Montevideo, 1993, rain outside and the smell of popcorn inside, he lays his money on the marble counter at the Cine Opera, picking up his tickets with his leather gloves and ascending the steps to the auditorium as the crowd from the previous performance departs, the credits still rolling as he takes his seat at the back, black bag at his feet, but he is not there for the last matinee: he is there to make a killing.
A handful of patrons waiting for the film to begin, smoking cigarettes against the rules, late arrivals stumbling to their seats as the lights go down, one tells their date that the film is “horror and suspense,” their attention on the screen so they fail to notice the man at the back moving behind the person sat closest to him, timing his own actions with what is happening in the movie so they are not heard over the screams onscreen…
A film set within the magical, transformative collective experience of a cinema is not unusual – The Blob, Gremlins, Demons, Matinee – but directed by Maximiliano Contenti from a script by Manuel Facal The Last Matinee (Al morir la matinée, more correctly translated as When the Matinee Died and also known as Red Screening) is something of a conscious oddity, more concerned with the aesthetic of the giallo than narrative, character or logic.
The film playing in the Cine Opera 2011’s Frankenstein: Day of the Beast, directed by Ricardo Islas who also plays the unnamed killer, clutching his jar of eyeballs collected from his victims, it was not released until two decades past when The Last Matinee is set, and it adds nothing to the film other than a mediocre backdrop against which the murders are played out with no attempt to tie the storylines together to reflect or contrast each other.
The increasingly preposterous killings the only moments where creativity has been employed or effort expended, Contenti loves the violence and violations more than his captive audience, the few surviving patrons taking an hour to realise what is happening, urgency and pace finally kick in as they scramble across the seats to the exits only to find out they are trapped and must arm themselves with what they have to hand.
The stylish lighting and retro-cool soundtrack insufficient to make up for what lacks elsewhere, Arrow’s Blu-ray of The Last Matinee includes a generic behind-the-scenes short of numerous participants offering recollections of the challenge and rewards of the production, a montage of the many prosthetic appliances, a commentary and interview with Contenti, a music video, fifteen minutes of faux-documentary material and the director’s earlier shorts and feature.