October 12, 2005

DVD Review: The Last Horror Movie

I remember reading some good things about this movie, and after a lot of wavering I picked it up about a month ago. But it was not until now that I sat down and watched it. I read the back of the case, and it sounded suspiciously like the very good film from Belgium, Man Bites Dog. It does have the backing of Fangoria magazine, so at the very least I was looking forward to some decent blood. Sadly, I must report that this film does not pay off in the least.

The beginning of the film is the best part about it, and really plays up the direct to video aspect of the production. It opens with stylized images that seem to indicate headlights and highway, while radio announcements play in the background indicating the escape of a murderer. We then shift to a diner, the waitress is cleaning up, then she hears a noise, she looks to see who or what it is when the escaped killer appears behind her. The gleam of a blade, a flash of crazed eyes, a screen filled with video noise and the scene suddenly shifts to something completely unrelated.

Therein lies the gimmick. You are meant to believe that the movie you just rented is not the movie that you are about to see. After the flash of noise we are confronted with Max. Max is pleasant, well groomed, and about to take you on the journey of his murderous life. You see, Max is a serial killer who enjoys what he does, and decides to document his path by bringing along a cameraman to record his exploits. He records, not just murders, but every day things, visits to his sister and her family, and also his day job as wedding videographer.

There are plenty of moments with Max turning to the camera to explain why he does this and what he hopes to accomplish with it. His escapades continue to escalate, to the point where he is involving his wary cameraman who is beginning to have second thoughts about taking the job.

The movie seems to want to make a statement regarding people's fascination with horror movies, and rubbernecking actual violence glimpsed in the real world. The problem is that Kevin Howarth's depiction of Max is not very good. The attempt seems to present him as a character to identify with, a nice guy who happens to do atrocious deeds, but he comes across as a pretentious moron who tries to justify his actions while offering no potential reasons for committing these acts, other than wanting to make this movie.

The low budget roots show, but it doesn't really work against the film since it is supposed to be a film made by the main character. I am sure he wouldn't be spending millions to concoct these murders, so the fact that it looks to have been shot by an amateur and not on the best film stock actually helps the authenticity of the proceeding. The problem lies with the sub par acting, the pretentiousness displayed by Max, and the fact that this is not treading any new ground, but rather rehashing that of the past. Not to mention the disturbing lack of gore. something I would have expected more of considering the backing of Fangoria.

Video. Like I mentioned above, this is a low budget film, and it shows. It is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen. It has a washed out appearance, but overall it looks pretty good for a low budget affair.

Audio. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. It sounds good, much like it was shot with one mic on set. Again, the filmmakers work within the constraints of the budget. The film is made to take advantage and hide the shortcomings of low budget film.

Extras. We are given a few extras in the package.
-Commentary. The commentary features director Julian Richards and actor Kevin Howarth. I sampled some of the track, and it is pretty good. They keep the conversation going with anecdotes about the making of the movie.
-Deleted Scenes. A selection of scenes that didn't make the final cut. They wouldn't have added much to the final product.
-Cast Auditions. Some footage from the casting of Max and the Assistant.
-Featurette. This was a behind the scenes making of. It is OK, the best part dealing with the effect of burning someone alive, which actually looked pretty good.
-Short Film "The Shoe Collector." A short 2 minute film about a murderer who collects shoes. This was an entertaining piece, looked very good.

Bottomline. Not something I can recommend. The concept has been done better before. There wasn't enough blood and the lead was just a little too smarmy for my taste. I did like the idea of recording over another movie, but how well does that play in this age of DVD? Perhaps the DVD label should have been made to look as if it were burned on a home PC to replace the movie that was supposed to be there? Anyway, skip this.

Not Recommended.


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