Last Showing, The (2014)
Directed by Phil Hawkins
Stuart (Englund) is a man that has spent his life devoted to film in his own special way: as a cinema projectionist. After many years at the job, however, he finds himself relegated to working his final stretch before retirement at the concession stand in a modern multiplex – a punishment foisted on him by his jumped-up young manager due to refusing to take part in mandatory staff training on how to project a movie.
Rather than take this ridicule and disappear quietly into the night come retirement day, Stuart decides that he will instead create a masterpiece of his own direction – a horror film – starring unwitting couple Martin (Jones) and Allie (Berrington). As the pair settle down to a midnight screening of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, Stuart locks down the theatre and begins recording his story via the cinema’s security cameras and his own hand-held digital camcorder. When Allie is drugged and abducted, Martin becomes the leading man in Stuart’s narrative as the insane projectionist sends him through a variety of trials using messages displayed on the cinema’s various screens. The question is, what exactly is Stuart’s plan for the finale of his debut feature?
And that question is quite possibly the only thing that will actually see you through to the end of this limp thriller. Leads Jones and Berrington give it their all – they really do – but the script sees their characters relegated to quite possibly the most hideously annoying pair of protagonists to hit the screen this year. She spends most of the film crying – happy to immediately take the word of some creepy old theatre employee against that of her obviously distraught boyfriend when it comes to an accusation of the most heinous kind, despite the fact it’s quite obvious that their being trapped in the theatre couldn’t possibly be Martin’s doing. He, on the other hand, spends the majority of the runtime bumbling around in a blind rage, over-reacting to every occurrence and generally being a consistently ineffective nincompoop. The script goes to lengths of absolute stupidity in order to keep things moving by preventing any kind of realistic verbal communication between these people who are supposed to be in a good relationship. It just feels disingenuous, and frustrating for all the wrong reasons.
Somewhat making up for it is the legendary Robert Englund as Stuart. His part actually works very well, including a top-class performance from the man that manages to be wily and scornful, yet playfully mischievous and rather funny at times. The character is clearly the most well developed of the lot, and comes close to being the only reason to bother watching The Last Showing. Visually, director Hawkins plays it predominantly safe. Lighting and composition are easily of a professional standard, but generally it offers little to actually elevate the material beyond the humdrum (though Hawkins does make very good use of the various available spaces within the real working VUE cinema where the film was shot). By the time the final act rolls around, you’re unlikely to really give a damn what the outcome may be, but you’ll feel obligated to see it through to the end. In fact, you’re more likely to be stuck on Stuart’s side as he rallies against the modern commoditisation of film and declining reverence for the art form.
The introduction of a detective in the final stages, who appears set to unravel Stuart’s meticulous plans but disappears much too quickly to be considered more than an afterthought, hints at a possible sequel. Perhaps with some better victims for Stuart to play his games with this might be worthwhile, but the lacklustre performance of this pedestrian outing doesn’t inspire confidence.
2 out of 5