I recently had the privilege of doing a pretty cool foreign horror double bill. The first film was “Censor” (now available on DVD and VOD), a British offering that revels in the Video Nasties witch hunt of the 1980s. The second film was “The Last Matinee” (now available on VOD with a Blu-ray dropping in October), a Uruguayan slasher flick that takes place in an old-fashioned Montevideo-based movie palace back in 1993. Both international offerings should please genre fans as they’re each chockablock with nostalgia and plenty of jolts.
Irish actress Niamh Algar (HBO Max’s “Raised by Wolves”) stars as Enid Baines, a woman working for the British Board of Film Classification. She’s built a reputation as a particularly tough censor by almost always recommending that violent content be cut or banned.
An adult Enid is still reeling from her sister Nina’s disappearance when they were children. Enid insists Nina is still alive; her parents (Clare Holman, Andrew Havill) have declared Nina deceased.
Enid is approached by infamous film producer Doug Smart (Ben Wheatley regular Michael Smiley) to screen the latest work of noted schlockmeister Frederick North (Adrian Schiller). She’s shook by the film as it contains parallels to Nina’s disappearance. Enid goes further down the rabbit hole and procures a contraband VHS copy of another one of North’s pictures. This one stars an actress named Alice Lee (Sophia La Porta), who bears a striking resemblance to Nina.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Enid has been under media scrutiny for passing a film that supposedly inspired a real-life murder. Already on edge, Enid is grasping for reality and sanity in the pursuit of her lost sister.
“Censor” is the feature directorial debut of Welsh filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond, who co-wrote alongside Anthony Fletcher. There’s much to admire about the movie. The fetishization of VHS and ‘80s sleaze was certainly welcome to this horrorhead. It like many genre efforts from then and now sports neon hues and synth tunes. Algar does admirable work as Enid, but her mental deterioration occurs too quickly during the film’s scant 84 minute runtime.
The Last Matinee:
In all honesty “The Last Matinee” isn’t as good a movie as “Censor” is, but it’s more fun and a whole helluva lot gorier.
Luciana Grasso stars as Ana, a college student who’s kindly offered to cover the second shift of her aging/ailing projectionist Dad Hugo (Hugo Blandamuro), so he doesn’t have to pull a double. Unbeknownst to her, the audience will soon be prey to a killer known as Come Ojos (prolific Uruguayan filmmaker Ricardo Islas), who not only snatches his victims’ eyes … he eats them.
The audience is comprised of loud-mouthed teenage trio Ángela (Julieta Spinelli), Esteban (Bruno Salvatti) and Goni (Vladimir Knazevs); Maite (Daiana Carigi), a Brooke Shields lookalike Goni saw on the bus to whom he’s taken an immediate shine; shy film fan Horacio (Emanuel Sobré) and his handsy, chain-smoking date Gabriela (Patricia Porzio) and last but certainly not least, Tomás (Franco Durán), a horror-obsessed lad who snuck into the screening as he’s too young to attend.
Most of these folks serve little purpose beyond being grist for the grinder. Co-writer/director Maximiliano Contenti (alongside fellow scripter Manuel Facal) dream up some damned demented demises. One cigarette-smoking character has his throat slit and fumes billow from the wound. (I actually had a similar kill in a script of mine.) Two characters that are making out get impaled through their heads/mouths by a pole. Another character gets chopped to death with a film splicer and their blood is projected onto the big screen. This viscera all serves as tribute to giallos, slashers and the simple act of going to the movies – something that’s become far less simple in the last year and a half.
A coupla cool details: the movie within a movie is “Frankenstein: Day of the Beast,” an actual film from 2011 directed by Islas … cooler still – a copy of “Frankenstein” will be included with “The Last Matinee” Blu-ray.