New On Demand and digital download from Uncork’d Entertainment!
Directed by Martyn Pick.
Written by Airell Anthony Hayles.
Starring Guy Combes, Steve Guttenberg, Madison Clare, Louis Selwyn, Helena Antonio, Stephanie Leigh Rose, Natasha Starkey, Dani Dyer, James Littlewood, Jane Ledsom, Toyah Willcox, Daisy Humpherston, Henry Osmani, Deborah Osmani, Peter Devlin, Gledisa Arthur, and Clark Gable III as the Heckler!
Find out more about this film here!
Guy Combes plays Joe Johnson, a popular comedian set to play an even bigger comedian in a new film about the life and death of Ray Kelly (played in flashback by Steve Guttenberg). On night, towards the end of the show, Johnson is heckled by a person in the crowd, ending with the unseen heckler threatening the comedian’s life. Soon after, Johnson begins getting menacing phone calls full of threats causing his paranoia to escalate. When Johnson decides to go on a weekend getaway with friends to get away from it all, the heckler arrives and the bodies start piling up, ending with a confrontation between Johnson and his heckler.
HECKLE commits the biggest sin when making a movie about comedy—it just isn’t funny. One would think that if you make a movie centering on a stand up comedian, the script would make an attempt at having a strong sense of humor. Yes, this film shows the cliched ugly side of comedy where all of the comedians are miserable alcoholics, abusing everyone around them, and one bad night away from offing himself. There are plenty of fine films depicting all of that and what HECKLE has to say about the comedy has been told much better in much better films. There is a large chunk of this film that lands with a comedic plop because the jokes just aren’t there to play off of the serious subject matter going on when off stage.
It also doesn’t help that HECKLE isn’t the most original when it’s trying to be a slasher film. The clown masked killer attempts to be distinct by attempting a whispering laugh but in actuality it’s not unlike Jason’s famous “Kill-kill-kill-ma-ma-ma!” mantra. There is a nice bit of brutality to the kills, but they are extremely random. There’s no real reason for the killer to be murdering Johnson’s friends. They’re not really nice people, but they really don’t deserve to be pulverized in such a manner.
The main issue I had with HECKLE is that the lead, Guy Combs, displays not once likable quality. I think he’s going for a Russell Brand vibe here as a cynical, rock star style comedian, but it just comes off as a bad parody. Kind of like a SNL actor playing Russell Brand badly. Yes, the audience gets their chance to see some comeuppance to the jerk, but with a cast that really isn’t very likable either, it really makes for a miserable experience all around. Then, of course, there’s the Guttenberg. Steve Guttenberg’s got a kind of Bob Saget style to him that really sells that light hearted comedian with a dark side that shines through. If there’s a highlight to HECKLE, it’s his performance as he does feel like the only person trying to play some kind of character with some depth. Still, he’s an abusive drunk sad sack as well, but he’s the most interesting sad sack of the bunch.
The ending is pretty ridiculous where the killer’s elaborate plan spans decades, all culminating in one night of carnage. The unmasking is lackluster because Johnson doesn’t know who the hell it is and neither does the viewer until after a lengthy flashback, half of which we’ve already seen in the opener. HECKLE doesn’t say anything new, isn’t funny, and feels full of misery. It just didn’t work for me despite the fact that it’s good to see the Guttenberg again.