5.12.2009

The Last Horror Film [a.k.a. Fanatic] (1982)

DIRECTED BY
David Winters

STARRING
Caroline Munro - Jana Bates
Joe Spinell - Vinny Durand
Judd Hamilton - Alan Cunningham
Devin Goldenberg - Marty Bernstein
David Winters - Stanley Kline
Stanley Susanne Benton - Susan Archer
Mary Spinell - Vinny's Mother
Glenn Jacobson - Bret Bates


Genre - Horror/Slasher/Thriller

Running Time - 91 Minutes (Uncut Version)

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4


If we've been paying sort of attention to the media in recent times, you would have noticed that its obsession with celebrity life has really reached an all time high. I mean, is a crazed fan crashing a Britney Spears concert and proving that people are paying $250 a pop to watch someone lip-sync really more important than the economy right now? Is Paris Hilton's social life more newsworthy than murder, rape, and all the other awful things happening in the world? Absolutely not. But if people need to discuss Kim Kardashian's big fat ass over the rise of unemployment, then hey - I wish them luck stepping back into the real world from fantasy.

At least this obsession isn't hurting someone. But sometimes certain people take it a bit too far. There are sickos out there who will literally dedicate their lives to follow someone famous, secretly living through them to the point where they need to meet them and officially become a part of their life in some way, shape, or form. Most of the time, these people get caught before any damage is done. At other times, it can lead to injury - even murder.

In 1982's THE LAST HORROR FILM, a man who's so desperate to become a world famous director has taken the liberty of following a well known actress to the point where he'll murder anyone who stands in the way of their meeting face-to-face. Inspired by the John Hinckley, Jr. attempted assassination of then-President Ronald Reagan in 1981 over an obsession with Jodie Foster, THE LAST HORROR FILM is a cult classic brought back to the forefront by Troma Films in UNCUT form at just the right time where horror has become stale. Starring Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro, this lost horror classic is made for those who love MANIAC and/or are looking for an 80s slasher that's smarter than it looks.

PLOT
A New York City taxi driver named Vinny Durand (Joe Spinell) has grand delusions of making an epic horror film with horror actress Jana Bates (Caroline Munro), believing the film will garner him an Oscar. Vinny is ready for his close up. His script is finished. He has a camera. All he needs is his star actress. Tired of his current situation and feeling like a loser, Vinny decides to pack things up and head to Cannes, where Jana will be to accept an award for her work.

Even though Jana doesn't know that she has an obsessed fan stalking her, she has her own issues to deal with. She's going through a separation from her husband and mentor, Bret Bates (Glenn Jacobson), who isn't too happy that Jana is seeing the man who directed her latest film, Alan Cunningham (Judd Hamilton). With all three at Cannes, along with Vinny in the shadows, it doesn't look like it will be a great time for Jana - especially when people she's close to professionally start dropping like flies around her. Scared out of her mind, Jana doesn't realize that she's starring in her last horror film, directed guerilla style by Vinny Durand. Will Jana survive her new role? Or will she be cut out from film for good?

REVIEW
THE LAST HORROR FILM
, finally being released to DVD in Uncut form for the first time on May 19th by Troma, is a unique little horror flick. At times it feels like an 80s slasher flick. Some portions has a mystery-thriller element at play. And the film is pure camp most of the time in a grindhouse sort of way [gotta love those discoteque scenes]. But even with all this, THE LAST HORROR FILM is a very cool flick that I'm very glad to see come back for a modern audience who may be interested in horror that doesn't suck.

The story by Judd Hamilton is still pretty revelant even after almost 30 years after the film was written, filmed, and released. We still read and hear about celebrity stalkers and the lengths they will go to in order to get closer to their obsession. Vinny Durand leaves New York City to go to France just to be close to Jana Bates. And then he starts filming her like some paparazzi, creating what he calls Jana's last horror film by filming her reactions when she realizes her friends and colleagues are missing or dead. It's interesting to see both sides to the obsession. While Vinny is obviously deranged and clearly needs a psychiatrist or some shock treatment, we can understand why he would be obsessed with this actress. She's beautiful. She's obviously talented. She's also extremely marketable and fresh. Who wouldn't want to cast her in their film? Sure his methods are a bit extreme, but you can understand why he tries so hard to get her attention. And then we have Jana, who's going through a love triangle and a crossroads in her career. Who needs more drama in the form of a stalker who's offing anyone she's been in contact with?

Hamilton also infuses social commentary to enhance the film's story. The biggest commentary is obviously comparing Vinny's obsession with Jana to John Hinckley's obsession with Jodie Foster, leading both men to murder to get closer to their respective actresses. Apparently the whole "obsession leads to death" theme isn't something new, but works fine here. We also get a bit where there's talk of horror films desensitizing people, blurring the lines between what's real and what's reel. This was probably brought about by the rise of slasher films at the time that many considered violent, sexist, and low rent - especially when it came to Spinell's and Munro's previous collaboration together, MANIAC. While this commentary is obvious, it also puts the film in a time capsule for a bit of nostalgia.

Character development isn't big here. We do watch Vinny's descent into madness build slowly everytime his attempts to meet Jana are thwarted. I love watching crazy people on film - just keep them away from my personal space. While Jana is also developed a bit, Vinny is the real focus of the film and we connect with him more. The supporting characters are just there, really not adding much to the main plot except when they were getting killed. The dialogue is also written well as well. No one comes off sounding silly and help pace the film's story well.

I will say that the different styles and techniques to move the story along do make the film a bit uneven. At times I wasn't sure if was watching a giallo film or a mystery film or just a straight forward thriller with nice shots of blood and gore. Even the "twist" at the end is fairly predictable, with the last moment of the film being truly bizarre and entirely laughable [in a good way I thought]. This was a weird film and I wondered if it that was intentional or not. Either way, I was entertained.

The gore effects in THE LAST HORROR FILM are pretty cheesy in modern terms, but they work for an 80s horror flick. I love the decapitation aftermath with the blood gushing from where the head was detached from the neck. We have a face burnt to a crisp. We also get a death by electricity and an axe to the back. Plus we get a sweet double gunshot to some stupid chick's head which leads to her falling off of a roof and splattering once she reaches the ground below. Not bad stuff at all.

I also liked the cheesy soundtrack too. Very pop-rock, Journey-like and Toto-like music. Plus tracks by Depeche Mode [!] and Al Jolson are used. Definitely fits the time.

The direction by David Winters works well for the type of film THE LAST HORROR FILM is. It's almost shot giallo style, giving the film quite a European feel both in look and in style. You could actually mistake it for a grindhouse flick in a way. The editing was used pretty well I thought. There are scenes of films-within-the-film that transition into the main story that work, blurring the lines of what's real and what isn't. The pacing is a bit slow at the beginning but picks up considerably towards the end. And the guerilla style shooting at the Cannes Festival gives THE LAST HORROR FILM a lot of atmosphere that we don't see much in slasher films. It's a very colorful film, even when it's dark. There are also touches of style, especially during one scene where Vinny is masturbating to Jana's voice while her image is displayed on his body like a spotlight. It's a nice job.

The acting isn't a highlight, as with most slasher films of the time, but it definitely gets the job done. Joe Spinell is obviously the star here as Vinny Durand. He has this sleazy, slimy look about him that wouldn't fly in today's Hollywood, but that's what really makes him interesting. Plus he's a great character actor and his descent into insanity by film's end is fascinating and entertaing to watch. Spinell is silly, kooky, scary, and at times poignant - giving us a multi-layered performance. It's the perfect low-budget performance, although I still feel MANIAC remains his best work. Caroline Munro, like in MANIAC, compliments Spinell extremely well. She can scream and she's hot as hell. Plus she's not a bad actress at all. The other actors did their parts and helped move the story along. But Joe Spinell's mom, Mary, was pretty bad. Wooden as hell, she honestly made me laugh whenever she spoke. And her last line is classic. That's all I'll say about that.

The Uncut DVD is pretty Troma-riffic. The visual and audio has been remastered and I have to say that Troma did an awesome job with the new transfer. The picture looks clear and the audio sounds great. The uncut footage added is a bit dark and grainy, but it doesn't distract too much from the overall presentation.

Plus we get a ton of special features. This includes the "making of" THE LAST HORROR FILM, memories of Joe Spinell by his best friend Luke Walter, and a brief interview with William Lustig who directed Spinell in MANIAC. We also get a short film by Spinell that he made in 1989 called MR. ROBBIE, which was the beginning of an intended sequel to MANIAC. Unfortunately Spinell passed away before it could be completed, but the footage left over would have made a pretty cool slasher flick if Spinell had the health to finish it. We also get a bunch of trailers from Troma and an intro from Lloyd Kaufman himself. All in all, a very cool package for a very cool cult flick.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE STALKING CAROLINE MUNRO AT CANNES TO SEE HER "CANS"

- Some shadowy figure killed a naked chick in a jacuzzi by quietly sliding a wire inside the water and electrocuting her.

Hot tub + boobs + electricity in the air = my longing for new Blind Date episodes. I need my dating shows, dammit!

- Vinny had a shrine of Jana Bates on his wall. Some may think the man is crazy, but I understand it as his appreciation for her beauty and talent. As a matter of fact, I had a shrine of Pamela Anderson once. But after I drilled a hole near her bikini line, inspected it, and came out with a bad case of Hepatitis C, I've abstained from shrines altogether. But I'm not crazy, no matter what the doctors and the voices in my head keep telling me.

- Bret, the producer, got his throat slashed while shaving. Guess he should have used the Mach 3 instead of the Quatro!

- Four hot nude chicks teased Vinny about his passiveness, implying that he's a shy little boy in a man's body. Remember: women want men, not boys. Unless it's Mary Kay Letourneau. Then it's okay.

- There were a bunch of airplanes flying while waving banners that warned Jana about filming her last horror film. This was followed by another airplane promoting SUPERMAN III. I'm not sure which one I'd be more scared about: someone threatening me or the mention of SUPERMAN III. Yeesh!

- Don't ever ignore an aspiring filmmaker. He'll have an axe to grind with you. Literally.

- Jana believes that people can separate real life from illusion. She's obviously never seen The Hills.

- A killer in a horror film cut out the victim's heart and ate it. I'm sure that's gonna take quite a beating on his digestive system.

- Some annoying blonde chick got shot in the skull twice and fell to her death. I'm sure this startled her since she usually gives head instead of taking it.

THE FINAL HOWL
THE LAST HORROR FILM
is a bizarre ditty of a film that needs to be seen to be appreciated. It's full of schlock and it's really silly, but it's quite creative and clever at the same time. If you're looking for a mainstream horror flick, it ain't here. But if you're looking for a low-budget cult flick that has gore, boobs, a decent story, and entertaining performances wrapped up in a fantastic Troma package, THE LAST HORROR FILM is definitely for you. May 19th - PICK IT UP!!

1 comment:

  1. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobMay 14, 2009 at 12:02 PM

    caroline munro was an incredible chick back in the 70`s but what always put me off a little bit was the fact that she`s english, american snatch is so much better than british.

    ReplyDelete

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