At the first glimpse of a shuffling, muttering Robert Englund, in his sweater vest, delicately-rimmed glasses and overall About Schmidtiness, I was worried that The Last Showing was coming off all a bit One Hour Photo. The cheesy opening montage with the cinema lobby’s pretty colours, the overly-enthusiastic score and the boring teen couple and cinema manager, all with their painfully awful acting…and then Englund’s half-arsed English accent…I had enough time to switch over to another movie on my list if I wanted to.
But then the plot kicks into gear. Former projectionist and digital 4K IMAX h8r Stuart (Englund) has finally had enough of serving popcorn to shitty little brats and decides to surreptitiously make his own movie. Unable to keep his temper in check, he pisses off his barely pubescent supervisor with a perfectly valid (though heavy-handed) diatribe on how kids these days don’t appreciate the Old Ways and just want shiny plastic prints spoon-fed to them without a good old-fashioned projector.
When his supervisor tries to fire him, he instead chloroforms him (impressively, without killing him, despite the frighteningly miniscule difference between an incapacitating and a fatal dose) and strangles him almost to death with some well-placed film reels (hey, it’s not like they’re using them anymore).
After scoping out our twatty little couple from afar, he serves them popcorn and sneakily drugs the girl, whom he abducts from the bathroom after she passes out. As this is a midnight showing, and there are no other patrons, Stuart finally gets to have some actors with which to play “Hitchcock and Hedren”. You see, he wants to make his own movie, since he’s been rendered obsolete by the Evil Technology, and he’s doing a pretty damn good job of it.
It’s here when you realise you’re not really watching the movie to give a shit about the couple. They’re not offensive, bratty or overly stupid, but they’re just not very interesting. We know nothing about either of them, yet we get a pretty sizable blurb about Stuart from which to draw sympathy. It’s also why, during those moments when he almost slips up, that I found myself almost…rooting for him, Dexter-style. Plus, it’s Robert Fucking Englund, so reasons.
You’re really watching to see how Stuart pulls this off – how creative he’s going to be in making his movie, and how cleverly he orchestrates everything, as if it were the theatre. The entire cinema is his domain, like a giant panic room. He knows what each switch and dial does, exactly where each camera is located, and even where keys are kept on a person. And he’s not a luddite, either; he’s got some sort of After Effects/Premiere setup on his laptop to splice his movie together. Dude’s got talent!
There’s a nice touch with Stuart’s note cards – they break up the movie The Shining-style, and serve as almost silent movie title cards, especially as the CCTV footage (through which he observes our couple) has no sound. I wished director Phil Hawkins had gone one better and set the movie in a proper, old-fashioned cinema (but perhaps money wasn’t permitting), and used a less bombastic score (honestly, it never shuts up or goes away, and with the ultra-modern lights of what’s clearly a Vue chain cinema, the whole thing sometimes feels like a shitty music video).
Stick with it though, and on balance, try to forgive the lukewarm ending and implausible stinger (which looks to have been thrown in as an afterthought). More of a tense thriller than outright, dread-filled horror (Englund’s character and actions fall just short of threatening enough) it’s short, well-paced and currently on (UK) Netflix, all of which keep the stakes pretty low-key.