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The Last Horror Movie
cast: Kevin Howarth, Mark Stevenson, Antonia Beamish, Christabel Muir, and Jonathan Coote

director: Julian Richards
76 minutes (18) 2003
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan Terror Region 0 DVD retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Tony Lee
Welsh filmmaker Julian Richards, the director of 1996's Darklands, attempts to deliver a chilling study of absolute evil on the loose in The Last Horror Movie. This stars urbane Kevin Howarth (from Razor Blade Smile, 1998) as mad Max, a wannabe documentarist of supposedly real-life murders. Max interrupts the beginning of a standard American slasher picture and, with apologies; quickly launches into a denunciation of you the viewer for agreeing to watch the grisly violence that he, so formally, introduces.

Inevitably, there have been comparisons with cult hit Man Bites Dog, and John McNaughton's classic Henry, Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1986) but, seriously, Richards' movie is not in their league. Max asks pointed or loaded questions about distasteful voyeurism and contemplates the appeal of covertly observing others' pain and distress. Yet, in spite of a handful of emotionally manipulative scenes in which helpless captives are 'slaughtered' on camera, while Max repeatedly queries viewers' sensibilities with his "why are you watching this?" schtick, Richards' treatise on horror rapidly becomes tiresome. The premise is a promising one but, somehow, The Last Horror Movie never manages to be as disturbing as it ought to be. Woefully bad amateur actors take some of the supporting roles (the unfortunate 'Grandma', for example), and that doesn't help with the degree of realism being strived for here. We learn along the way that Max's regular job is shooting wedding videos, so the favourite alternative title for this picture would surely be 'Four Weddings And Lots Of Funerals'.

As a clever mockumentary, the film submits no answers to its battery of questions and reaches no apparently useful conclusions. Yes, it's a wheeze. (Perhaps you'll cheer when the traffic warden is dispatched with a claw hammer?) It's fine enough, as a thesis idea for a student's 20-minute short film, but The Last Horror Movie fails quite miserably to hold viewers' attention at feature-length. Instead of a meaningful statement about the grim amorality of horror videos, the illegality of stuff movies, and the public's seeming fascination with designer violence and cinematic massacres, too much of this feeble drama is pretentious rubbish. John Herzfeld's 15 Minutes (2001) said all of this and served up a watchable cops and killers thriller at the same time. Overall, I have to admit that even Ryan Lee Driscoll's tawdry crime fix Making A Killing, was decidedly more intriguing throughout than Richards' alleged shocker. In short, despite the director's view that he's engaging in something original and extraordinary for British cinema, there's nothing new here whatsoever. We really have seen it all before, and many times, too.

Special features on the DVD are a director's commentary, deleted scenes, footage of auditions, a making-of featurette, Richards' short film Pirates, and competition award winner Self Help, plus printed film notes by 'Fright Fest' organiser Alan Jones... Please note: no filmmakers were harmed in the writing of this review.

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