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The Last Horror Film (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Last Horror Film (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: October 3rd, 2023.
    Director: David Winters
    Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munroe
    Year: 1982
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Last Horror Film – Movie Review:

    Just as well-known as Fanatic (the title Troma originally released it on DVD under) this film was released in some markets as Maniac 2 in an attempt to cash in on William Lustig's far superior Joe Spinell and Caroline Munroe vehicle. That said, David Winters' The Last Horror Film is a pretty interesting movie in its own right. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a genuine treat for fans of Joe Spinell.

    Vinny Durand, a New York City cab driver, has an unhealthy obsession with a scream queen named Jana Bates (Caroline Munro). Vinny returns home from work one day to the apartment he shares with his mother (played by Spinell's actual mother in Spinell's own apartment) and he tells her he's going travel to France. Why? So he can attend the Cannes Film Festival in hopes that he can meet up with Jana and convince her to star in a movie he hopes to make. Mom doesn't pay her son much mind, chocking his scheme up to nothing more than a strange idea, but Vinny really does make it to France. Here he tracks down the object of his affection only to meet with a seriously cold shoulder. Jana's in town to promote her new film, not to deal with strange men like Vinny. On top of that, Vinny is none too impressed by the fact that Jana's spending most of her time with her ex-husband/manager Bret Bates (Glenn Jacobson) and film producer/current love interest Alan Cunningham (Judd Hamilton).

    Things take a strange turn when, later on, Jana gets a bouquet of flowers with a note inside that reads 'You've made your last horror film.' When she returns to her room to find Bret brutally murdered, she immediately goes to the cops. They head to the scene of the crime only to find that the body has gone missing. As Vinny goes about following Jana with his camera, trying to make connections to get his film made and always meeting with rejection, the bodies keep piling up. But Vinny keeps making his movie, and it seems that Jana is playing the star role whether she likes it or not.

    Nowhere near as fantastically bloody as Maniac, The Last Horror Film never-the-less features a few decent kill scenes and some nice atmosphere. Much of this atmosphere is derived from shooting, guerilla style, in Cannes (keep your eyes open for some interesting marquees in the background) during the festival in 1981.Of course, since the footage was shot at the festival, you will see some interesting people pop up in the background now and again. It's unlikely that Karen Black or Kris Kristofferson knew they would wind up in this movie, but there they are regardless. This 'instant atmosphere' helps compensate for the film's obvious low budget, though the fact that quite a few of the performers, including Ms. Munroe, were dubbed by voice actors in post is definitely a strike against things.

    That complaint levied, this is really Spinell's show all the way. Munro is great to look at and she fits the part well but the heavy lifting is handled by Joe who flat out oozes with sleaze appeal. He brings a true eccentricity to the role and really makes it his own without ever going so far over the top that he breaks character. The scenes with his mother and the scenes in which he's rejected by pretty much every person he approaches at Cannes are the ones that stand out and show off his acting ability. That's not to say that he doesn't shine in the more manic moments, because he does, but we expect that from him. The more somber bits are a little more uncharacteristic of the types of parts he traditionally played and for that reason, they stand out more.

    When the end credits role and the picture is finished, you won't have been frightened or shocked very much. As a horror movie in and of itself, The Last Horror Film is pretty forgettable. The location footage and fine performance from Spinell, however, make this more than just another low budget stalk and slash picture and elevate to something wholly worthy of your time.

    The Last Horror Film – UHD Review:

    The HEVC encoded 2160p transfer, framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and featuring HDR10 and Dolby Vision enhancement, is taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative with additional scenes sourced from a 35mm print. This is a substantial upgrade in the picture quality department when compared to the older Troma Blu-ray release. Compression is much better and there’s a lot more detail here than we’ve seen before. Depth is also very impressive and texture considerably improved as well. The colors look much better across the board, the pop more but don’t look artificially boosted or unnatural at all. Skin tones look lifelike throughout and black levels are deeper and stronger while the image always retains a properly film-like look throughout.

    English audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and 2.0 Stereo options along with a new DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo remix by Chris MacGibbon with optional subtitles provided in English SDH only.

    Extras are spread across the two discs in the set as follows:

    Disc One - UHD:

    First up is an audio commentary with Actress Caroline Munro and FrightFest's Alan Jones. It's a fairly scene-specific talk that goes over the "double-bluff" of the opening of the movie, Munro's relationship with producer Judd Hamilton and his hatred of the opening scene, how Munro came to want to appear in the movie after reading the script and how much she enjoyed working with Spinell, what David Winters was like to work with, how it was trick shooting around the Cannes Film Festival, what the shooting schedule was like and the many night shoots that were required, shooting the entire thing without any permits, memories of some of the locations used for the movie, recollections of working with some of the other cast and crew members, where Munro's step-daughter appears in the movie, how she got into acting in the first place and how much she's enjoyed doing it over the years.

    Up next is an audio commentary track from Spinell's closest friend and one of the associate producers of the film, Luke Walter, who is joined by moderator David Gregory. This covers how Walter came to work with Spinell and the friendship that formed between the two of them after meeting at a bar-b-que, thoughts on the opening scene, shooting on location in France, getting into Switzerland, how Spinell was excited to be working in Europe, memories from the shoot and some of the trouble that Spinell got into during the shoot and some of his wilder moments, really not wanting to get arrested while hanging out with Spinell, his own career doing extra work and why he didn’t want to try for bigger parts, how he got shot while working for Wells-Fargo when a hold-up happened in Manhattan, Winters’ directing skills, memories of working together on The Joe Spinell Story, different follow ups to Maniac that were planned and Spinell’s efforts in that regard and plenty more.

    Finishing up the first disc are two short trailers under the Fanatic title and a longer one minute trailer under the Last Horror Film title.

    Disc Two - Blu-ray:

    The second disc contains the same two commentary tracks and the trailers as well as a few featurettes, starting with Like A Father Figure – Sal Sirchia Remembers Joe Spinell runs twenty-one minutes and sees Sirchia talking about how he first met Spinell on the set of Nighthawks, how friendly he was, running into him again in a restaurant years later and striking up a friendship from there based on Spinell's interest in his music, some of the bizarre answering machine messages and phone calls he would get from Spinell (Sirchia saved a tape and plays some of these messages back for us - they're bizarre!), Spinell's love of topless bars as well as his substance abuse issues, the effect that his mother's death had on him, how after Maniac came out he wanted to be the main star in all of his projects and tragic memories of finding Spinell dead in his apartment. The piece ends with a visit to Spinell's gravesite in Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

    My Last Horror Film Ever! is an illustrated audio interview with Producer Judd Hamilton that runs nineteen minutes. He speaks here about how he got to know Spinell after working as an executive producer on Maniac, not wanting to do another horror film after that but getting into them based on his relationship with Munro, problems that he had with director David Winters, what Winters did and didn't do on the movie, what his relationship with Spinell was like and how he was to work with, how Spinell almost got arrested in Cannes, how funding issues affected the movie, how he came to be accused of stealing money from the production when it was Winters who had done it and the craziness that had ensued. He then goes on to talk about how the movie finally got finished, the fallout from the problems that happened from all of this and what he's done since getting out of the film industry.

    Also found on the Blu-ray is the producers cut of the movie, running 1:20:18 versus the feature at 1:27:19, is also included on the disc and presented in (very compressed) 1080p high definition restored from a print that appears to have been in very nice shape, with English language Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and no subtitle options. You’ll notice that the opening hot tub kill scene is much shorter on this version, there’s less nudity in the movie (the scene with the naked girls at the beach is gone) and other trims and edits have been made.

    The Last Horror Film New York And Cannes Locations Visit is a fourteen minute piece hosted By Rue Morgue's Michael Gingold handling the New York locations and Severin Films' David Gregory handling the French ones. It's an interesting piece that shows the locations in the film as they were back then compared to how they appear in the real world now, and some of the changes are pretty drastic (RIP Jerry Ohlinger!).

    Those same trailers found on disc one are also included on this second disc.

    Essential to this release is the inclusion of length full color booklet that includes a fascinating sixty-two page piece written by Hamilton titled How Not To Make A Horror film that really goes into a massive amount of detail about how he and Munro came to be involved in the movie and how it all went wrong. Additionally, the book also contains an archival interview with Winters that was conducted at The Cannes Film Festival in 1981 and a selection of promotional materials. Be sure to take the time to go through this, especially Hamilton’s piece, as it’s insane what he went through. A limited edition slipcover for the film that uses the Maniac II artwork is also included.

    The Last Horror Film - The Final Word:

    The Last Horror Film is a must own for Spinell fans, it's a fairly fascinating slice of low budget horror with a uniquely personal slant to it and a nice turn from Caroline Munro as well. Severin’s UHD/Blu-ray release presents the film in excellent shape, includes the producer’s cut and a host of interesting extra features that document the movie’s history and put it all into a fascinating context. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Last Horror Film Blu-ray screen caps!

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