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RELEASED: 2003, Cert.18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 81 mins
DIRECTOR: Julian Richards
PRODUCERS: Julian Richards & Zorona Piggott
SCREENPLAY: Julian Richards & James Handel
MUSIC: Simon Lambros
MAIN STAR: Kevin Howarth as Max Parry
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Max Parry seems a nice kind of guy. He earns a modest living as a wedding photographer, gets on famously with his sister, little nephews and grandmother plus has a small circle of seemingly close friends who he socialises with on a regular basis. Max also loves to cook, and specialises in creating gourmet meals for his family and friends whenever they visit.
However, in his spare time, Max is actually a serial killer and with his mostly unseen camera-man assistant, is making a film.
That sets the basic plot, if in fact it can be called a plot, and as ever you must watch it for yourself - maybe at your own risk - to find out more.
The presentation for this film is done in rather an unusual way. Firstly, we are shown an American newsreel about a killer who has escaped from jail, already claiming two victims. The scene then moves to a young woman alone in a diner closing up for the night when she hears a noise. On going to investigate, it's a case of.....Bang Bang Maxwell's Silver Hammer! The film then shifts over to Max Parry speaking in dialogue, his head close to the camera with a smile on his face, yet with his eyes fixed in a deep, penetrating, sinister stare, as he invites us to step into his world where he is making his own horror movie about his serial killing activities.
From that point onwards, The Last Horror Movie is delivered in sections with Max Parry's narration in between each one. Every section consists of a short slice from Max's day to day life, and it is interesting to note that each one evolves into something different to how the viewer anticipates or predicts.
During the narration, Max, in a rather chilling yet impeccably polite way, almost forces the viewer to examine their own values and sense of morals regarding various aspects of not just murder, but death in many other forms....presenting a well-formed, highly articulate set of principles that we are invited to question as they do or don't relate to our own. For example, one of the scenes of Max's day to day life shows him in the act of murdering somebody, yet the camera is swung away at the crucial point when the worst of the violence is carried out....we are then grilled by Max, via his narrative, as to how many of us truly wonder what actually happened and were curious to see the bloody, gory details of the murder, possibly feeling cheated as the camera panned off from the worst part of the scene.
Max's narrative dialogue brings up many philosophical points for the viewer, if they wish of course, to examine....but I'd challenge any thinking person not to be tempted into questioning their own morals, being stimulated into such by this extremely clever, superbly delivered script.
Max's narrative style is genial, friendly and he is very well-spoken with an extremely pleasant voice. He smiles as he addresses his audience, yet those piercing, penetrating dark brown eyes emanate a callousness which is quite uncomfortable to watch, especially as his face is filmed very close up....cleverly filmed at such an angle that it appears he is looking straight at you, and talking directly to you. This creates an incredibly tense intimacy between Max and the viewer.
As far as the actors are concerned, everybody played their parts superbly, but Kevin Howarth as Max Parry is the kingpin, both his acting skills and in between scenes narrative coming across as utterly riveting. It must have been an extraordinarily difficult role to perfect, and he delivered it spot-on, even to the point where after the film was over, I found myself - yes I know irrationally, but that goes to show how powerful and penetrating Max's character is - looking around the room, half expecting him to be sitting on the armchair staring at me.
There are quite a lot of points within the film during Max's day to day life scenes, where the viewer will be almost forced to make some extremely disturbing predictions as to how those scenes will pan out, yet each one is a complete surprise and nothing is how it initially seems to be. This creates a rolling effect whereby one feels compelled to continue watching, even if finding the film distasteful and disturbing beyond what we would normally be prepared to accept. Everything is presented in such a realistic, matter-of-fact style that the film's credibility and believabililty levels are so high and perfect, that I actually became quite worried afterwards....but to appreciate why, you'd have to watch the film for yourself.
It is true that The Last Horror Movie is extremely violent in parts and thus some people may feel that for them it isn't suitable viewing. I do warn that this violence is particularly unsettling, due to its realism, and the hands-on nature, yet I also feel this is a film which shouldn't really be missed. Similarly to The Exorcist (1974) - although the two films are totally dissimilar in storyline, style etc. - I'd hazard a possibly accurate guess that anybody feeling The Last Horror Movie is a ridiculous horror caper which is laughable as opposed to overwhelmingly scary (as many did regarding The Exorcist), could be detaching themselves from their own very real sense of fear as a coping mechanism. Of course The Last Horror Movie is fictitious, but it certainly doesn't feel like that whilst watching it, nor for quite a while afterwards. I personally am not a person who freaks out easily and I didn't after I'd seen this film, but I genuinely did feel very nervous during the immediate aftermath period.
At the time of writing, The Last Horror Movie can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from 81p to £14.99
Used: from £1.27 to £3.49
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Max Parry seems like a fairly normal bloke, as far as anyone else can see. He earns a modest living by working as a wedding photographer, which, as well as paying the bills, introduces him to lots of lovely young ladies. His elder sister thinks he's slightly odd. It can't really be normal to have somebody with you twenty four hours a day, filming your every move, after all. She doesn't even really know what he's trying to film but Max gets on well with the kids and always makes good company, so she's prepared to let it go. She also knows the tragedy that he experienced many years ago so she's prepared to make concessions.
Beneath the calm exterior, however, Max is certainly not what he seems to be. Max lives a secret life. He's a serial killer. He has no motive and no fixed method of killing. That keeps the police on their toes, you see. Max kills because he can and and because he sees nothing wrong with it. But Max is so good at covering his tracks that his reputation has never really attracted any press interest. He is utterly unknown, even though he has killed far more people than most of those famous serial killers. So he's making a film. He's making a film about killing people. And now, you're watching it.
I've read several rather lukewarm reviews of this film so I didn't expect much. An unknown cast; a small budget; straight to DVD release. The signs weren't good. You can probably, therefore, imagine my surprise when The Last Horror Movie really, really freaked me out. And here's why.
The idea of The Last Horror Movie is a cunning one. It's all about effect; it's about what the director leads you to believe. Initially, the film opens to the soundtrack of an American news announcer, talking about the prison escape of a vicious killer and the subsquent discovery of two mutilated bodies. So far, so-so. The film then cuts to a diner, where a lone female is clearly the target of somebody rather unpleasant. The lights dim, strange noises are heard and she goes to investigate on her own. The outcome is surely inevitable. But as the slasher strikes, the picture fails and the visage of Max Parry appears on your screen, filmed through his home video camera.
Max proceeds to apologise for the interruption and for recording over the movie we had started to watch. It wasn't very good anyway, he tells us and if we want to watch a scary movie then what he is about to show is far more likely to fit the bill. Max is making a film about his life and about being a serial killer and he wants us to watch. And then thinks take a rather more sinister turn.
In shaky, jumpy home movie style footage, we do indeed watch Max despatch his victims. It's cold, brutal and shocking and no punches are pulled. Sure, the guy from the shop in the high street kicks the camera off the table and knocks it to the ground, but we don't have to see the knife being plunged into his stomach to know that Max is viciously stabbing him to death. Sometimes we do see the death. Throats are slit; people are strangled in their cars; and one unfortunate soul is set on fire. So what, exactly, is the point?
In The Last Horror Movie, that is almost entirely the point. What is the point of watching a horror movie? It's wrong to kill people, isn't it? Isn't human life precious? Shouldn't we all covet it, rather than drawing entertainment from people losing it? These are the questions posed by Max throughout his film and as he talks to us, the audience, some of his questions offer uncomfortable answers. Having stabbed a young mother to death in the living room of her own house, Max asks us whether we were shocked. Of course we were, he says and we think. But then he asks us whether we truly believe that all life is precious. If life is so precious, would we sell our television set to save the life of someone starving in Ethiopia? Judging by the fact that we haven't the answer must surely be no. So if that life in Ethiopia isn't worth as much as that television set, why should he value the life of that young mother in any other way? Uncomfortable questions, indeed.
Max further explores why we would want to watch a horror film. In one scene, he asks the cameraman (an unfortunate homeless boy coerced into helping Max out) to focus the camera on a man's face whilst his wife is murdered and conversely on his wife's body whilst the man is murdered. Did we want to see the actual violence? Max presumes the answer is no. So can we honestly say that we didn't want to know what was happening off camera? When Max waits outside a junior school, the camera man zooms in on a young boy left waiting outside the gates on his own. As the camera man moves closer, Max comes into shot, to approach the young boy, telling him that his mother has asked him to come and collect him from school. Max and the young boy then walk off into the distance, hand in hand. Surely he isn't going to start murdering children too. Surely? Uncomfortable questions become unpleasant games.
Random and pointless, the only thing that links Max's victims is the fact they aren't linked. Desmonstrating the ease with which someone can be dispatched with a screwdriver, or a length or rope, Max calmly discusses and describes what he does. His matter of fact narration is at times so calm and logical that you forget that he is actually describing how to dispose of a body, or how to change the way in which you kill people to stop the police becoming suspicious. If this were a book it would be called "Serial Killing For Dummies". Were it not so disturbing it might almost be funny.
Max is a compelling narrator. He is complicit in what he does. Shameless, guilt-free and utterly, utterly calm throughout you can't quite see what he intends to achieve by filming these events. By attracting infamy and notoriety he must surely risk attracting the unwanted attention of the authorities? It's a consideration that Max has clearly made - he tells us as much. He has also considered how to deal with the problem. He tells us that too. It's not until you've worked out what he means that you realise it's too late.
The Last Horror Movie is a "fake" snuff movie, made in such a way that you could never quite be sure it wasn't real. Goof spotters could almost certainly point out where things don't quite add up, but for the rest of us who have been completely drawn into the thing, it all feels so real. Those stab wounds on the middle aged man's chest looked real enough to me. And the screams of the man doused in petrol and set on fire were just too realistic to be acted, weren't they? It's not real, of course it's not. So why did I make doubly sure my doors were locked last night?
This is the effect that The Last Horror Movie has on its audience. Like naturally weathered sandstone, your confidence subsides. Your security starts to dissipate, despite the fact that you feel rather silly saying it. I sat and watched this in a hotel room, late of an evening, all alone and it genuinely unnerved me. I'm a rational, sensible adult, but something about this film rather worried me. I questioned why I had watched it in the first place and it suddenly dawned on me that this was conceptually the whole point. If you like scary movies, then perhaps you should question why. Max does. And his answer is absolute.
Lock your doors. Bolt your windows. Look over your shoulder. Max Parry is out there.
Will this be the last horror movie that you watch?