In the wake of Robin William’s recent death, I was reminded of the film One Hour Photo. In it, Williams plays a photo technician that begins stalking a family. The part was not normal for Williams, but he rocked the role. He comes across as a sympathetic antagonist at first, and he becomes more and more sadistic as the movie progresses. He’s an innocuous background piece to the family until he he catapults himself into their lives.
Robert Englund’s latest role in the film The Last Showing is quite reminiscent of that. The Last Showing is quite an interesting concept: A man is making a film, but the “actors” do not know they have been cast. It’s basically an episode of Fear Factor but with real danger. Stuart (Englund) is a man that has been pushed aside by technology. Stuart is a career projectionist that prides himself on his work, but his job has changed drastically. He’s been delegated to slinging popcorn and selling tickets, and has a forced retirement looming.
But, Stuart has a secret.
He’s loves films, and he’s making his own. The actors have been cast, and they don’t even know it yet. Martin (Finn Jones) and Allie (Emily Berrington), a young couple on a first date, have been unwittingly plunged into Stuart’s film. Stuart’s dream will become their nightmare. After enjoying a few drinks, they attend a late horror show at Stuart’s theater. After Allie is drugged, Martin finds himself alone in the multiplex. While Martin’s decisions and actions may be his own, they have been meticulously foreseen by the unknown force guiding him.
Robert Englund’s portrayal of Stuart as both innocuous and monstrous is amazing. He is nearly unrecognizable at times. In fact, he looks more like Mr. Feeny (Boy Meets World) in this role than his iconic Freddy Krueger. There’s really only one scene that “Freddy” comes to the surface, but for the most part, Englund keeps him at bay. Finn Jones and Emily Berrington have great chemistry together, but Jones steals the show as he’s led from one terrifying scene to another. The multiplex comes alive as a character itself as well.
“It was a brilliant experience.” Director/Writer Phil Hawkins said when asked what it was like to work with a horror icon and two up and coming stars. “I know every director says that about their cast but it was a real pleasure. Robert is such a talented and experienced actor – he’s worked with some of the greatest directors in his career so I thought it was going to be quite a intimidating experience but it really wasn’t. He really cared about the script and the characters so despite being such a legend of the genre it was never taken for granted. We worked hard to try and make him as unrecognisable as possible in both look and physicality. He even shaved off his trademark beard!”
“Finn and Emily were great to work with too and really worked well with Robert. The two roles are so difficult to pull off – especially the arch of Martin (played by Finn) which goes on a massive emotional journey. It had to be a real team effort to balance the levels of emotion in each scene so the build works realistically. It takes a talented actor to be able to do that and Finn nailed it.”
Hawkins has a knack for finding the perfect shot. This film is quite beautiful. With every shot, it manages to capture both how narrow Martin’s choices are and how large his maze is. Hawkins is obviously a fan of cinema, and it shows here. “The cinema had to become a ‘character’ because after the opening of the movie we never leave it!” said Hawkins. “I worked closely with my director of photography (Ed Moore) to work out the lighting and feel of each sequence. We revisit sections of the cinema multiple times but I always wanted to see it in a different light or capture it on camera in a different way so the audience, basically, didn’t get bored visually! It’s also representative of Stuart’s character – he’s in total control of everything in his movie including the lighting in the multiplex cinema so we had fun thinking about what sort of lights we could use and he’d be able to control. We ended up using a lot of theatre lighting with remote heads so we can move and change them on a desk within a scene.”
The Last Showing will make you think twice about those random faces we encounter everyday. There are two sides to every story. Movies are just stories, and Stuart has final cut here. It is a wonderfully scary piece of film, and is definitely worth a look. It comes out today (UK) on VOD and Blueray/DVD and will hit the US in September/October.