Even if it’s been a while since you’ve physically sat in a movie theatre, there are some things that you just don’t forget. Like that sticky sound when you walk on the soda soaked floor, the constant crunching of popcorn, or that annoyance you feel when the couple in front of you won’t stop making out. I can’t say that I have missed any of those little aggravations, but when you watch someone else deal with them in a movie, you can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia. That said, if you’ve ever worked in a movie theatre, that nostalgia might actually feel like dread.
Ana (Luciana Grasso), begrudgingly working the closing shift at a Montevideo theater, comes in from the pouring rain. After convincing her father that she knows how to run the equipment without him, and shooing off her infuriating coworker, Mauricio (Pedro Duarte), she can finally study for her upcoming test while the last film of the night plays to a nearly empty theater. She is counting on it being an easy night, but unfortunately for her and her patrons, a killer has locked them into the building.
Al Morir La Matinee, which translates to When the Matinee Died, is a love letter to Dario Argento and ’90s slashers. Like Ana (Luciana Grasso), the nerdy, straight-laced, heroine who seems like a bumbling, easy target, many of the characters in the film follow the beloved tropes of a slasher film. The cast is full of somewhat unlikeable, but completely believable, characters. For example, the crude, unruly teens who may or may not deserve what the killer has in store for them (Fellow ushers know what I mean!). The promiscuous girl and her fumbling date. The old man that foreshadows what's to come. And in true Giallo fashion, there is a mysterious, black-gloved killer that slashes their way through the cast with outrageously gory kills, and without giving anything away, each kill method really shocked me.
From the very first frame, you are filled with a sense of despair as rain pours down, adding creepiness to the overly saturated colors of neon signs reflecting on the wet streets. Even while inside the theatre, lit up by ’90s-era fluorescent bulbs, we still have that gorgeous Giallo-esque filter that makes the blues, reds, and yellows sing on the screen. Those with a keen eye will also spot Easter eggs and homages from director / writer Maximiliano Contenti, especially in the theater's movie posters. While there are snippets of the Giallo-inspired music in key scenes, the only thing truly missing was the constantly-running Goblin soundtrack.
Sometimes when we hear that a film is paying homage to another director, especially one as revered as Argento, it can be easy to just write it off. This should not be the case for AMLM, however, because this film can easily stand up on it’s own. While it’s fun to pick out all the little tributes, this film taken at face value is incredibly fun. Even more so, some viewers may find films with subtitles to be intimidating. Personally, I have found that by watching a subtitled film, I give it deeper attention, thus taking more from it in the end.
With its beautifully scary color scheme and cinematography, well-constructed characters and writing, and its over the top gore, Al Morir La Matinee is a fantastic throwback to the beloved Giallo film. Not only is this film incredibly fun, it’s a movie that I look forward to watching again and again!
Movie Score: 4.5/5
Editor's Note: Al Morir La Matinee was released in Uruguay on 9/3/20, and is the winner of Best Latin American Fantastic Film at the Curtas Festival Do Imaxinario, 2020. Known as The Last Matinee in the US, the film premiered at PANIC FEST 2021 on 4/11/21.