Last Matinee (The) AKA Al morir la matinée AKA Red Screening AKA Bloody Matinee (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Video
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (21st December 2021).
The Film

The Last Matinee (Al morir la matinée; Maximiliano Contenti, 2020)

There are fairly few Uruguayan horror films in the wild, and the reason for this is that until the 21st Century, the country didn’t have the infrastructure to support the production of genre films. The reasons for this are discussed by Maximiliano ‘Maxi’ Contenti in the extra features for this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video of The Last Matinee, Contenti’s second feature-length project. (His first, Puppet Pal V / Muñeco Viviente V, 2008, is included as an ‘extra’ feature on the disc.)

The Last Matinee is set in a cinema in Montevideo, in 1993. The cinema prepares to close for the evening, with one last screening – of a gory Gothic horror film – to take place. The ageing projectionist is relieved by his daughter, engineering student Ana (Luciana Grasso), because she is concerned for her father’s health. (Clearly suffering from respiratory problems, he has been asked to work into the night owing to the absence from work of his counterpart, Javier, who has called in sick.)

The screening is a lock-in; and as the bulk of the staff leave, Ana is left alone with the ever-so-slightly sleazy usher, Maurico (Pedro Duarte). In the auditorium, watching the film, are a trio of teenagers; a couple in their 20s on a date, the woman clearly interested in casual sex but her date seemingly innocent of this; an elderly man; a teenage girl who is attending the film by herself; and a young boy who has snuck into the screening by hiding amongst the seats at the end of the previous show. One by one, the audience members fall victim to a killer (Ricardo Islas), dressed in a black raincoat and leather gloves, who dispatches his victims with a knife before removing their eyeballs.

Despite the early 1990s setting of The Last Matinee, the film that is being screened in the cinema during the narrative is from 2011: it is Frankenstein: Day of the Beast, directed by Ricardo Islas, who plays The Last Matinee’s killer. The camp, Hammer-esque Gothic horror stylings of Frankenstein: Day of the Beast contrast with the modern, urban setting and deadpan tone of The Last Matinee – though aside from a few elements (such as the use of analogue film projectors in the projection booth depicted in the film) it is easy to forget that The Last Matinee is set almost 30 years in the past.

The Last Matinee
includes a number of foregrounded riffs on thrilling / gialli all’italiana (Italian-style thrillers), such as those by the likes of Dario Argento and Sergio Martino, to the extent that Contenti's film replays some specific moments from Italian thrillers: for example, there is a shot of a young boy’s brightly-coloured sweets, dropped to the floor, cascading down the stairs in slow-motion (this is a moment which is echoed when the killer drops his jar of eyeballs towards the end of the narrative) that recalls a very similar shot in Argento’s Suspiria (1977). Given this, it’s tempting to reflect on whether or not – in juxtaposing the corny Frankenstein picture which the film’s audience watches in the auditorium with the brutal murders that the killer enacts – Contenti is offering a coded commentary on the manner in which the Gothic horror paradigm of the 1960s was supplanted in the 1970s by gory horror-thrillers with contemporary settings.

Elsewhere, the temporal setting of The Last Matinee is anchored by some of the posters that are seen in the foyer of the cinema, including a prominent one for Dario Argento’s Opera (1987). The setting of the narrative in a cinema, where a film is being viewed during a ‘lock-in’, can’t help but bring to mind Lamberto Bava’s Demoni (Demons, 1986): and though there are no supernatural shenanigans in The Last Matinee, there is nevertheless a shared emphasis on onscreen grue and violence enacted against the human ocular organ. The killer, you see, is fascinated – nay, obsessed – with human eyeballs, to the extent that he uses an ice-cream scoop(!!!) to retrieve them from his victims after he murders them, and collects said eyeballs in a jar filled with a liquid which one presumes to be formaldehyde. (Exactly how the killer carries this large glass jar around with him during his energetic escapades seems to be something that the film does not wish to confront.)

Like Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, The Last Matinee presents us with an oddball group of characters who become trapped in a setting from which they cannot escape. We have the young couple on a date: bored with the film, the young woman seems only interested in sex, and this is something to which her paramour appears to be oblivious; an eccentric elderly man who simply refuses to leave after the previous showing has finished; three teenagers who have worked their way into the screening in order to drink booze; a teenage girl who attends the film on her own; and a young boy who, desperate to see the ‘forbidden’ horror film, has sneaked into the screening by hiding amongst the seats when the cinema emptied. These characters are all caricatures, naturally, but the film spends most of its time with the ‘sex positive’ young woman and her awkwardly prudish date. Standing against the film’s kill scenes, in terms of its focus on bodily fluids, is a moment in which the young woman crudely unbuttons the flies of her date’s jeans and masturbates him to completion, while the gory Frankenstein picture plays on the cinema screen; this leaves the young man with a dirty stain on his shirt and trousers – which, when he goes to the lavatories to clean, leads to his death.

The Last Matinee is entertaining, albeit fairly predictable and slavishly devoted to the narrative paradigms of the contemporary thriller. Ana is signposted quite clearly from the outset of the story as the film’s ‘final girl’; and whilst there is some enigma surrounding the identity of the killer (we may think it is Javier, or perhaps Ana’s father, for example), this is scampered when it is revealed that the murderer is a seemingly random maniac, committing apparently motiveless crimes. Given Ana’s clear devotion to her father, had he been revealed to the killer, this may have injected some much-needed pathos into the material. The killer’s motif is the removal of his victim’s eyeballs, with the aforementioned ice-cream scoop, which he collects in a jar. (Given the film’s setting in a cinema, it’s tempting to read the killer’s violence against the victims’ eyeballs as a broadside at the voyeuristic pleasures of cinema spectatorship.) Absent of any apparent motivation, the film’s violence seems as arbitrary as, say, that of the serial killers in pictures such as John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) or Remy Belvaux, Benoit Poeolvoorde, and Andre Bonzel’s Man Bites Dog (1992). However, when the Italian thrillers which this film so clearly mimics generally feature rationalisations for the motivations of their killers which (aping Hitchcock’s Psycho in the manner in which they are revealed in the final moments of their respective plots) often border on the absurd in their complexity, The Last Matinee’s denouement feels starkly empty by comparison.

Nevertheless, the film’s visual style is bold: the realisation of the near-labyrinthine interior of the cinema, a space dominated by stark primary colours, is highly effective. There are also some significant moments of inventiveness during the kills. In one kill scene, for example, the murderer strikes whilst one of his victims is taking a cigarette break; as the killer slits his victim’s throat, the smoke pours out of the wound in his neck. Elsewhere, the killer slams another victim’s head in the maintenance panel of the projector, causing blood to splatter onto the lens of the projector – and resulting in this image of blood being projected onto the screen in the auditorium.


With a running time of 87:52 mins, The Last Matinee is presented on this disc in its intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p presentation uses the AVC codec, and the film fills very slightly under 21Gb of space on its dual-layered Blu-ray disc.

Photographed digitally, the film is captured very well on this Blu-ray release. Given that the film was captured digitally, there is a pleasing sense of dynamic range within the photography, with evenly balanced highlights tapering off into the toe of the exposure - which is equally well-preserved. Colours, especially the scenes which feature a prominent use of primary colours in the background (and captured via the use of coloured gels on the lights), are vivid and deep. The level of detail is very pleasing too. There also appear to be no encoding issues with the presentation. In all, this is a very strong presentation of a digitally-captured feature.

NB. Some full-size screengrabs are included at the bottom of this review. Please click to enlarge them.


The film’s dialogue is in Spanish, and there are two audio options: a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, and a LPCM 2.0 track. Both audio tracks are robust, with impressive range. The LPCM track seems to have a more ‘solid’ soundscape, but the surround effects in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track are also highly immersive. Optional English subtitles are provided, and these are easy to read and free from grammatical or spelling errors.


On the disc, extras include:
- An audio commentary with director Maxi Contenti. Speaking in English, Contenti provides a commentary for The Last Matinee. The track was recorded exclusively for Arrow’s home video release of the film. Contenti talks about some of the challenges involved in making an independent feature film, reflecting on some of the ways in which he had to mitigate his ideas in order to accommodate the schedule and budget: for example, reducing the introduction of Ana. Contenti reflects on some of the symbolism in The Last Matinee, and talks about the casting of the film. It’s a loose commentary track, spontaneous in tone, and Contenti speaks with warmth about the film.

- A ‘Behind the Scenes’ featurette (11:19). Shot during the production, this featurette features the cast and principal crew talking about the film. Comments come thick and fast, from Ricardo Islas (who plays the killer), the film’s art director (Cristina Nigro), cinematographer Benjamin Silva, makeup effects supervisor Christian Gruaz, and others. Following the on-set interviews, we are presented with footage showing Contenti directing the actors. Spanish, with optional English subtitles.

- A VFX featurette (2:25). This is a montage of stills and behind-the-scenes footage showing how the film’s gory visual effects were achieved.

- An interview with Maxi Contenti (14:26). Contenti speaks (in English), answering questions about the film, in footage recorded exclusively for Arrow’s release. He discusses the popularity of horror in Uruguay. He also talks about his interest in cinema, and how he became interested in filmmaking. He suggests that watching Jurassic Park, in particular, inspired him to become a film director. Contenti suggests that over the past 15 years or so, it has become easier for filmmakers such as him to get financing for genre films like The Last Matinee.

- ‘Killer Attraction: Maxi Contenti & Ricardo Islas in Conversation’ (49:58). Contenti and actor Islas, who is also a filmmaker in his own right, talk via a video call about The Last Matinee and their shared love of horror films. (Contenti talks from Tenerife, and Islas speaks from Chicago.) This conversation is held in English.

- ‘At the Premiere’ (1:07). This is a brief montage of video footage shot at the premiere of the film.

- Music Video (3:23). Contenti directed this music video for the band Phoro’s track ‘Espada’, which is the main theme of The Last Matinee.

- ‘The Matinee Massacre’: Part I (3:04); Part II (6:19); Part III (4:33). This series of short films were created for publication online, to promote the film. They essentially take the form of a ‘mockumentary’, looking at the events in the film as if they were real. Spanish, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Puppet Pal V’ (‘Muneco Viviente V’) (90:14). This is a feature length horror-comedy directed by Contenti in 2008. The narrative offers a slasher movie-type scenario focusing on a killer puppet. (There are some obvious parallels with the Puppet Master series.) Arch and knowing in tone, and rough and ready in production (think of the likes of Andrew Jordan’s 1989 Canadian oddity Things, and you’ll be close), Puppet Pal V is entertaining but, thanks to its insistent self-aware tone, sometimes wearying to watch. Shot on video, Puppet Pal V is here presented in the 1.78:1 ratio. Spanish, with optional English subtitles.

- Short Films: ‘The Plastic Kingdom’ (2011) (24:23); ‘Popping Eyes’ (2009) (2:55); ‘Hobby Metal’ (2006) (11:30); ‘Les Escaliers Fruitiers’ (2005) (1:23); ‘La Galleta’ (2003) (4:15); ‘Miedo’ (2001) (18:52). This is a fascinating array of short films, shot on a variety of formats, directed by Contenti and made between 2001 and 2011. ‘Miedo’ was Contenti’s first short film, made when the director was 16 years old, and features a bickering middle-aged couple – the wife (Ana) raging against her husband’s pranks, which include tormenting her with a toy spider. Taking an askance look at waste and the use of landfill, and with a loose narrative focused on a sentient plastic bag that finds itself transported to a tip, ‘The Plastic Kingdom’ is perhaps the most accomplished. ‘Hobby Metal’ is a fascinating little short about a metal detectorists, which features a blackly comic denouement. ‘Les Escaliers Fruitiers’ features fruit cascading down some steps in close-up (again with a darkly comic final moment), a prelude to some key imagery in The Last Matinee. Spanish, with optional English subtitles.

- Trailers: Trailer 1 (1:55); Trailer 2 (1:45); Trailer 3 (0:33); Trailer 4 (0:17).

- Galleries: Behind the Scenes (50 images); Concept Art (8 images); Storyboards (134 images); Promotional Stills (48 images); Posters (44 images); Fan Art (50 images).


Whilst watching The Last Matinee, this writer could not help observing that the late-night screening depicted in the narrative is clearly not a matinee – and hence the film’s title, at least the title that this release from Arrow bears, makes no sense. (The film is also known in English as ‘Bloody Matinee’ and ‘Red Screening’: the latter title seems the most logical.) This is a minor niggle, however. Contenti’s film is luridly entertaining, with throwbacks to the Italian-style thrillers of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, whose cult cache has exploded in the digital home video age. The narrative is wafer-thin, and the characters little more than caricatures, but there’s a gusto to the production – especially in its chase/kill scenes – alongside some vivid makeup effects work, and some excellent photography and lighting. The Last Matinee is certainly a fun picture to watch, and Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release contains an excellent presentation of the main feature, alongside some superb contextual material – including Contenti’s first feature-length project, Puppet Pal V.

Please click to enlarge.


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