THE LAST HORROR FILM
The novelty that The Last Horror Film has is that it was shot guerrilla-style during the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. David Winters and co had no official shooting permits, they just pointed their camera out into the crowd as Caroline Munro made appearances and filmed what they could. As a result, they get in completely uncredited appearances from actual celebrities who were appearing at the festival including Karen Black, Cathy Lee Crosby, Isabelle Adjani and others. There is also the novelty of seeing the promotion and publicity for a great many films that were due to come out that year, including Excalibur (1981), For Your Eyes Only (1981), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), Mephisto (1981), Possession (1981) and Thief (1981), among others. This gives The Last Horror Film a wonderfully meta quality – when you see Caroline Munro attending press conferences and talking about her upcoming horror film or running through the streets clad only in a towel, you wonder how much of this was staged with the crowds present not even aware of what was happening.
The guerrilla-style filmmaking approach is more interesting than The Last Horror Film actually is as a horror film. David Winters tosses in some negligible scenes with people being killed, while the film winds down to a rather lame ending. The most accomplished sequence is one where Joe Spinnell breaks in to Caroline Munro’s bathroom just as she gets out of the shower and she is forced to flee through the hotel, the streets and finally to the premiere of her film wearing only a towel where the crowds around her applaud her panic, taking it to be a publicity stunt for her horror film. It is a bravura sequence worthy of a Brian De Palma – who later did set a sequence during the Cannes Festival in Femme Fatale (2002)
The film is more than eager to locate itself within the context of some of the high-profile celebrity assassinations that were occurring around the time. It namedrops John Hinckley Jr’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981 as part of his obsession with Jodie Foster; Mark Chapman’s shooting of John Lennon in 1980; and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. On the other hand, when it comes to holding a point-of-view, the film only falls back on throwing a bunch of kneejerk lines at us about whether horror films provoke violence, while the most profound it ever manages to get is during the press conference when Judd Hamilton responds to the question by saying: “The news headlines are worse.”
The Jodie Foster connection makes the influence of Taxi Driver (1976) on The Last Horror Film a clear one. (Admittedly, this seems to be a Taxi Driver that is blurring over into the real-life story of John Hinckley). In both films, we have a New York cab driver who becomes obsessed with a celebrity and sets out to kill so as to be with her. Like Taxi Driver and its surrounds of Times Square porn cinemas and hookers, the film is constantly emphasising protagonist Joe Spinnell’s feeling of inadequacy and isolation amid a sea of desire and an excess of sexuality – the background of the film is filled with B-roll shots of women sunbathing topless, partying, discos of the era.
Director David Winters had a none-too-successful career as an actor during the 1950s and early 60s before turning to producing. As director, he made a number of films, including genre entries such as the musical tv version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1973) with Kirk Douglas, the Alice Cooper film Welcome to My Nightmare (1975) and the reportedly very bad space opera Space Mutiny (1988), as well as several low-budget action films. Winters can be spotted in a small appearance as the slasher film director that Joe Spinnell kills off after a screening of his film. Co-writer/producer Judd Hamilton, who also appears as Jana’s boyfriend, was married to Caroline Munro at the time.
Full film available online here:-