The holy trinity of movie slashers is Freddy, Jason and Leatherface. Each has its own merits, but there is one distinction that Freddy holds over the others and that is he was always played by the same actor: Robert Englund (sorry Jackie Earle Haley, the godawful Nightmare remake does not exist in our world.) Englund is a classically-trained actor who has done both Chekhov and Shakespeare, but he will forever be synonymous with the slasher from Springwood.
Since leaving Elm.St. behind, Englund has traded on his horror persona by appearing in a number of enjoyable indie-horror flicks including Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, and his latest, The Last Showing. When one of us had the pleasure of meeting Englund at this summer’s Fan Expo in Toronto, he expressed how proud he was of the film. And with good reason. The Last Showing is a taut, well-acted little film, and Englund is fantastic in it.
England cuts an unimposing figure as Stuart, a bespectacled, mustachioed, slightly-pudgy film-projectionist with a fondness for cardigans. Stuart has worked as a projectionist for over 25 years and actually gives a sh*t about things such as “plot”, “suspense” and “aspect ratio”. But Stuart is an aging man in a young man’s world. His smug boss, who feels that Stuart is a “relic from a bygone era” wants him out of the projection room STAT and behind the concession counter where he’s to pimp overpriced combos to the punters and shovel popcorn while dressed as a yellow Good Humor Man.
Like Aretha, Stuart just wants a little respect. But he’s not given any. He may seem like a nice guy on the surface but he’s seething on the inside. His milquetoast façade belies the pent-up rage bubbling just under the surface, ready to spill out. And spill out it shall.
Sounds like the makings of a slasher, doesn’t it? It wouldn’t be surprising if Stuart went on a slice and dice spree Freddy style, but The Last Showing is much more clever than that. Stuart shall have his revenge but it will be on his terms.
Cut to an attractive young couple, Martin and Allie. Allie has tickets to a midnight showing of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (Meta!). Martin is reticent but they go anyway. At this point, the film requires a bit of a leap of logic as, save for the employees, they are the only other individuals in the entire cinema. Of course, this could be excused because it’s a showing of the execrable THHE2.
Without knowing it, Martin and Allie are to become unwilling participants in a horror film written and directed by Stuart. Allie is drugged, bound and gagged and Martin and Stuart are locked in a cat-and mouse game where Stuart always has the upper hand: “My Film, my rules.” When Martin pleads “Why me?”, Stuart coldly responds “Why not?”
Stuart plays his hand perfectly, his machinations and plotting always perfect. Before long, Allie is his ally and Martin becomes “the villain.”
Englund again needs to be singled out for praise. His Stuart is understated yet menacing, proving that the actor can be just as terrifying without the glove, sweater and pepperoni-pizza makeup. He even affects an entirely convincing British accent, appropriate as the film is set in Manchester. Many an actor has attempted to sound as if they hail from the land of beer, football and bad weather and failed miserably (looking at you, Kevin Costner and Keanu Reeves!)
The Last Showing is decent enough.
*** (out of 5)