Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Last Horror Movie


I have a tendency to be pretty harsh towards ideas that I feel are unoriginal. I know there are only so many stories that can be told and all that bollocks and I don’t even mind re-makes. At least a re-make admits it is an attempt to re-invent an old idea. This doesn't mean everything has to be utterly ground breaking either, there is still room for skill and innovation when it comes to re-telling a traditional narrative. 

I also think it is warranted to make comparisons between films wherever possible. If there is something else out there that is doing the same thing, whether better or worse, it is absolutely fair to hold the two against each other and see how they stand upMost of the time that doesn’t mean any more than, Jurassic Park and Barney are both about dinosaurs or The Conjuring and Insidious are both complete shit, and that’s about it. Some films however rip off an idea so blatantly it feels more than justified to hold them accountable for their actions and wipe that smug little smirk off their faces (can you see where this is going?).
The Last Horror Movie does actually start with something pretty original. During the opening scene set in an American diner, I was prepared within seconds to watch the worst looking film I’d ever seen. It was just fucking awful, and I was already regretting the hour and a bit ahead of me. So it was a pleasant surprise when, with a fuzz of static, the camera cut to a home video recording of the real central character; Max (Kevin Howarth) telling us that he has recorded over the video tape we had rented with a ‘real’ horror film of his own. Now, granted his acting is pretty bad but I’m willing to give something interesting a bit of leeway. Filmed by his unnamed assistant (Mark Stevenson) we hit the ground running in found footage territory familiar to anyone who has been keeping an eye on horror over the last two decades.
Looks like a nice guy
The Last Horror Movie follows a shock-mock-documentary... a shmockumentary, format (not to be confused with a documentary about foolish American jews, a schmuckumentary, or a history of shepherds clothing, a smockumentary). The main defining difference here between it and most other found-footage films being the intention in which it is made. Like the central characters of August Underground or the Poughkeepsie Tapes, Max sets out on a mission to record his blood-drenched one man crime wave for prosperity. Working a day job making wedding videos and hanging out with friends and family he paints the picture of a man, although mildly eccentric, able to function perfectly well in society, feeling no guilt, empathy or shame for the deaths he has caused. A classic psychopath.
The sublime Man Bites Dog
The bad acting and cringe-worthy script throughout the film may have been excusable if it wasn’t for one unforgivable flaw. This spockumentary (you can guess that one) is an almost direct rip off of the wonderfully dark and funny Belgian film; Man Bites Dog. Man Bites Dog sees a group of student film makers following a serial killer as he goes about his daily business of murder as if it were an everyday nine-to-five. It oozes charm and charisma, carried confidently on the shoulders of a central performance that is natural and effortless. The Last Horror Movie however lacks any of the wit or ingenuity of its Belgian counterpart and I would seriously struggle to believe anyone that told me that director Julian Richards had not seen Man Bites Dog, possibly about thirty seconds before beginning to hash out this smug and pretentious excuse of a film.
Smug Broco
The script is mainly delivered in monologue and has a painful mixture of over acting and lack of talent that just screams of an amateur dramatic one man show. It may attempt to be passed off as characterisation or some shit, but Max is hitting BP levels of greasy, with a Don Broco smile and dramatic pauses that are painful to watch.
Not liking the characters and acting is one thing but this film moves from bad to insulting. It takes the Michael Haneke approach to horror film making and proceeds to patronise the audience into admitting their morbid fascinations are deplorable and ‘we’ horror fans are a sick bunch of perverts who wouldn’t care if the lines between reality and fantasy are crossed. That is fine in itself, I mean Funny Games does that exact thing competently and artistically, playing with expectations and crossing the fourth wall in order to break film conventions. This stockumentary (a history of the Oxo Company) however falls apart at the seams due to bad acting, visual FX and script.
False advertising
if ever I've seen it
The film is summed up perfectly by a line delivered to a dying victim “I’m trying to make an intelligent film about murder, whilst actually doing the murders”. It is safe to announce that it has failed momentously on both counts. Even the film’s title is held up as something special in a closing monologue which is a regional accent away from an Alan Bennett play (minus the wit and talent). Even the title isn’t original with The Last Horror Film being made in 1982, a good two decades earlier. Still Max harks on and on about it when it could be summed up in one line“because it is the last horror movie you will ever see” and, spoiler alert (but fuck it, no-one can spoil this film any more than the film makers already have) he is now going to kill you. In its credit I have to admit there was something about the ending that tapped into a part of my brain that made it seriously hard to resist turning around and checking the room. It was actually quite fun having a battle between my rational and irrational brain to try and keep looking at the screen whilst Max spouted on about how he may already be in your house.
Man Bites Dog is one of my favourite films ever made and to see it’s brilliantly original idea picked apart and cast aside is painful. The Last Horror Movie is a bad film with little to no redeeming features. I wish I could give it credit for its ambitions, any film maker who has gone to the effort to make a low budget film deserves some amount of credit, but any chance of that has been destroyed by its patronising, smug and self-congratulatory attitude. 

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