Although I came away from THE LAST HORROR MOVIE with a rather blasé feeling, I have to give director Julian Richards props for the effort. On paper, the film sounds like a pretty good premise – A serial killer makes a documentary about himself and his murders as a social commentary . . . and also, perhaps, as a way to fulfill the natural human instinct to gloat.The only problem was, I just didn’t buy it. The character of Max (Kevin Howarth) is simply too debonair and devil-may-care and altogether normal (in most respects) to be believable. Many of his attempts to be insightful come off as clichéd (“there were people like me around long before violent movies or video games”) and his attempts at fourth wall narration feel just a bit too polished.
This is not necessarily a reflection on Howarth’s acting abilities, since he carries himself on-screen quite well. The problems seem to stem more from miscasting and the script itself. The film that Last Horror Movie could most aptly be compared to is the Belgian film Man Bites Dog, about a documentary film crew following a serial killer around and watching him work. But what made Man Bites Dog so effective was the juxtaposition between the lighter and darker moments, as the jovial and harmless-looking Ben walks around offering up funny life observations one minute, then puts a bullet into someone’s head or flies into a rage the next. This makes the character somewhat sympathetic, but equally unnerving.
But with Max, there is none of this dichotomy in his character. Emotionally, he remains on an even keel, and his approach to murder is so dispassionate that the murders themselves seem pointless and routine. Maybe that’s the point – to highlight the numbing qualities of violence, but unfortunately it can make for some rather dull cinema. Why does Max continue to kill? What does he get out of it? Why do we care?The underlying problem with THE LAST HORROR MOVIE is that it’s trying too hard to be different, but doesn’t really deliver an argument or a point of view that we haven’t seen already. There are a few clever scenes in the script, when Max uses his murders to point out the morbid sense of curiosity most humans seem to possess (“If you didn’t like what you just saw, then why are you still watching? And if you did like it, why are you giving me such a hard time?”). A few clever insights aside, however, THE LAST HORROR MOVIE is an experiment yielding disappointing results.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Indie Fest. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Independent Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.