Dec 31, 2013

The Last Horror Film




Personally, I have always felt that the iconic slasher flick Maniac (1980) directed by William Lustig and starring Guido cinematic hero Joe Spinell was more darkly humorous than anything. After all, what is more funny than a wayward wop with malignant mommy issues talking to drag queen-like mannequins?! Naturally, when I discovered horror comedy The Last Horror Film (1982) aka Fanatic—a sort of pseudo-satire of Lustig’s slasher flick (the film was purportedly released under the title Maniac 2: Love to Kill on VHS in West Germany) starring Maniac leads Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro—I knew it was a film I had to see and would probably rather enjoy, if only in a novelty ‘junk cinema’ sort of way. A pseudo-horror-film-within-a-horror-film in the spirit of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) meets John Waters’ Serial Mom (1994) and Lucio Fulci’s Nightmare Concert (A Cat in the Brain) (1990), The Last Horror Film is a campy quasi-horror-of-personality work about a maniac Guido taxi-driver from NYC who absurdly believes he has what it takes to be the next great auteur of horror cinema and travels all the way to the Cannes Film Festival in France to proposition a popular Screen Queen to star in his would-be-movie, but instead ends up killing a bunch of film producers and other degenerate Hollywood types and makes a cinéma vérité-like snuff flick instead (or so the viewer thinks). Rather bizarrely directed by Anglo-Jew David Winters—a dancer/dance choreographer turned film director/producer who is probably best known for directing the Alice Cooper music concert documentary Welcome to My Nightmare (1975) and the Romeo and Juliet-themed skateboard flick Thrashin' (1986) starring Josh Brolin—The Last Horror Film is certainly a charmingly trashy 1980s celluloid cheese that seems to mock the horror genre and the media hysteria surrounding it rather than paying actual tribute to the much maligned genre. Actually shot guerrilla style without permits at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival where Joe Spinell apparently blew a good portion of the film's budget on booze and other hedonistic pursuits, The Last Horror Film is essentially a cinephile’s sloppy wet dream as a work that features shots of billboards from such great films as Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession (1981), Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980), István Szabó’s Mephisto (1981), and John Waters’ Polyester (1981), among various others. Featuring star Joe Spinell bickering with his real-life mother Filomena Spagnuolo in his real-life apartment, The Last Horror Film is not only a lovingly loony tribute to the underappreciated Italian-American actor, but the closest thing to a real sequel to Maniac



 As depicted in the opening scene of The Last Horror Film, Vinny Durand (Joe Spinell) is a perversely pathetic loser who masturbates in public movie theaters to tasteless slasher flicks featuring fake blonds with fake tits being butchered by maniacs. While his friends berate him for drooling over horror movie magazines as if they are porno mags and his overbearing mother (Filomena Spagnuolo aka Mary Spinell) believes he should be happy with his undignified job as a taxi driver, Vinny is a proletarian megalomaniac with deranged dreams who rather absurdly believes he will be the next Alfred Hitchcock and he even seems willing to kidnap and kill to achieve his grandiose goals. Having gone so far as writing a screenplay, dumbass Durand firmly believes that international cult film superstar and so-called “Queen of Horror Films” Jana Bates (Caroline Munro) will be the star of his upcoming movie. Unfortunately, being a sub-literate buffoon with no real world experience (let alone experience working in Hollywood), Vinny decides simply flying to the Cannes Film Festival and stalking Ms. Bates will be his best bet. Certainly crazy but not lazy, Vinny takes his tip money from taxi driving, buys a plane ticket, and heads to the Cannes Film Festival where he discovers a virtual heaven on earth of both carnal and cinematic treasures, though the hapless would-be-filmmaker seems incapable of obtaining both. Naturally, Vinny attempts to hookup with Jana Bates, who is at the festival to promote her latest horror excursion Scream, but he is denied access to her every single time. When Vinny attempts to call Bates’ manager/ex-husband Bret Bates (Glenn Jacobson) about his script, he is rudely hung up on. When Jana Bates heads to a press conference with her producer Alan Cunningham (Judd Hamilton), she receives anonymous flowers with a strange note reading, “You've made your last horror film.” Not long after, Bates goes to see her manager/ex-husband Bret in his hotel room, but instead she is greeted by his bloody corpse, which later vanishes into thin air when the police arrive to investigate. 



 A stereotypical Hollywood Hebrew named Marty Bernstein (Devon Goldenberg) bumps into Vinny, who begs him to promote his movie, and becomes rather suspicious of the strange fellow after finding out that film director Stanley Kline (director David Winters) and his personal assistant Susan Archer (Susanne Benson) have also received strange threatening notes similar to the one Jana Bates received. Marty goes to the police about Bret Bates’ dubious death, but the cops think it is merely a publicity stunt. After receiving a note purportedly from Bret Bates, Marty finds himself axed to death by an ominous figure wearing a black cloak. Of course, Stanley Kline and Susan Archer are subsequently brutally murdered as well and the mysterious killer has filmed all these deaths in a somewhat voyeuristic Peeping Tom-esque fashion. Meanwhile, Vinny begins filming his own horror movie when not acting like a maniac while dressed in drag and schizophrenically talking to his suave imaginary doppelganger. Eventually, Vinny gets the gall to sneak in Jana’s hotel room with a bottle of champagne in hand, but startles the little lady while she’s in the shower. Vinny asks her to play the lead role in his movie, but Jana belittles him, so the would-be-auteur smashes the champagne bottle and menacingly threatens the Scream Queen. Jana ultimately manages to escape from Vinny’s wrath and seeks sanctuary in her producer Alan. Later, Vinny disguises himself as a police officer, heads to the Cannes award ceremony and manages to kidnap Jana by knocking her out with chloroform. With Jana is unconscious in the passenger seat of a rental car, Vinny heads to a castle in the French countryside to film a scene for his horror movie where he plays Dracula and the Scream Queen plays his involuntary victim. In an absurd twist, Bret Bates shows up to the castle with a gun and movie camera and reveals that he is the real killer and has merely used Vinny as the perfect dimwitted fall guy. Jealous over his ex-wife's new life as a very desirable free woman and international super star, Bret had decided to seek revenge. Luckily, Vinny manages to kill Bret in a leatherface-style fashion by beheading him with a chainsaw. In another climatic twist, it is revealed at the conclusion of The Last Horror Film that everything that happened at the Cannes Film Festival was not as it seemed and things conclude on a rather happy note with Vinny having completed and released the trashy horror film he always dreamed of. In the end, Vinny screens his directorial debut for his mother and she asks him afterward if he has, “Got a joint?,” and the mother and son proceed to share a nice sized blunt. 



 As Maniac director William Lustig revealed in the Troma dvd release of The Last Horror Film regarding the production of the film: “He (Luke Walter) and Joe would go shoot scenes for the movie by themselves…It was not a conventionally made horror film… It was a film that was kind of an improv.” Indeed, apparently The Last Horror Film was a real-life fantasy flick of sorts for Joe Spinell where he could vacation in Cannes, party with his friends, and make a movie and one certainly gets that feeling while watching the film. The Last Horror Film is by no means a great movie, let alone a masterpiece or ‘thee last horror film,’ but it is a fun little flick starring an actor who deserved more lead roles in films. Undoubtedly, with its murder scenes shot from the perspective of the viewer, The Last Horror Film clearly influenced the 2012 remake of Maniac directed by Franck Khalfoun and produced by Alexandre Aja. Superlatively stupid satirical schlock featuring Sicilian savage Spinell dressing in drag, talking to his more dapper doppelganger, and acting like a general boorish jackass, The Last Horror Film is certainly a work made for the fans and the fans only. Of course, in its depiction of a time when the Cannes Film Festival actually played masterpieces like Żuławski’s Possession, The Last Horror Film unwittingly depicts the end of a zeitgeist when European arthouse cinema began to die and banal Hollywood blockbusters began to rape the minds of the entire world. At least with a film like The Last Horror Film, one knows the film is honest in its innate tastelessness and artlessness. 



-Ty E

8 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Caroline Munro (as the bird was in 1967 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously). Such a shame shes British rubbish though.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I didn`t really like "Starburst", i prefered "Cinefantastique", "Fantastic Films" and "Fangoria".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Its incredible to realise that on January 13th it`ll be exactly 25 years since Joe Spinell snuffed it ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I really enjoyed reading this superb reveiw because i watched this movie a couple of months ago on YouTube, there were four words however that almost spoilt the reveiw for me...can you guess what those four words were Ty E ! ?...thats right...you guessed them...first time..."MICHAEL", "POWELL", "PEEPING", and "TOM"...BLOODY BRITISH GARBAGE ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

That poster for "Possession" is stunning, that is such an incredible film.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

You know the picture of Spinell getting up from the directors chair and preparing to walk away, wouldn`t it have been hilarious if you`d put a caption on that picture with Spinell saying: "I`m leaving here because i dont like the look of the geezer wearing the red tights, i think hes a bloody fairy ! ! !".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

And with regards to the picture of Spinell and his mother, i like to think shes saying to him: "You bloody pathetic tosser, you couldn`t even get your knob up Caroline Munro's bum ! ! !".

Heather O`Rourke said...

Happy New Year.