“The Last Horror Movie” is the most aptly-titled film of the year. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
A comedy/satire that pulls liberally from sources ranging from “American Psycho” to “The Blair Witch Project” to “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” “Horror Movie,” had it any chance of being colossally successful, might well have been to the serial killer genre what Scream was to the slasher. Full of self-congratulatory humor and absolutely devoid of thrills of any kind, this movie takes the tenets of the genre (namely: scary insane people, frightening and disturbing murders, and a bleak sense of nihilism) and defuses them with lengthy monologues, wink-wink comedy, and a stunning lack of tension. I read once that a filmmaker has two tools with which to tell a compelling story: suspense and surprise. Considering that this film features absolutely none of either, it’s not surprising that the only thing I was compelled to do was walk out of the theatre.
This is the story of Max, a dashing wedding videographer with beautiful, rich friends who also happens to be a psycho killer. As we move along we learn nothing more about him, despite the fact that he is in nearly every frame and has a severe case of diarrhea-mouth. Unengaging, to say the least – I don’t care how charming he is, he’s not all that interesting after the first 15 minutes of blabbering directly into the camera about how naughty he is. And this isn’t the fault of lead Kevin Howarth, who is actually very watchable and at times quite funny in his smugness – it’s just that even if this well-adjusted man were a believable serial killer, it wouldn’t necessarily be interesting to watch him talk about it for 2 hours.
Whereas other (successful) serial killer satires have used the form to comment on such things as consumerism (American Psycho), the media (Man Bites Dog), and domestic violence (Suburban Nightmare), “The Last Horror Movie” doesn’t comment on anything but itself, aside from a few blatant “implicate the viewer for the crimes he is viewing” jabs, which has been done dozens of times before, and better (check out the pitch-black “Funny Games” for an argument that might actually convince you to stop watching horror altogether…almost). And without an underlying point to make, the movie rambles about, without any character development, plot points, or twists to keep things going in any one direction – I think that you could rearrange the scenes in pretty much any order and have no impact on its internal logic whatsoever (sort of like The Simpsons, only with fewer references).
So while the comedy will draw a chuckle now and then, it’s nothing hilarious and continually distracting from the fact that you’re supposedly watching a horror movie. I mean after all, didn’t Fangoria have a hand in releasing this? It must be a horror movie! Near the end things change suddenly when Max stops boring us with his home movies and gets to the point (his movie is a way of educating his victims), but by that point I had already soured on the cleverness of it all and couldn’t really be bothered.
Not to mention the fact that I saw the movie in a theatre, which completely negates the fundamental twist of the setup – that you’ve rented a horror film and that Max has recorded over the video store’s tape with his own thoughts and exploits. Maybe watching this at home alone in the dark would elicit more of a chill when Max reveals his plan, but I doubt it. And I’m shocked that this was originally touted as Fangoria’s first theatrical release, because it makes absolutely NO SENSE to release this film theatrically – the whole joke is that you’re watching it on video, at home, and have gotten yourself into something far more sinister than late fees. In the theatre the whole setup is beyond ludicrous – it would be like writing a novel where the twist is that it’s printed on poisoned paper, and then only releasing it as an audiobook.
I mentioned earlier that this movie is aptly named, and the reason is simple: the home video camera could possibly be the magic bullet that sinks the serial killer genre entirely. Movies about serial killers taping their exploits (a silly and illogical idea, considering that the vast majority of serial killers are not, in actuality, filmmakers) have been churned out at an alarming rate, to steadily diminishing returns, to the point where the missing shocks are being replaced with humor and winking wit. Sure, it may be funny. And that’s something, I guess – but even a horror comedy needs to work on two levels to succeed, and here the ‘horror’ angle is sadly under exploited. Without a point to be made or a sincere desire to shock, all you’re going to end up with is a handsome face spouting clever prose to a camera. Myself, I’d rather watch a horror film.