By KEVIN HOOVER
The modern horror auteur is not beholden to the distinctive stylings of a predecessor generation, often eschewing a singular perspective or concept in favor of a hybrid approach to filmmaking. Maxi Contenti is one such visionary, whose amalgamation of the Italian giallo and the American slasher, THE LAST MATINEE (aka AL MORIR LA MATINEE, released in collaboration with Bloody Disgusting x Dark Star), has been gaining traction ever since 2020. Born in Uruguay and inspired heavily by American culture and entertainment, the director’s latest foray into horror gleefully leaps across subgenre boundaries while retaining key hallmarks that will instantly resonate with fans of its various styles. Hot on the heels of THE LAST MATINEE’s recent theatrical release, we sat down with Contenti to discuss the film and its influences.
There’s no denying that this is a love letter to giallo, with all the characteristics that would make Fulci or Argento proud. Speak a little about your personal influences, and how they shaped your vision for THE LAST MATINEE.
One of the objectives with this project was to make a neo-giallo in some sense. I’ll say it’s a slasher with giallo mixed in. My personal influences are more from the American side, because they’re the roots of what I started watching when first getting into horror. I started watching movies very early as a kid and I saw only American films first; it was later on in my late teens that I found the giallo. I guess I’m also very much influenced mostly by ’80s horror, a lot of [John] Carpenter, and also Brian De Palma’s movies, which are not essentially horror.
You have sets of characters who are all having individual experiences while a maniac is murdering people. They’re not connected in any way, and we’re never led to believe that the killer has any personal relationship with any of them. What led you to employ this sort of ambiguity and disconnect?
The main idea came from the theater, so that was the inspiration. How it came to be that it was contained in this theater mostly was a limitation that came with the story, but also in a way to creatively push the story. I was always thinking about using this big theater area, as it’s very symbolic – I like to call my film sort of a horror fable. In this particular story, the killer remains a mystery, but even once you come to know him, it’s still a mystery, so the main idea was to keep it as such and it’s up to the creativity and imaginations of the audience to come up with the meanings. About the characters, it’s really a movie montage, and was very much made in the editing room. Yeah, everyone is on their own in a way and it’s like each has their own story, but I was thinking of having these very classical, archetypal characters going to the movies. It just happens that everyone is on their own and they don’t interact very much.
Your killer carries on more like a strategist instead of an indiscriminate murder machine. Can you provide some background on the development of your antagonist?
I guess the giallo aspect of it is that I thought of him as a monster more than a man, and he plays with his prey. You don’t know why he’s doing these things, but he sure enjoys what he’s doing. I think he’s strategic about it, but in a way, he’s a bit sloppy, too. He’s not really covering his footprints; he’s just kind of messy about it. He’s creative and he’s brutal, and it’s because there’s some sort of force that is pushing him. Something drives him, which is why he likes playing with his trophies.
Speaking of the kills, they’re creative, gory, and your camera is unflinching. A memorable example is a throat wound that billows recently inhaled cigarette smoke. How much fun did you have coming up with these?
Christian Gruaz was the special effects director, and the team behind the madness was incredible. All of the kills were practical, which was I was amazed by. We did some post-production cleanup, but there’s no CGI blood or anything. For the camera work, I wanted it to be Hitchcockian in a way, just keep the framework and not shake the camera, just holding it and appreciate it and take it all in. When you do practical effects, everything gets very, very dirty, and when you have to do another shot it takes like half an hour. You have to plan it in a way and rehearse it so that you get it in the first or the second take. With the throat slit, there was a whole team working with a vaporizer and there were holes in the throat, so we had to synchronize everything and it wasn’t easy! When you do practical, one angle can be good, then you move a little bit and it looks phony, so everything has to be very accurate.