Let’s follow-up on late actor Joe Spinelli. He was best known for his turn in ‘Maniac,’ a low budget, but influential horror movie.
A few years later he offered ‘The Last Horror Film’ for your viewing pleasure.
Vinny (Spinelli) is a New York City cab driver who has an unhealthy infatuation with horror movie actress Jana Bates (Caroline Munro). He plans to make a movie with her as the start. To do this, he flies out to the Canne Film Festival in France to meet Ms. Bates and to try to make a movie with her. This is all perfectly logical and simple enough to Vinny.
Of course when he arrives, Vinny is denied all access to the star. He doesn’t take this very well and everyone who gets in his way end up getting killed. All the while, vaguely threatening notes are sent to Jana that say thing like ‘You have made your last horror film.’
Will this unorthodox approach eventually win the starlet over? Will there be any of these untalented hacks (pun!) left alive at the end of the festival? Is this movie the reason why producers won’t look at a script unless it comes from an agent?
As people cross Vinny, a celluloid image of them is literally slashed. That sort of spells the kills out rather explicitly rather than letting them be a little more spontaneous and surprising. That said, it is a novel way to illustrate the killer’s frame of mind even if it mutes a lot of the suspense.
The film’s awareness of real-life celebrity obsession and unhealthy fixations really works in its favor. A few times, we are reminded of President Reagan’s would-be assassin John Hinkley and his misguided devotion to Jodie Foster. Vincent also spends a lot of time watching sleazy grindhouse-type movies with garish gore and gratuitous violence. These are intentionally bad and a real highlight.
Given the year this was made, the budget and the genre, this isn’t the most gorgeous film out there. It does have some stylish shots and quite a bit of imagination given the straightforward premise. Also, for such a low budget, the gore effects are rather decent. The fact that this was actually filmed during the Canne Film Festival was an impressive touch. The tacky keyboard music (which was a product of the time) is a bit unpleasant.
Perhaps the alternate title of ‘Fanatic’ is more appropriate. ‘The Last Horror Film’ is certainly a grander statement but there can be value in being direct. Vinny is clearly fanatical, displaying some cliched obsessive behavior. Do you have a hundred or so pictures of a celebrity pasted all over your room? If so, you should talk to Vinny.
In a bit of trivia, the movie Jana Bates is in Cannes to promote is called ‘Scream.’ Perhaps Wes Craven saw this and was inspired?
Speaking of inspired, there are a few surprises in the climax. Stick with the movie. You might like them or you could hate them, but you’ll have a reaction, no matter what. It certainly changes things, let’s put it that way.
Spinelli goes the extra mile in this film. A lot of time is spent with Vincent’s bizarre imagination and that puts the character in some strange scenarios. It’s hard to judge the acting because the story goes in some strange directions. Spinelli mostly seems to handle it well, though it does get a little silly at times. The rest of the cast is mediocre, at best.
Special features include: an afternoon with Spinelli’s best friend, commentary, a short that was essentially ‘Maniac 2’ and Spinelli’s final film appearance, an introduction, and original trailer.
‘Maniac’ was the better scary movie, but ‘The Last Horror Film’ deserves credit for its ambition.
Add an extra half star to this rating.
Rated R 87 minutes 1982