The Last Matinee is a 2020 Spanish-language film (an Uruguayan and Argentian co-production, in fact) directed by Maximiliano Contenti.
I was blind heading into this film, which can often be a double-edged sword. I didn’t know it was a Spanish film, first and foremost, stifling upon the film while on the Showtime! streaming service, and assuming it was little more than a low-budget, basic American slasher film. After all, with a name like ‘The Last Matinee,’ and fairly familiar cover work, I had little reason to expect otherwise, and, really, that’s all I needed out of the film. Instead, rather than being a low-budget, basic American slasher film, I was treated to a low-budget, basic Spanish slasher.
Then again, maybe that’s an oversimplification.
Rather than a straightforward slasher flick, The Last Matinee blends elements of the American slasher with Italian giallo, accomplishing an aesthetically appeasing cinematography, masking a low-budget with skillful lighting, camera-angles, and a sense of style that stands as the single-most significant takeaway from the film.
Something else that’s neat about The Last Matinee is that it is entirely set in a theater, making for a fun, unique backdrop for the story to unfold. The features sees a series of different characters and small subplots unfold. Primarily, we have our lead protagonist Ana, an engineering student who assumes duties as projectionist of a movie theater for the night so that her unworked father can find himself some much needed rest. Meanwhile, we have a couple on a date, a little boy who snuck in to see the R-rated film, a few drunk friends, and a woman who has been stood up by her date. All of which soon find themselves targeted by our slasher villain.
As I said, the film’s aesthetic is likely the only noteworthy aspect about it, as I found myself otherwise fairly unimpressed from a narrative standpoint. For a film with a brisk runtime of only 88 minutes, it can’t escape feeling padded and paper thin. Honest and truly, in a paragraph, I summarized the extent of depth each character in the film has, and they do little mentionable beyond that. Their plights and developments feel unhuman-like, tedious and, again, like they have no other purpose other than to extend the film’s runtime to a feature length. I had a moment about halfway through where I saw I was over half an hour in and couldn’t believe how little had happened, both in-terms of the horror premise and simply what was happening on-screen. This isn’t a slow-burn complaint by any means, but, rather, that the film’s script didn’t have enough to warrant its feature length.
The antagonist is one-dimensional and cartoonish. This is, of course, deliberate. He’s an old-school style baddie, eating eyeballs and offering gross out behavior. I can appreciate him as both a throwback to giallo films (which I am only vaguely familiar with) and the slasher genre (which I am very familiar with), but homages don’t necessarily absolve sin nor equate to engaging characters. At the very least, they didn’t with me in this film.
This is an idea I think could’ve made for a neat, fun slasher flick, and I can appreciate the director’s enthusiasm for cinema and wanting to make a film set in the place of worship, but it lacked in too many basic, key ways to succeed. I didn’t expect incredibly insightful, in-depth characters in this film at all, and, really, that isn’t what the concept calls for in the least. All I needed was likable characters, or, more importantly, characters that felt like characters, and I feel that this film failed in that department. T
he Last Matinee is a feature length film that really feels like it should have been a short film, highlighting its aesthetic and technique, and masking its narrative limitation. That could’ve worked, and could’ve made for a neat short film akin to the opening scene of Scream 2, but by making it full-length, it really showed that the idea was too undercooked to be a passable full course.