AUGUST 26, 2009
There are still a few “You’ve never seen that?” holes in my horror watching, and one is Bill Lustig’s Maniac. I remember trying to rent it once and finding it rented out, and that pretty much ended my quest. I should fix that. But anyway, The Last Horror Film (aka Fanatic) seems to be a sort of thematic sequel to that film, as it is also a sleazy slasher movie with Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro. As it’s the more (in?)famous of the two, I assume it’s also better, but Last Horror Film is not without merit.
The most interesting thing about it is the setting. Few films are set at film festivals, and I am pretty sure this is the only one set entirely at Cannes. And it’s not faked - they really shot the movie there. They filmed guerilla style during the 1981 festival, apparently taking liberal use of those “By entering this area you agree to have your likeness filmed....” signs. And it’s great, because all of the movies you see being touted are real (For Your Eyes Only! Excalibur!), and the occasional celebrity sighting also adds a unique authenticity that no other “movie about movies” has offered, as far as I know.
The actual movie isn’t quite as unique, but it’s still entertaining. The slasher scenes are a bit ridiculous (especially the guy who decides to play pranks on his girlfriend in the middle of an isolated park late at night - AFTER two of his colleagues have been murdered) but they are wonderfully sleazy at times too, so it evens out. And (spoiler) it’s not as cut and dry of a plot as you might think; there’s actually a cool twist that I didn’t see coming.
Unfortunately it’s also a bit repetitive. Spinell sees Munro somewhere, tries to get to her, is thwarted, and then he freaks out. Then someone gets killed. This cycle repeats over and over, and the stakes are never really raised - you can take any one of these cycles and place it in a different spot of the movie and it wouldn’t make any difference. And while the backdrop may be unique, it never really factors into the kill scenes (likely due to the complete lack of permission to be shooting there at all), which is kind of a bummer. I would have liked a big chase/kill around a theater or during a press conference or something.
Also there’s a lot of nonsense that just seems to be there to fill up time (or break up the repetition, so for that I thank them). Dream sequences where Spinell sees himself winning a chocolate Oscar, or dancing around in drag, also start to get monotonous, and hammer home a point that had been made before he even gets to Cannes (i.e. he’s a weirdo and wants to be a filmmaker).
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is fantastic. The original songs by Jesse Frederick and Jeff Koz sound like ELO, which is perfectly fine by me. Someone put this soundtrack out, and then send me one.
Troma’s DVD release (this is one of their distribution deals - they were not involved with the film’s production as far as I know) is packed with the sort of stuff you’d expect: a bunch of trailers, some recollections of Spinell (from co-star Luke Walker and Maniac director Bill Lustig), and some Troma nonsense. Walker and Troma’s Evan Husney provide a wonderfully blunt commentary that kicks off with Walker telling an anecdote about the woman in the opening scene’s fake breasts. He talks a lot about sneaking around Cannes to get footage (paraphrase: “See, there’s Kris Kristofferson. He doesn’t know he’s in this movie, I’m sure.”) and has the mouth of a sailor, so it’s definitely worth a listen.
This is the type of movie I would love to watch at the New Bev or whatever, because sitting at home alone just doesn’t do it justice. It’s not quite Pieces, but it’s in the same neighborhood. Someone book this movie so I can see it properly, dammit!
What say you?