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, I just noticed that a SLASH above is coming up to being a year old. Twelve months have flown by so quickly 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 cheesy movie, Pieces, and I defended it heavily. I stated that it was an overlooked grindhouse classic. I had been disappointed with the amount of negativity that I’d read and I wanted to offer a different opinion. It does seem that many of you agreed with me and that’s why I wanted to bring another forgotten trash bucket to your attention. One that I’ve noticed has suffered a similar lack of recognition; – perhaps unfairly.
Joe Spinell is an unsung slasher movie hero. Whilst many of us enjoyed his odd-ball performance from William Lustig’s video nasty, Maniac, it seems that no one loved it more than Spinell himself. He spent many years working on getting a sequel produced, 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 poor health got the better of him. Alongside Lustig’s Maniac that I mentioned above, he left behind two other slasher movies. The Undertaker from 1989 is an extremely obscure feature that I have owned on bootleg for a while, but it’s his second entry to the category that I really wanted to take another look at today.
Here he plays Vinny Durand, a mentally unstable taxi driver that carries 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 most about The Last Horror Film was how it looks to have been extremely well-financed. To shoot at Cannes couldn’t have been cheap and the amount of extras and locations used show the the production team had deep pockets when they went to work on this. Chris Barnes and Edward Salier did an astounding job of editing an incredibly huge amount of footage, and it really has been chopped together with a professional gloss. The film also has its priorities in the right order, because even before the first credit has appeared on the screen, our eyes are treated to the sight of a buxom blonde in a bathtub. Within the next minute, she’s being stalked and gruesomely electrocuted by an unseen menace and the movie continues along that campy exploitative tone throughout. We have to wait a short while to see another murder, but the inbetween 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, because he really becomes his character. The script asks a lot of him (he prances around in knickers and a bra at one point!), but he remains convincing throughout. It’s a performance that was 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 perfectly. Caroline Munro delivers arguably her career best as the luckless heroine and 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. I found it hilarious that she was competing for recognition with a role in a shlocky slasher that saw her get her face burned off with a blow torch. 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… ;))
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 did the author come up with some of this stuff? I mean seriously, at times the script feels like it was penned on the back of an LSD marathon; and to be fair it may well have been. All the kookiness and peculiarity does only add to the film’s unique trash-bag charm and it’s a fine example of eighties over-indulgence. It was a smart idea to include news reports playing in the background that describe the biggest events of that time, such as the Reagan assassination attempt, the bombing in Madrid and the effort to murder Pope John Paul II. I thought that these periodic time-capsule moments helped to give the movie an extra layer of nostalgia and it complements the peak period of slasher movies superbly.
The Last Horror Film is packed to the brim with gratuitous elements and there is a tonne of naked chicks straddling about to up the T&A/Hot Chica anti to the maximum. It’s also a gory beast and I think that’s what makes me question it’s lack of status the most. All of the effects by Peter McKenzie are pretty darn good, but my favourite would have to be the gooey throat-slashing in the beginning, which is 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 and it was fun looking out for movie titles that we may recognise, like Cannibal Holocaust. 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.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is that for some inexplicable reason, Spinell got his mother a part in the cast; playing, well, his 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 as to 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-type way. It’s irrelevant and almost ruins all that went before it.
Brushing that aside though, I am hopeful that this review may re-introduce The Last Horror Film to my readers in a more positive 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: √√√