Equal parts giallo and slasher, The Last Matinee (Spanish title: Al Morir La Matinee) celebrates nostalgia, love of cinema, and the satisfaction of practical effects. It’s a rainy afternoon in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1993, so what better way to pass the time than by taking in a matinee? A few unlucky souls are doing just that without realizing that a gruesome killer has also chosen the theater for his nefarious purposes. If you come to this film for the giallo, it has the black gloves, it has the rich color palettes, and it has the eyeball trauma…oh boy have does it ever have the eyeball trauma. The carnage does not disappoint… and if you’ve come for a good slasher, the kills are creative and bloody.
The premise of The Last Matinee is pretty simple, but the results exceed expectation. Ana, a young college student, comes to the theater to make sure her father, the projectionist, isn’t putting in another 10-hour day. After some protest, he agrees to let her run the afternoon movie. She has been watching him her whole life, so it should be no sweat—Right? Mauricio, the usher, rounds out the staff for the day after the box office attendant goes home. The limited number of folks who have come to watch the matinee (Frankenstein: Day of The Beast, which is a real movie from 2011, but I can’t imagine anyone would know that without looking it up as I did) are mostly your stereotypical teenagers up to no good and young folks looking to make out. Also, a small child, Tomas, has snuck in to catch the movie that he is definitely too young to be watching.
Like most great horror movie villains, our killer is enigmatic and hard to stop. We don’t know where he has come from or why he’s here, but we certainly know his skillset. No time is wasted giving him a back story, and it isn’t needed. The audience receives everything it needs to know by watching him work. We also know he likes to take trophies, and the biggest pay off of all is what he ultimately does with those trophies. I won’t spoil it for you here–but I absolutely squealed!
This is the second feature film for director Maximiliano Contenti, who also has a few shorts and documentaries under his belt, and his love for cinema clearly comes through in The Last Matinee. Contenti flawlessly captures the feeling of being set in the 90s without being mired in nostalgia overload. There are also easter eggs and nods for genre lovers dotted throughout the film. In the sparse attendance and ultimate death at the theater, you can’t help but find a metaphor that points to the fear that many of us have had this year–that we would lose movie theaters as an option forever. This may not have been Contenti’s original intention, but the timing of this release, given that many of us haven’t been in a movie theater in over a year, gives this film an additional layer. Somehow getting to watch these characters watch a movie in a theater made me feel closer to a time when we can get back out there.
The Last Matinee is fun, stylish, and gory giallo homage worth adding to your regular watch rotation–especially when we can get groups of friends together again!
The Last Matinee screened at the 2021 Popcorn Frights film festival.