What to Watch Verdict
'The Last Matinee' replicates a graphic slasher movie in the theater you'd normally watch such violence on screen, never as more than a gory throwback to spaghetti-sloppy Italian horror.
🎦 Kills are worthwhile.
🎦 Nails the Giallo representation.
🎦 A fun popcorn-worthy midnighter.
🎦 Not much beyond the gore.
🎦 Characters rarely matter.
🎦 Can be one-note.
Uruguay goes Italian in The Last Matinee, a ruby-red Giallo homage that glorifies death, vile villain habits, and some scooped eyeballs. Maximiliano Contenti unites cinematic appreciation in arena theater settings with the very horror titles we love to see on those magnificently large screens. There’s something about Demons or Popcorn and their megaplex locations that The Last Matinee invokes, where carnage jumps from the screen as a meta commentary that, admittedly, never takes itself seriously. Contenti proves that humanity is far more horrifying than some low-budget schlock tormenter played for midnight crowds, and it’ll please the gorehounds howling for body counts—although I do wish there was a little more buttered richness atop the popcorn that is Contenti’s narrative.
It’s 1993 in Montevideo, and the Opera cinema shows Frankenstein: Day of the Beast to an almost empty theater. Student Ana (Luciana Grasso) relieves her projectionist father because of his failing health and oversees the night’s closing event. In the audience sits a stood-up horror fan, three not-quite-sober teens, an awkward date, a sneaky child amongst two older patrons—and a maniac killer. Once the house lights dim and the creature feature throttles intensity, Mr. Slasher selects opportune moments to conceal his mutilations. As a result, what should exist on celluloid now adds another layer of stickiness to carpeted exit walkways.
The Last Matinee is alternatively known as Red Screening in multiple regions, which suits this callously vindictive bloodbath. You’re here for the slasher deaths jammed between less attentive guests questioning why anyone would watch films they know nothing about and pickup attempts mid-screening (don’t interrupt my movie, yo). The gore exudes backyard and bonkers prosthetic charms, as Contenti goes all-in on eye trauma and honors tinier details like a smoker’s neck wound billowing clouds. As ocular tendons are severed with broken glass shards, Contenti’s special effects department earns its uncomfortable winces by staying practical throughout—Halloween funhouse effects will forever trump lackluster animation.
Enter Ricardo Islas as “Asesino Comeojos,” the “Eye-Eating Killer” for those in need of translation (Islas is also the actual director of Frankenstein: Day of the Beast, a real 2011 release). For a while, Islas is defined by his hooded raincoat, then a menacing smile that screams psychopathic tendencies, then his pickling jar filled with excavated eyeballs. It’s a while before any snarls of personality escape from Islas, and even after he’s munched through a squishy, edible peeper, there’s still an emptiness to his murderer’s personality. The Last Matinee struggles with its killer’s motivations beyond hacking corpses and melon-balling visibility organs, becoming one-note and repetitive. Contenti’s signatures are seedy and gratuitous but slight in terms of Giallo replication as crimson-colored liquid drips down shimmering metal blades.
Co-screenplay collaborator Manuel Facal and Contenti briefly touch upon the juxtaposition of outrageous horror beats occurring via projection while true vileness skewers smooching soulmates, but The Last Matinee doesn’t draw much scripted depth. It’s slice-and-dice diabolical for the sake of honoring red rivers that’ve spilled through Dario Argento classics, but again, only efficiently surface-value. The inclusion of underage Tomás (Franco Duran) inserts commentary around media age restrictions that becomes intertwined with traumatic experiences (watching eyeballs bounce down a staircase), only ever as an exclamation stinger. Ana is your predictable final girl, the eye-gobbler loses his dreadful appearance once “maskless,” and the mundanity of just another highlight reel of bodily evisceration—this one under marquee signage lights—is utterly whelming, never under nor over.
Watch The Last Matinee for the gonzo slaughterhouse vibes, which can showcase amateurish choreography whenever “action” becomes necessary (past a fatal weapon swipe). Don’t expect empathetic connections to characters that the film itself doesn’t care much to develop beyond ejaculation cleanup or rambunctious theater behaviors. What audiences require for enjoyment exists—investment in Ana’s survival, sadistic implements of execution, and a madman’s perverse calling card. Not every horror flick requires sophistication, as proven by Maximiliano Contenti’s humble, reverent slasher throwback that takes the violence out of subgenre fantasies and suggests what’s earthly possible is far worse than anything scary-story filmmakers might imagine—but can still be depraved entertainment.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.