It’s time for FrightFest! That delightful time of the year when all things horrific descend on London, England’s Leicester Square to scare and delight audiences with the best in new horror. After a bit of a ticket miss-hap I was ushered into a vacant seat near the back just as my first film of the fest started, and I settled in for the latest outing from Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund: The Last Showing.
In The Last Showing, multiplex projectionist Stuart (Englund) is a master of a dying art. Now with the onset of the digital age he has been relegated to shovelling popcorn and taking orders from a boss more than half his age. After one condom incident too many, Stuart snaps and decides to make a movie of his own: a horror that puts unwilling couple Martin and Allie (Finn Jones and Emily Berrington) in the main roles.
Once upon a time in another life, I was a multiplex cinema employee. The various happenings could make for a series of horror movies all on their own, but when everything was running smoothly my fellow minions and I would naturally talk about what kind of movie could be set in our workplace. Once the usual zombie-based discussions were done with I suggested a cinema-set slasher film, complete with stalking through the screens and a body shoved into the popcorn machine. So needless to say I was excited to hear about The Last Showing. And did it live up to my bored work-time hopes? Very much so.
This film is fun, just silly fun. It dips into campy and dumb quite a few times, but always with awareness that that’s what it’s doing. We’re treated to the usual tropes–happy couple, bad decisions, a build up to the big confrontation between hero and villain–but at the same time we know they’re being done on purpose; Stuart is manipulating events from his security camera lair to fall in line with his vision of a horror film. It gives the film a sense of both playing itself straight and at the same time being a send up, and I found that combination quite enjoyable.
Also massively fun is Robert Englund as Stuart, our amateur director torturing the poor couple. Stuart projects a “harmless old man” reminiscent of a character in an old British sitcom, but has a very sinister edge as he sadistically delights in the trauma Martin goes through. The accent does wobble from one side of the pond to the other a couple of times, but it never bothered me. Jones and Berrington also do a decent job as the victim couple; you root for them but there is still the necessary level of “these guys are idiots.”
It also works as a film about films. Set in a cinema with various aspects being put towards more nastier use, such as the automatic platforms used for rewinding film reels being used to choke someone with film strips. There’s even a dose of the usual meta contemplating on horror movies that we’ve come to expect in a post-Scream world.
If I had to nitpick on something, it would be that the main female role, Allie, is not the best written. I get that part of this is to fit in with the “helpless girlfriend” archetype, but after a couple of intro scenes where it seems that she’s into horror films and knows the ins and outs of them, I was hoping for some more genre-savvy behaviour from her. There also isn’t much here for gore-hounds, it’s more about the characters being trapped in the situation.
As a first film of my FrightFest experience, this was a great start. Silly, fun, and with a great performance from Robert Englund, I would say that it’s worth at least a look when it hits VOD in North America at the end of September, or on DVD in October.
FrightFest ran from August 21-25 in London, England.