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Cinequest 2004:
The Last Horror Movie

First off, SPOILER ALERT! If you happen to live in Britain and still rent video tapes, you might not want to read ahead… well, if this movie gets distribution, that is… which it may… oh, hell, just keep reading.

The Last Horror Movie starts off with a daring concept that would've been gold about ten to seven years ago: what if you, the viewer, had browsed through a video store and picked up this movie (looking for a little horror thrill on a Saturday night), only to find the tape had been recorded over mere minutes into the movie with the videolog of a serial killer. The sheer thrill of not knowing whether what you were viewing was real or not, and how your enjoyment of the murder would then reflect on you as a person… that's got legs.

Unfortunately, this isn't ten years ago, DVDs now rule the rental market, and, as I hope we all know, you can't record over a DVD. More to the point, the illusion doesn't work on the internet, television, or in theatrical distribution, but we can forgive that since we still remember the golden age of the video cassette. At least, for now.

In any case, it shouldn't be too hard for future generations to understand what's going on, as Max Parry, our narrating serial killer, more than happily explains everything that's going on. He jokes and flirts with the audience, gives us a brief history of his "mania" and cheerfully slaughters people for our amusement.

Why does this work so well? Simple: the man is charm incarnate. Fitting the classic model of pop culture's Jack the Ripper, Max is a witty, sophisticated man, working as a wedding videographer by day and stalking the English streets during his free time. He quips and jibes at us from his editing room, behind the wheel of his car, and even during murders while his "assistant" films everything.

But then he does one better and talks to us while dining with relatives, partying with friends, and cruising weddings. He toys with us by presenting situations where we think he may do in some poor innocent only to reveal that it's a friend of his, the mere fact we know he's a killer making us assume the worst.

Max cajoles us for continuing to watch, of course, constantly calling our morality into question. "If you had the choice of saving that woman's life, back there, for the price of your TV, would you give up your TV?" He then presents the same case for a starving African child: a charity could save it for the price of your TV, as well, but would you give up your TV, then?

Sadly, Max repeats this lesson a few times, and the preaching loses some power. He continues to push that we watch him continue his ghastly work because we actually like the killing as long as we don't know it's "real," that human beings just really go for death. He may have a point, there, but the argument is actually weakened by the fact that Max is so charismatic. Would we continue to watch if Max were a horrifically malformed monster who spit out insults at us while grumbling about how rotten his life was?

The film also suffers a huge logic error towards the end, the nature of which I cannot discuss, but, suffice it to say, it shatters the illusion the film was supposed to be built on irreparably. Not fatal, but it downgrades a possible classic to just another horror film.

However, Max's charm is undeniable and the film's humor and intrigue grips you. Is it a new level of scary movie? Not at all. In fact, there wasn't a single scare at all, and most of it wasn't really too creepy, either. But that's not why Max is there. He makes us think and he entertains us, and, after all, isn't that why we go to movies in the first place?


Jason Schachat

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