Running Time: 79 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18
Country: United Kingdom
Grand Rapids, Michigan. A radio announces that a serial killer, responsible for the deaths of six teenagers at a holiday camp, has escaped from prison. A waitress closing up an isolated diner hears a noise, steps on a Haloween masked, and is stabbed again and again and… Suddenly the face of an English man, Max Parry (Kevin Howarth), appears, declaring “The film you borrowed from the video store, I recorded over it… I think you'll find this more interesting” – and what follows is a homemade video of Max in London, murdering people, serving meals for his friends and family, shooting wedding videos for his day job (“the best place in the world to meet women”), trying to persuade his retiring camera assistant (Mark Stevenson) to take a more participatory rôle, lecturing to camera on the moral underpinnings of his way of life, and murdering more people.
'The Last Horror Movie' is not so much a horror movie as a film about horror movies – a meta-horror whose charmingly bland (and thoroughly sociopathic) narrator provides his own integrated director's commentary for the events on screen. Drawing in viewers with the familiar clichés of an eighties-style slasher, before disrupting the proceedings with some altogether more mundane murders (and a jauntily confronting voice-over), the film reveals a relationship between director, killer, accomplice, victim and viewer that is a little too close for comfort. “We're trying to make an intelligent movie about murder while actually doing the murders” says Max, in an attempt to get an “interesting” reaction from one of his unwilling subjects – her only reaction, of course, is to die, but by then turning to camera and asking “Would you have sold your TV to save that woman's life?”, Max reveals that he is far more interested in interrogating OUR reaction and exposing OUR collusion in his dark deeds – or as he later puts it “Now did you want to see that or not, and if not, why are you still watching?”
Slasher films have always exploited that strange, conflicted desire in the viewer to see the killer succeed, and 'The Last Horror Movie' takes this further by focussing almost entirely on the character of Max himself, and by not letting us know or care about any of his victims. There is nobody besides Max with whom the viewer can identify, and the sheer banality of his views and behaviour (apart from all the murders) makes such identification surprisingly easy – but there is a sting in this film's tail that reminds the viewer all too unpleasantly of what it is like to be a victim.
'The Last Horror Movie' gets away with its low-budget look by masquerading as a home video, while the diabolically professional central performance by Kevin Howarth dispels any notion that the film is at all amateurish. Like a combination of 'Funny Games' (1997), 'The Vanishing' (1988), and especially 'Man Bites Dog' (1992), Julian Richards' film is all about discomfiting the ready complicity of the viewer – by turns disturbing, funny, and grim, it cuts much deeper than your average slasher.
It's Got: A film whose implications creep up on you.
It Needs: To be seen at home alone on video for full effect.
Alternatives:Funny Games, Man Bites Dog, The Vanishing (1988)
Intelligent low-budget meta-horror that cuts much deeper than the average slasher.