In the run up to the DVD release of Julian Richards' Shiver, Virgil Entertainment have re-released his 2003 found-footage mockumentary horror, The Last Horror Movie.
Meet Max (Kevin Howarth), a serial killer who is making an amateur film about his murders. Hiring an unnamed assistant (Mark Stevenson) to record his “intelligent movie about death” and self-narrating his day-to-day proceedings, Max gives us an explicit and immersive look into his profile.
Initially, it’s Max’s smarmy, self-celebratory attitude that hooks our attention as he talks to the movie’s viewer (us) with a controlled poise and convincing deliberation, justifying his random killings through absurd theories, and purposely questioning their natural inquisition and moral plight through the watching of his acts. Howarth (Razor Blade Smile, Summer Scars, The Seasoning House) is more than convincing during his largely one-man show and, true to most roles he adopts, manages to be both scarily harrowing and unconventionally charming.
As he hides behind his wedding videographer career and buttons up his sheep’s clothing in family company, Max’s self-righteous display is truly an absorbing observation, and one which intensifies when we see the fatal attacks in his amateur home videos. The snuff movie or ‘snuff film’ has been a reoccurring plot device for filmmakers for decades and one to primarily shock and distort the line between real and fictional killings. Here, director Julian Richards combines slasher conventions with lingering shots and vivid close-ups of the deaths’ entirety. Graphic? Yes. Brutal? Absolutely. But while it is Max’ simplistic methods and amateur skill that make those scenes that much more titillating, it can sometimes comes across a bit silly and, whether or not intended, its mockumentary style often detracts from the horror.
The autobiographical concept wears thin after a while and, although the outcome of him and his (‘trophy’) movie manages to warrant a strong interest till the end, his rambling tumbles as he delves into ‘serial killer’s best practise’ and ‘tips on how to kill’ in the final twenty minutes. Whatever Max’s, or indeed Richards’, message is trying to say or do through the movie, it gets a little lost in translation at this point and becomes repetitive and almost overly self-explanatory – even to the point where it feels the need to explain the movie’s title.
VERDICT: Richards’ takes us on an involving and entertaining journey into the psyche of a serial killer, succeeding to shock through the unnerving tropes of the snuff film. Unfortunately, for an audience that will feel the need to uncover a deeper message than what’s visible at the surface, they will be left disappointed. With a sore brain.
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