By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

This festival entry is the only horror film I watched from CLAIFF this year. From Uruguay, director Maximiliano Contenti has obviously studied the work of great Giallo filmmakers such as Dario Argento, because he definitely has a great eye for visuals, particularly in his use of colors. The aesthetics of this film are absolutely gorgeous. Working with cinematographer Benjamin Silva and a great production design team, Contenti brings a great sense of artistic sensibility to this thriller. However, Contenti’s script which was co-written with Manuel Facal is why this film ultimately fails to transcend the works of the great Giallo filmmakers that have preceded him.

The film takes place in an old Uruguayan movie house where slasher flicks and creature features prevail. On a dark and stormy night, college student Ana (Luciana Grasso) grumpily agrees to cover for her projectionist father who needs the night off. While Ana knows the trade very well, she’d much rather be somewhere else where she can study without having to deal with changing reels or dealing with problematic prints. As the patrons attempt to enjoy the feature or pursue other goals in the theater, a mysterious killer begins murdering the audience members one by one.

To give Contenti even more credit, he has great sensibilities when it comes to building tension and delivering gruesome visceral violence when needed. I simply feel that this movie needed a stronger and more interesting script with perhaps a hint of motivation on the part of the killer. The character is an absolute mystery man with no specific purpose other than death. Now, I realize that is what makes some horror movies great such as John Carpenter’s Halloween. However, without a unique voice or style expressed in this movie, Contenti and co-writer Facal are just treading familiar territories and creating homages to their inspirations.

To say I didn’t completely enjoy this movie would be untrue, but I was hoping Contenti would do something completely wild or at least unique when it comes to the Giallo subgenre. The end result is a rehash of previously better-made movies without the crazy spirit that has made Giallo legendary and so influential. Ultimately, The Last Matinee is an utter disappointment.

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