Obviously most famous for his iconic portrayal of Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street films, Robert Englund has had a fascinating career for over 40 years garnering generations of fans and becoming a reliable Horror Elder ready to lend his talents to feature films and documentaries alike. Phil Hawkins’ The Last Showing belongs to a group of postmodern films (Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon) which play with audience recognition of Englund and his own position as a legend.
In The Last Showing, Englund’s disillusioned projectionist decides to terrorise a young couple, the isolated sole patrons of his cinema, by positioning them as the main characters in his own demented movie.
As its opening credits roll on, we watch Englund’s passionate projectionist lose his job, get retrained in serving popcorn, find used condoms in the aisles, and get dismissed by his coworkers. Alongside this we also see young lovers Martin (Finn Jones) and Allie (Emily Berrington) at a raucous house party where teens dance, drink, and throw up over balconies.
Hawkins wants to set his night of cat and mouse against the backdrop of a changing industry. Old skills mean nothing in the day -glo multiplex and the art of projecting means nothing in a digital landscape. Stuart is on the cusp of losing his downgraded job because he keeps trying to fix the aspect ratios of the films on show, which his manager professes no one cares about. Considering how things play out there’s a bitterness at play here, a distaste for ignorant youth, meal deals, and the multiplex system. What Englund’s character sees as the cheapening of the art form.
In the same breath, Hawkins can’t help being enamoured with the pure visual feast of the building itself. It’s a garish but easily enjoyable location full of colour and light and, from what can be seen, required minimal additional lighting from the production side. No matter how much distaste the film might harbour for this tacky new form of picture house, it can’t help but keep staring. That surmises this viewer’s reaction to The Last Showing. It’s easy on the eye and Englund, though hacking his way through dire dialogue with a pretty ropey English accent, is innately watchable.
It’s not just his dialogue though, it’s the writing in general that lets the film down. There’s thrills and some fun to be had, but the potential quickly collapses into one part low-rent Saw, one part poor-man’s One Hour Photo. A great location and a genre icon can’t save The Last Showing from being a sub-par genre dialogue, but its passable if you’re a die-hard Englund fan.
Dir. Phil Hawkins
Stars. Robert Englund, Finn Jones, Emily Berrington, Malachi Kirby, Keith Allen