The Last Horror Film 1982 Review
The Last Horror Film 1982
Directed by: David Winters
Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Judd Hamilton
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
You know, a SLASH above is coming up to being a year old. That’s amazing and I want to thank you, dear reader for taking the time to check us out twice a week. We have grown considerably, month on month and it’s all down to you. The first review that I posted here was of my favourite trash movie, Pieces, and I defended it heavily. I stated that it was an overlooked grind house classic. Judging by the emails that I received, many of you agreed. I had been disappointed with the amount of negativity that I’d seen about it and wanted to offer a different opinion. Well here we have another wonderful example of an entry in the same vein and it’s one that I’ve noticed has suffered a similar lack of recognition as the flick that was the first addition to www.aslashabove.com
Joe Spinell is a somewhat unsung slasher movie legend. Whilst many of us enjoyed his stand-out signature role from Maniac, no one loved it more than Spinell himself. He spent many years working on getting a sequel made, but just as he had finally found financing, he passed away a month in to pre-production. The causes of his death have remained a mystery, but it’s widely believed that he lost the battle with poor health. He left a trio of slasher movies behind, including Lustig’s cult favourite from 1980, The Undertaker from 1989 and this campy treat.
Here he plays Vinny Durand, a mentally unstable taxi driver with an obsession with actress Jana Bates (Munro). Living half in reality and half in the world of his imagination, Vinny believes that he has the ideal script for the woman of his dreams. Convinced that he’s on to a good thing, he heads off to the Cannes film festival to show his ideas to Mrs. Bates. As soon as he turns up, the majority of people that he runs in to end up getting murdered by a masked assailant. Is Vinny the killer?There’s no one else it could be…
What initially struck me about The Last Horror Film was the obvious signs of its high-ish budget. To shoot at Cannes couldn’t have been cheap and the amount of extras and locations used mount up to a huge pile of dollar bills. The film is superbly edited and I mean astoundingly so; and it really stands out that the footage has been chopped together with a professional gloss. Even before the first credit has appeared on the screen, our eyes are treated with a buxom blonde in a bathtub. Within the next minute, she’s being stalked and gruesomely electrocuted by an unseen menace. As far as starts go, we couldn’t have wished for a better one and there in that brief sequence, the tone is competently set. We have to wait a short while to see another murder, but the in between parts could never be boring if you have Spinell on your cast list.
How do we rate Spinell? I mean, he’s no Robert DeNiro; but for playing a total loony tune, there’s really no one better. He must have studied under the method philosophy as he really becomes his character. The script asks a lot of him (he prances around at one point in knickers and a bra!), but he remains convincing throughout. It’s a performance built up of many layers, because his body language is spot on. Insecure, rejected, misunderstood; he doesn’t need dialogue for this, his actions display it and that desreves credit. Caroline Munro is also good here. I mean, as good she needs to be. I’m sure that as an attractive woman, she loved the role of a Cannes best actress nominee (no, really). Most of her screen time is spent wearing gorgeous dresses and posing for photo-shoots. What female wouldn’t enjoy that? She looks great too. The funny thing is that the part that she is nominated for is a slasher within which she gets her face burned off with a blow torch and we even see the voters praising and clapping her ‘chilling portrayal’! Maybe I’m a tad biased, because I once dated a girl that looked extremely like her. Look at the similarities in the picture opposite. I also met her once at a horror convention in Camden and she was lovely. Me being me, I tried hitting on her a bit, but instead of calling security she had a joke and showed a down to earth side that I really appreciated. (Either that or she found it impossible to resist my charms… HIGHLY unlikely)
Damn, all this talk about attractive women and flirting and I’ve got a bit lost. Right where were we? Ok, so halfway through watching, I began thinking, how do they write this stuff? I mean seriously, at times the script feels like it was penned on the back of a LSD marathon and to be fair it may well have been. Luckily that only adds somewhat to the film’s kooky charm. In fairness though, they try awfully hard to keep us in the right periodic mindset by regularly featuring news reports on the radio in the back ground, which describe the big events of the time. There’s the Reagan assassination attempt, the bombing in Madrid and the effort to murder Pope John Paul II. 1981 was quite a crazy year.
For exploitation fans, we are treated to a tonne of naked chicks straddling about and the large majority of them fall comfortably in to the ‘Hot Chica’ bracket, which is all good. What is interesting and makes me question why the movie is so often overlooked is the wonderful amount of gore. This is one hell of a blood-filled ride and the effects by Peter McKenzie are pretty darn good. My favourite would have to be the gooey throat-slashing, which is grimly effective and helped no end by the reaction of the terrified Munro. As this is set during Cannes, we get plenty of shots of film posters, advertisements and promotions. For a while it transported me back to that period and it was fun looking out for titles that I recognised. The soundtrack of cheesy pop is equally as memorable and was made specifically for this feature. If you can remember the disco monstrosities that plagued your ears during Killer Workout, then you’ll know full well what to expect.
The only thing that ruins The Last Horror Film is the awful, AWFUL final scene. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that for some inexplicable reason, Spinell got his mother a part in the cast; playing, well, he’s character’s mother! Not only is she as wooden as Noah’s ark, but she is given heinous dialogue to ‘work’ with. For the life of me, I cannot see the sense, point or reason why they included that closing sequence. I don’t want to spoil it for you and maybe it’s an in-joke, but think to yourself, ‘elderly woman smoking grass’… and not in an amusing Cheech and Chong way. It’s just pointless and ruins all that went before it.
Still there’s plenty of fun to be had in many many places with this flick and I’m hoping that a positive review may re-introduce it to you in a different light. It’s cheesy as hell, gory, trashy and on top of all that has Spinell doing his visual loon show. If you dear reader, like me, appreciate your bad cinema, then by all means try and give it another chance…
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√√