My role as a film critic used to require me to go to the theatre a couple of times a week, year-round. And honestly, I went just as often before I ever wrote about movies. I miss the experience dearly because, for cinephiles, movie theatres are a sacred space.
Writer-director Maximiliano Contenti’s pulpy horror thriller The Last Matinee (Al morir la matinée), which takes place entirely in a theatre, left me pining to return. Not only is The Last Matinee a kick-ass tribute to classic Giallo flicks, it’s also a love letter to cinema.
The film takes place in a lonely Montevideo movie theatre on a rainy Sunday in 1993. The plot sees a mysterious killer, decked out in a rain slicker and leather gloves, stalk a small group of theatregoers during a horror movie screening.
The film’s hero Ana (Luciana Grasso) doesn’t even work at the theatre. Her dad, the theatre’s projectionist, is sick, so Ana covers his late shift so he can go home and rest. Did she ever pick the wrong night to sub in. When mutilated bodies start turning up, Ana realizes she’s locked inside the theatre with a rampaging killer.
The Last Matinee features all the style and atmosphere you could want from a Giallo movie. Hernán González’s piercing ethereal score would make Goblin proud. The consistently foreboding music adds to the tension and conveying a constant state of dread.
Even though much of the film takes place in the dark, most sets are bathed in moody red and green lighting. Best of all, Benjamin Silva’s lurid camerawork captures its subjects with an almost fetishistic adoration. So much of the movie feels bold, tactile and visceral. It’s as though an ASMR YouTuber produced a horror flick.
The Last Matinee’s vibe will make Mario Bava, and Dario Argento’s fans feel right at home. Gorehounds should get a kick out of the stylish visuals and vicious kills. But what I found most compelling is Contenti’s open reverence for cinema. The Last Matinee feels like a mashup between Suspiria and Cinema Paradiso. High praise, I know. Hopefully, my yearning to return to theatres hasn’t clouded my judgement.