Tuesday, 4 August 2020

The Last Request (2019) - Horror Film Review

The Last Request is a low budget indie horror that was written by and stars Dallas Ryan and Ryan Vania, with Dallas also directing. This was an odd film that became quite experimental at times. While it is a bit rough around the edges the general idea behind it was decent enough.

John (Ryan) and his brother, Michael (Vania) wake up in a strange house with no recollection of how they got there. John soon discovers a letter which informs the siblings  that Michael's daughter has been kidnapped, and that unless they play a series of cruel games she will be killed. They are also told that any attempt to leave the house will also result in the girl's death. Bizarrely, they have also been given a small dog which they are instructed they must take care of.

This is a low-fi movie in which everything is suggested and barely anything is actually shown. The brothers are on board to do what the letter instructs without any real evidence to support the claims. It starts off innocently enough with them told a watch they find has been fitted with a bomb. As the day goes on the two get told to do more and more sadistic things to each other. All of this occurs off camera, when trauma does happen this too is all just suggested with no blood or anything. This is working to the limitations of the budget but it also created a feeling of low stakes. The fact that their kidnapper chose to speak to them via printed letters hidden around the house fits this weird low stakes situation.

During a lot of the film's run time there is not much happening, and I mean that literally. Much of the time spent has the two brothers sat side by side and is here where the experimental arthouse feel comes into play. Monologues from both the characters flesh out the dark world they inhabit. Initially the focus is on John who has an almost comedic gruff seriousness to his voice. He reminded me a lot of Danny McBride's Kenny Powers from Eastbound & Down. His talks begin with his past, and his time getting abused in foster care. They then go on to form a type of downbeat statement on life, talking about such things as people only do good acts if they think it will benefit them. The second half of the movie goes more onto Michael's equally dark outlook on life. The one good thing the brothers share is their mutual respect for one another. Despite the situation they are in both characters came across as almost bored and fed up of everything. This lack of enthusiasm and dislike for life made them into people it was hard to care about.

The gist of The Last Request's message was good on paper, but I never felt it was that well displayed on screen. There are arthouse style vibes that come through, especially with the sound design that often has monologues playing out over various images, such as some young women at a beach, or static black and white shots of the sea. There were moments where I thought the film might not return from these seemingly random moments. The story was resolved coherently, and with clever use of the films title but it played out as downbeat as the rest of the picture. This was at least unified in the style and tone, the dark world and morose characters, the depressing tales, and bleak outlook on life helped elevate this for me.

The Last Request is a strange film with a strange flow, even having watched it I am none the wiser just how serious it was meant to be taken if at all. While the budget limitations are apparent and do hinder the main plot, the decision to have these characters look and act the way they do seemed to be very purposeful. At times it comes across as a bit heavy handed in how dark its themes become, yet there is always the dog to cheer things up. While no one really seems to understand just why the dog is there, all, victims and aggressors alike get joy from its presence, and that filters down to me as a viewer also. This won't be for everyone, but it should be appreciated for doing something different. The Last Request is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


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