CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
For some reason I didn't see this new thriller at this year's FrightFest. It may well have been something to do with the trailer, which gave the impression that it was heavy on the found-footage style (which of course I loathe), much of the imagery apparently coming from lo-def security cameras. In the event, of course, it was nothing of the kind: it does incorporate surveillance and camcorder material but it's all within a "regular" movie context. However, the film has arrived on the home video market with some speed, whereas the films it clashed with in the festival's Discovery screens have sadly yet to obtain any kind of UK release.
The Last Showing is a pretty generic horror movie title for a frankly pretty generic movie, but it does give the legendary Robert Englund another stab at horror movie maniachood that's as radically different from Freddy Krueger as Freddy was from harmless alien Willie from V. He's Stuart Lloyd, a buttoned-up British projectionist in a soulless multiplex facing the switchover to digital and the end of celluloid: on his last night he uses the cinema's surveillance camera network, manipulating his last couple of cinemagoers with onscreen messages, to put together a "horror film" of his own....
Sadly, the plot doesn't hang together as there are too many factors beyond the maniac's control, not the least of which is that everything hinges on the girl wanting snacks that can be easily drugged. It also hinges on the cinema manager being unable to convince the hero he isn't the villain, and the hero (who has presumably never even held a handgun in his life) managing a clean kill with one shot, More crucially, it requires that a town the size of Ellesmere Port (the film was shot in their 12-screen Vue Cheshire Oaks) can only muster up two customers interested in a midnight screening of, of all things, Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes Part 2; one more ticket sold and the villain's plan won't work.
I generally like movies set in cinemas - Demons, Midnight Movie, even The Majestic - and this one uses its setting well. Taking place in one location with five speaking parts (one doesn't turn up until the last reel and another two are taken out of the action for some time) it's a decent example of getting the maximum out of very limited resources. It's also nice to see a film willing to acknowledge the projection problems that come with digital, as no-one seems willing (or qualified) to fix things like incorrect aspect ratios on electronic projectors. Against that, casual mention in the dialogue of the very real tragedies on the sets of The Crow and especially Twilight Zone: The Movie as villainous motivation strikes a sour note in what is basically a disposable Saturday night rental starring that guy from A Nightmare On Elm Street. Not awful, and fun enough while it's on, but once you start thinking about it afterwards it does unfortunately fall apart.