THE LAST LAUGH (2019)
aka KILLING JOKE
Directed by Jeremy Berg
Written by Jeremy Berg
Starring Steve Vanderzee, Eric Stone, Lowell Deo, Angela DiMarco, Meranda Long, Marcus Leppard, Brad Jesernig, Nick Sage Palmieri, Tonya M. Skoog, Luke Schuck, Jeffrey Arrington, Scott C. Brown, Mark Rahner
Despite some frustrating setbacks, THE LAST LAUGH takes good advantage of its theater locale and offers up some decent slasher kills and thrills.
Myles (Steve Vanderzee) is a struggling comedian looking for his big break. After a particularly brutal set, Myles meets up with his manager who has good news. Myles is going to open for a big comic at one of the most popular theaters in town. If Myles nails this gig, his career will skyrocket as there will be a talent scout in the audience. On the night of the show, Myles is suffering from the jitters and his manager has taken away his meds because he feels they take away his edge. It just so happens that a killer in a theatrical comedy mask is murdering various people in the crew. When Myles stumbles across one of the bodies, he is faced with a moral dilemma; report the crime and get the show cancelled or wait until after he goes on the report it. Meanwhile, the bodies are beginning to stack higher and higher.
I really like the premise of THE LAST LAUGH. The numerous passageways, closets, and curtain draped rooms make for a locale that suggests the murder could be around any corner. There is also a fun mystique about the stage and horror that has worked in quite a few horror films like the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA films, STAGE FRIGHT, CURTAINS, among others. The kills in THE LAST LAUGH are decent as well, with the killer being quite imposing walking around in the shadowy corridors. The air of mystery is also pretty thick as there are a number of people who have motive to don a mask and start killing.
That said, this film is about a comedian and my main frustration with THE LAST LAUGH is that none of the standup is funny. We are given quite a few glimpses of Myles act, and while there are plenty of people who say he is hilarious, the viewer never really gets to see that hilarity in action. The dialog is quick and punchy between the cast, but I feel that everyone thinks its much more clever than it actually is. Myles talks in a fast Sorkin/Mamet speak but it all comes off more like snarky Twitter-speak than something witty or funny. The film continually tells the viewer that Myles is funny but never shows it. What snippets of his actual act we do see are underwritten and lazy. And since the whole story is hinging on whether or not Myles is going to get his big break, not enough time was put into his act and presence to get me to care.
Without that investment, the film kind of fell apart for me. THE LAST LAUGH is not a complete waste. If you’re simply looking for some thrilling scenes and a little mystery, it’ll fill the bill. But I feel if a little more work would have been put into the script, more was shown to the viewer and less was told, it would have been a whole lot better.