that doesn’t blast it’s meta horror references through a megaphone. If you know your horror, you’ll be pretty convinced there are some smoothly integrated homages here.
I could be wrong, but right off the bat I would guess there are nods to Donnie Darko, the Carrie dance, and Wendy’s chase scene in Prom Night.
I think there’s even there’s an homage to the shower scene from Elm Street 2, right down to the homophobic subtext.
The final fight between the main girl and the killer is unusually trippy on its unique journey to arriving at the kind of ending we expect from a slasher.
This is one of those rare modern movies I could watch again and again. It better get a physical release, and I hope it gets more attention, especially with the Halloween franchise and the new Scream looking to reboot the slasher subgenre again.