The Last Horror Film Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Troma Entertainment
Directed by David Winters
Written by David Winters, Judd Hamilton, Tom Klassen
1982, 87 minutes, Unrated
Blu-ray released on December 15th, 2015
Joe Spinell as Vinny Durand
Caroline Munroe as Jana Bates
Glen Jacobson as Bret Bates
Judd Hamilton as Alan Cunningham
Devin Goldenberg as Marty Bernstein
David Winters as Stanley Kline
In 2009, Troma launched the short-lived Tromasterpiece Collection, a signature lineup of special edition DVD titles, including The Last Horror Film. My thoughts on this movie have not changed in the years since that release, and my 2009 review is being copied below. Fans of the film considering picking up this new Blu-ray release will want to skip down to the technical specs below.
Vinny Durand (Joe Spinell) is a New York cab driver who lives with his mother and dreams of becoming a famous film director. He is obsessed with horror icon Jana Bates (Caroline Munroe – The Spy Who Loved Me, Slaughter High) and follows her to France, hoping to convince her to star in his first movie. When members of her entourage begin turning up dead, suspicion falls on the neurotic Vinny. Is he responsible for the murders, or is this all a giant publicity stunt?
The Last Horror Film (not to be confused with The Last Horror Movie, 2003) is an underground gem that retains its visceral punch nearly 35 years after its release. Set in the middle of the Cannes Film Festival, the movie tackles the issue of fan obsession and how far someone will go to gain attention. Spinell brings an uncomfortable authenticity to the role of outsider wanting fame and acceptance, making for a sympathetic anti-hero that audiences will root for, even as he occasionally makes their skin crawl.
The making of this picture is more interesting than the film itself. Production began a month after John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, in hopes of impressing actress Jodie Foster. The incident was inspired by Taxi Driver (a film featuring Spinell) and is the focus of several sequences including a press conference where Monroe is asked directly about Hinckley.
Although he did not pen the script, many aspects of Spinell’s personal life appear in the film. His character lives in a small apartment with his mother (played by Spinell’s mother), and drives a cab while trying to break into show business. The apartment featured was Spinell’s home, where he actually lived and ultimately died.
This release is billed as the uncut domestic debut of the feature. Running about 90 seconds longer than the previous Troma release (under the alternate title Fanatic), including additional angles to a chainsaw attack and a quick add to a bathroom decapitation. The majority of the footage is presented within a movie screening at the festival itself. A homeless woman stabs a man in the heart and he dies, and in this version she can now be seen eating his heart. *
Observant geeks may notice that the film Jana is promoting at Cannes is called Scream, and a giant billboard promoting the movie Stab is seen in a few shots as well. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson rejuvenated the genre with the Scream trilogy that featured a faux slasher film series called Stab.
The Last Horror Film is not the greatest horror film around, but it does offer some originality and sincerity in presentation. Spinell was an intense figure who could intimidate with a simple stare, but often took the extra time to present a vulnerability to his creepy characters. Monroe and Spinell appeared together in Maniac (and the lesser known Starcrash) where he delivered his signature performance as a killer haunted by his victims. Outside the genre he famously appeared in the first two Godfather movies, The Ninth Configuration, and often worked with his friend Sylvester Stallone in films like Rocky and Nighthawks. Spinell died from a fall in his apartment in 1989.
* Edit – This Blu-ray release does not include all of the uncensored material found on the previous DVD.
Video and Audio:
The Tromasterpiece Collection DVD opens with a disclaimer informing viewers that the uncensored material comes from a variety of sources and that picture quality would occasionally shift. The Blu-ray offers no such warning, but comes with a whole new range of problems.
The film appears here under the alternate title card Fanatic, using different elements from those employed in creating the previous DVD. Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this transfer is pulled from an inferior source, loaded with print damage. Contrast levels and flesh tones are frequently muted and blacks are also inconsistent. Day exterior sequences benefit from greater clarity and sharper detail, but the scenes at night are a mixed bag. Most jarring and unforgivable is a relentless wobble of frame jumps that occurs at almost every transition and occasionally within the edits of a scene. Troma should have rejected this print as their master and either found another source or included a similar disclaimer to the previous release.
The audio track makes a terrible first impression with a noisy buzz that extends for almost a full minute before clearing up. The rest of the DTS HD-MA Mono track is serviceable and remains free of any significant distortion. The general mix is a tad muddy and there are plenty of audio pops throughout.
Troma has switched out the supplements for this Blu-ray edition and ported over only some of the content previously available from the Tromasterpiece Collection DVD. Completists will want to consider hanging onto the earlier release for the full spectrum of bonus content.
Lloyd Kaufman’s 2009 introduction has been replaced with an all-new 2015 intro that is somehow more goofy, but less satisfying and still contributes nothing to the presentation.
Fans of the film and of Joe Spinell will be happy to learn that Luke Walter’s informative audio commentary has been carried over and the man has great stories about both topics.
The Joe Spinell short film Mr. Robbie (aka Maniac 2) also returns and, for those unfamiliar, it offers an interesting peek at what a potential sequel to the infamous slasher could have looked like.
A trailer for the film is also offered for your viewing pleasure.
Sadly missing from this release are the My Best Maniac segment featuring legendary genre director William Lustig, and the separate interview piece with Luke Walter. Substituted in their place are a bunch of featurettes and videos promoting unrelated Troma tripe.