‘The Last Matinee’: A New Perspective Through Stolen Innocence [Horror En Español]

The Last Matinee

Maximiliano Contenti’s The Last Matinee is one of the few neo-giallo films to come out of Latin America. Directing pair the Onetti Brothers are paving the way for neo-giallo films from Argentina. Now, Contenti puts Uruguay on the map with his unique feature to this upcoming genre in Latin American horror cinema. The Last Matinee pays tribute to international horror films and the cinema experience while rooting itself in magical realism.

The Last Matinee follows a group of people as they watch the horror film, Frankenstein: Day of the Beast, during the Opera Theatre’s matinee showing. Ana (Luciana Grasso), the daughter of the projectionist and the protagonist, attempts to cram her study session while at her job in the theater. The seats start to fill with archetypical moviegoers.

Horacio (Emanuel Sobré) and Gabriela (Patricia Porzio) are a pair who are on their awkward first date. Maite (Daiana Carigi) shows up alone as we quickly learn her date stood her up. A group of friends Esteban (Bruno Salvatti), Ángela (Julieta Spinelli), and Goni (Vladimir Knazevs) are just there to kill time. And lastly, Tomás (Franco Durán) is a little boy who sneaks in to experience a horror film on the big screen. Little does Ana know, the audience members are in danger as a serial killer known as Comeojos (Ricardo Islas) hides in the back seats. What first started off as any other shift for Ana turns into a deadly fight for survival as Comeojos begins his bloody rampage. 

The Stylistic Setting of the Opera Theater

What makes The Last Matinee a distinct piece of Latin American horror cinema is the setting and style of the Opera Theater. Starting with the setting, Contenti places the viewers in a 1990s movie theater. The interior is adorned with movie posters on the walls. Some of them are fake in order to establish the world Contenti created. Others such as Dario Argento’s Opera, Pablo Parés’s Plaga Zombie, and Jack Hill’s Foxy Brown are films adored by the characters in The Last Matinee as well as Contenti. As Ana walks in between each room there are many film-based easter eggs that would make any cinephile happy.

Angela in The Last Matinee

But this love letter to cinema doesn’t just stop with these easter eggs. The film follows suit of past giallo films while keeping its story fresh. Just like The Onetti Brother’s past projects, Abrakadabra and Francesca, The Last Matinee is a film with an emphasis on visuals. Each section of the Opera Theater, such as the concession stand and the projectionist room, is presented with a visually striking presentation. In multiple sequences, the characters enter rooms bathing in colorful lighting and grading that visually pop.

Entering a World of Horror

Just like how Dario Argento’s Suspiria uses colors to create a dreamlike reality, Contenti does the same. In Latin America, a common genre told in fiction is magical realism. This style of narrative is a story in the real world with an uncurrent of magic. At first glance, The Last Matinee may not feel like it fits within the category of magical realism. But Contenti shows us his film does lie within the parameters of the subgenre through his use of vivid storytelling.

It all begins with the title sequence of the film. Before entering the vibrant setting of the Opera Theater, The Last Matinee opens on the ocean. The next frames focus on dull and blatant colors. As the camera pans across the body of water we come across a broken-down ship. Dark blues and grays fill the screen. In the next scene, the camera glides through smoke spouted by a chimney. As we pass the smoke, we get the first glance of bright colors through the title card in a red-dripping font. According to Contenti in the director’s commentary, this is his way of showing the viewer we are entering a fantasy horror film rooted in realism.

Loss of Innocence

While The Last Matinee follows Ana, the film also focuses on the young Tomás and the loss of innocence. This is a common theme in magical realism stories. Tomás sneaks into the showing of Frankenstein: Day of the Beast by hiding underneath the seats from the employees. The fallen popcorn, candy, and other items meant to heighten the cinema experience are artifacts of the life Tomás will soon leave. 

Tomas in The Last Matinee

It’s unclear whether the showing of Frankenstein: Day of the Beast is Tomás’ first horror film. What is transparent is the artificial world within that film terrifies Tomás with each jump scare and violent sequence portrayed on screen. But still, after every horrific film beat Tomás continues watching because he is in the comfort of his seat. That is, until Comeojos begins his terrorizing binge of bloodshed. 

The violence in The Last Matinee doesn’t begin until about halfway through the film. But this theme doesn’t come into play until the final act. The first few kills go unnoticed by Tomás as he is sucked into the Uruguayan/American portrayal of Frankenstein. After a quick restroom break and a brief interaction with Horacio, Tomás runs by ignoring all the corpses spread throughout the theatre as he rushes to continue the film. Only upon his return, Tomás witnesses Comeojos stabbing Gabriela in the chest. From this point on Tomás’s innocent world begins to shatter with each new gory corpse appearing on the floor.

From Chocolate to Blood: A Stolen Childhood

During the final act of the film, there’s a moment when Tomás, Ana, and Ángela are hiding in the projectionist room. Comeojos enters in his hooded attire and threatening manner with a blood-dripping jar. The three survivors huddle in a circle against a wall as Comeojos stares at them viciously. In a disgusting scene, Comeojos presents his jar filled with his rewards: severed eyeballs. 

It’s important to note that during this display, there is a poster of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom behind Tomás, Ana, and Ángela. According to Contenti, he frames this shot so Indiana Jones is partaking in the view of Comeojos devouring the severed eyes. The connection between Indiana Jones and Comeojos is significant. In the former film, a young Ke Huy Quan comes in contact with a dish of eyeball soup.

Tomas, Ana, and Angela in The Last Matinee

We can also dig deeper through the subtext in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. During the climax of that film, Indie helps a group of enslaved young boys escape. These boys were forced to work in the mines lost their childhood. They came across the true evil that lurks within the world. Tomás comes to a similar realization during the scene of Comeojos eating eyeballs. He witnesses firsthand the atrocities that can be committed by human beings. The blood, corpses, and gore spread across the Opera Theater are not like the movie he snuck in to watch. This is the reality he lives in. The transition from his chocolate-stained face to being covered in blood signifies Tomás losing his innocence. 

Magical realism and the loss of innocence tend to go hand in hand. When the world we live in is filled with disease, despair, and death, magic is used to make sense of it. But in Contenti’s The Last Matinee, magic is utilized more as a setting. It’s a place where innocence is shattered as Tomás stares at a severed eyeball left on the stairs. Yes, Tomás survived the attack from Comeojos. But now, he must live in a new-to-him world with fresh eyes.

Share: 

Categorized:

Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter