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Film Review: The Last Showing

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★★★☆☆

Declining projection standards in the UK have got true cinema lovers very angry. I had a bit of a fight with a branch of a famous cinema chain a couple of years ago due to their truly atrocious levels of quality control. Films being shown in the wrong ration, screens set up incorrectly, lights coming on half way through, terribly low brightness levels, 2D films being projected through 3D projectors, movies even being projected onto the ceiling...the list goes on.

Why has this happened? Because the projectionist has been killed off. Those whose job it has been to nurture the film as it is shown to the audience and make sure everything runs smoothly have had their careers taken away from them. In their place we have armies of badly trained, underpaid teenagers who have no clue about cinema as an art form who just flick a switch on a digital projector and walk away. Those who love films are angry. Understandably so.

And so are filmmakers, apparently, based on this fascinating and heartfelt effort by Phil Hawkins. It’s a horror thriller about a disgruntled, sidelined projectionist who has had enough with the current trend for bad standards in cinemas. His protest is a psychological game of manipulation as a couple of viewers for a late-night screening of Wes Craven’s The Hill’s Have Eyes 2. And, to emphasise the self-aware vibe, the projectionist is played (with delicious conviction) by Robert England, the actor most famous for playing Freddie Kruger in Craven’s famous teen slasher The Nightmare on Elm Street (and its subsequent sequels of varying quality.)

There is a lot to enjoy about Hawkins’s film. It’s great to see the above issues with cinema projection spoken out loud in a feature film, particularly a brutal portrayal of an ignorant, dismissive cinema staff member (I’ve met exactly the same type in reality) who couldn’t care if films were projected in the wrong ratio or not. Creepy, tense and very entertaining, the thriller plot is enjoyable and well structured.

For all the twists and turns, however, there are some inescapable issues. The opening of the film features some pretty ropey acting from young actors Finn Jones (from Game of Thrones) and Emily Berrington (The Inbetweeners 2). The script occasionally veers into cliché with its choice of language used in the more tense scenes, though part of the point of the film is that it is playing with genre tropes so this is more forgivable.

The deserted cinema works very well as a venue for creepy goings on at night and the use of colour and lighting is very effective. The 4K digital cinematography looks impressive and stylish, giving the proceedings a glossy look in spite of the relatively low budget.

The Last Projectionist played as part of the FILM4 FrightFest 2014 and is released on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK by Sony Pictures, Certificate 15.

 




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