Thursday, July 15, 2021

No Talking. No Texting. No Breathing: Al Morir La Matinée (2020)

Al Morir La Matinée (Uruguay/Argentina, 2020) (AKA "Red Screening", "The Last Matinee", "Bloody Matinee")
Rating: ****
Starring: Ricardo Islas, Luciana Grasso and Franco Duran

Sometimes you don't have to flex a high concept to make a fun horror movie. Sometimes you could just work it out with some guy with a bag full of tools, a fairly sizable bodycount and set of gnarly kills, all taking place in a old school movie theater. 

It's a rainy day in 1993 and young projectionist Ana (Luciana Grasso) is taking over her emphysema-stricken father's shift at the Cine Opera downtown theater, which is mostly empty that day. The few patrons who are staying, though, are treating themselves with a showing of Frankenstein, The Monster (With clips taken from Frankenstein: Day of the Beast (2011)) all the while going on with their own shenanigans of hooking up with girls, giving their dates a hand and, for one kid, sneaking in to brave a movie that might be too scary for him. Unbeknown to them all, a gloved maniac is staying in the very same theater and he has set his eyes on killing them all.

While it isn't new to have a slasher film set in a movie theater seeing we have titles like The Meateater (1979), Movie House Massacre (1984)Anguish (1987), and Matinee (1989) already, as well as a few horror titles opening with a murder taking place in crowded theaters such as He Knows You're Alone (1980) and Scream 2 (1997), none of them really took the sleek and gory approach as good as Al Morir La Matinée (2020). Basically, the film's direction is to have the hack and stab elements stripped down to its very core, a throwback of sorts with a simple premise and somewhat okay characters being themselves while a killer picks them off one by one. It never strays away from this approach. No twists or curveballs. Just have a psycho stalk the cinema and murder away anyone he can grab hold on to.

This, in turn, means that the characters can be lacking a bit of depth or personality, but the interactions between themselves and others do have their subtle, cheeky and cheesy moments, thus keeping their scenes far from being boring whenever the film focuses on them. It also helps that the group isn't that big so the focus isn't all over the place, as well as the fact that the plot is paced nicely between the horror and non-horror scenes, giving us enough time to take a quick breather before our killer decides who to stalk and stab next.

And speaking of which, Al Morir La Matinée (2020) will undoubtedly make a gorehound's day as not only is it very bloody, but there's also a strong Italian giallo influence in its cinematography so expect outrageous murder angles, evocative tinted lighting and stylized brutality that would make the likes of Argento or Bava proud. (Best of which being a smoker's demise when the killer went for their throat!) What further works here is that there's a sense of tension and creepiness to the killer's massacre, utilizing the nearly empty cinema setting to give our maniac all the darkened halls and rooms to sneak and prowl around, as well as use the screams from the movie playing to drown out the sound of his weapons and distract unsuspecting moviegoers from the murder happening just a few rows next to them. There's definitely a reason behind all of these methodic killings, but who this killer is or how did he ended up this way is something the movie's keeping to itself and I'm frankly okay with that.

Smoothened with a beatastic synth soundtrack and a strong finale involving a trio of potential survivors, Al Morir La Matinée (2020) is a real winner in my eyes as an old school-style slasher done right. It doesn't beat around the bush with too many layered side-plots and its brutal enough to keep a horror fanatic excited, all the makings of a bonafide slasher experience in my book! So whenever you find yourself a chance to see this, I guarantee you a keeper here!

1 elderly male brained with a hammer
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male and 1 female had their heads skewered together with a broken long iron hook
1 male had his face bashed against the floor, stabbed with a knife
1 female had her chest and eye stabbed with a knife
1 male knifed to death
1 female had her head repeatedly crushed with a projector's lamphouse lid
1 male ran through with a broken long iron hook
Total: 9

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