What to Watch Verdict
'Too Late' might get heckled for its lack of horrors, but tells a poignant story from a woman's perspective in an industry where she's surrounded by monsters.
🎤 Alyssa Limperis and her demons.
🎤 Solid supporting cast.
🎤 Promising feature debut.
🎤 Horror beats are a whimper.
🎤 Victim of cutaway circumstances.
🎤 Cameos are just quick hits.
In Too Late, the stand-up comedy industry will swallow you whole—like, literally. Director D.W. Thomas makes her debut by tackling gender oppression and dominating egos within laugh-jockey circles, using overt metaphors to bake a minuscule amount of horror into humorous professions. A popular late-night host devours comedians for reasons unbeknownst, as the fear of being left behind saddles those too timid to make a splash. It’s not particularly terrifying beyond bombing in front of a crowd, but charismatic leads navigate the power plays and cut-throat leapfrog successes that attempt to satiate this insatiable hunger for fame. Truthfully, no groundbreaking commentary—that’s not the hindrance context might insinuate.
Alyssa Limperis stars as Violet Fields, assistant to “Too Late” variety show megastar Bob Devore (Ron Lynch). Violet remains at Bob’s every beckoning call due to promises of someday benefitting from Bob’s ever-so-important connections. Day after day, Violet books her modestly attended coffee house stand-up special while scrambling whenever Bob’s name appears on her phone (with no advancement in sight). Even worse? Instructions from Bob typically regard his unique feeding habits, which require eating comedians whole. When Violet’s crush Jimmy Rhodes (Will Weldon) is next on the menu, enough is enough.
As an LA-based indie that utilizes locations where I’ve gotten tipsy-to-drunk, Too Late offers the usual cameos of recognizable veterans. Mary Lynn Rajskub slings some zingers, Fred Armisen plays a production tech afraid to select blue light gels—but Too Late is always about Violet and Bob. Even more microscopic, about Violet’s shackles to Bob as a detriment to her career ambitions or mental fulfillment. As Jimmy Rhodes ascends overnight from a closet-renting nobody to Bob’s newest sidekick, Violet watches from the sidelines while she’s continually on the wrong side of a locked backstage door. Limperis does well conveying frustration via sexism and competitive shunning that runs rampant through comedy (or any creative field), which is where Too Late shines.
Flipping to the horror side of the coin, Thomas and co-writer Tom Becker prove a more formidable “mumblecore” command. Ron Lynch’s lounge lizard of a late-night personality does pose a threat but is never genuinely threatening, if that makes sense? Audiences don’t glimpse the revolting sight of Bob unhinging his jaw like The Taking Of Deborah Logan to devour (Bob Devore? "Devour?" Intentional?) another no-name wannabe. Too Late is the indiest of indies that does everything it can to hide any gruesomeness, besides the bloated post-feeding costume Lynch wears that captures Bob ready to burst with a toad’s droopy chin sack. Even his attacks are weak, as Lynch merely waves his now-clawed arm towards Dax (Billy Breed), the douchey, handsy Boston transplant who very much earns his place on Bob’s menu. Horror and humor never balance, which is a shame.
The lack of definition around Bob’s blobular hunger does hinder any additional suspense that could exist. “The Dark Of The Moon” is mentioned with importance as some feasting milestone but never expounded upon as a graphic spectacle. Title cards flash “Four Weeks Later” or “One Week Later” while the passage of time gets lost within Bob’s hardly-changing character arc. Victoria’s burden is something we feel as she tries to break the glass ceiling, and yet Bob’s blockage in this metaphor doesn’t carry the creature-devious draw that should become a narrative signature. The permeating goofiness of feeding frenzies undercuts commentary around how a “Dane Cook” type in Chase Wheelan (Brooks Wheelan) can become an invincible superstar despite a negligent past, which feels like a punchline that never lands (whether fury or fear are the intended impacts).
As a whole? Too Late braves coke-dusted green rooms and constant doubters to showcase Alyssa Limperis as a talent who deserves the spotlight her character fights to attain. Commentary is sharp and performances empowered, even if horror elements lack any fangs or frights. It’s yet another representation of the monsters women face in showbiz circles, as validating as it is toxically vile. I wish there were more to write about concerning the evils Bob harbors as some snack-attack unknown entity. Still, D.W. Thomas dances around independent effects restrictions to ensure the poignance of her film’s message is the driving force that avoids an audience full of crickets.
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.
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