Joe Dante’s “Matinee” Review: As Sleazy as Mant? | Octerror 2020

Hello, how’s things? This is your conductor speaking. Welcome to the Lighttrain’s Octerror 2020 marathon; glad to have you this time around! As of the time of me writing this, movie theaters are drifting away from our reach and we are worried about seeing a film on the big screen. So I watched Matinee, a 1992 coming-of-age comedy starring the one and only John Goodman. I have a bunch to say about this picture so let’s not waste any more time. Let’s get this show on the road!

Gene Loomis is a teenage kid living in Key West, Florida during the Cuban missile crisis. He’s worried about his father who’s with the military, and one of his escapes from reality is the realm of film. Gene idolizes the sleazy showman Lawrence Woolsey, a director known for his outrageous monster b-flicks. Woolsey, despite the emergency at hand, rolls into the small coastal town for the premier of his brand new feature “Mant” . Neurotic theater handlers, adolescent romance, and of course a feature presentation unlike any other abound… what else!

“Half Man, Half Ant… All Terror!” is the tagline coined by Woolsey for his movie; a delightful touch I just say. In true homage fashion, a bunch of the film hinges off references to a myriad of film icons and follies. Like honestly, “presented in Atomo-Vision” brought a wide grin to my face. The character of Lawrence Woolsey is heavily influenced by director William Castle, from the large cheroot down to the immersive experience of his premieres.

Although the film is mildly hard to elaborate on, it’s best to rent it and watch Matinee without any knowledge of it whatsoever. What I can wholeheartedly imply is that fans of Roger Corman-esque kitsch or the monster blowups of the 40s and 50s will have an entertained time. And for me, I definitely was. A lost art I’ve figured is a movie within a movie, which is basically a fictional feature that was concocted specifically for it. So, that was an additional treat to dig up.

Indeed, Matinee is actually a pleasantly light-hearted diversion, something quite humorous as the backdrop is literally bombing possibilities and countrywide hysteria and panic. The movie has a really warm feeling to it with the dialogue and comedy. A gag favorite of mine involved Woolsey’s voluptuous, wry, yet still faithful wife Ruth; At the premier she has the visitors sign a contract denying responsibility to any and all injuries or health problems that could arise. So even though I didn’t laugh out loud too much, there wasn’t an elongated period where I wasn’t amusingly invested. Well, except for the big finale.

Up until that moment I found Matinee pulled off an impeccable balance between being a delightful comedy with some emotional weight as well as a tribute to schlock double bills. Here, an abrupt hatchet gets thrown into the tone, leaning far more into the nutso salute and silliness. Seeing this mostly grounded and down-to-earth film become so unbelievably bonkers may suck many out of the experience, even if the last 5-10 minutes quickly manage to end on a higher note.

Ticks and major tonal shifts aside, Matinee holds up as a great trip down monster memory lane. You can tell that the cast and crew, especially b-movie radical Joe Dante, bring a knowledgeable charm and heart; It’s a strong ingredient towards the movie’s enjoyment. No doubt an underappreciated gem, and one of the most optimistic films I’ve seen in a while.

RATING: 7/10 “Not very Memorable, but a Great Time”


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NEXT… ON OCTERROR! | A Look Back on the Castlevania Games for the Nintendo

4 thoughts on “Joe Dante’s “Matinee” Review: As Sleazy as Mant? | Octerror 2020

  1. Terror-riffic review, Gavin! 😊 You brought the movie to life. It sounds like it would be an interesting watch. How are ya keeping? Staying afloat here. You take care and have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All I got on food references, here, was “strong ingredient.”

    The artwork is great, as usual.

    Yeah. TPTB are purposely making sure that people can’t be together in groups. The very fabric of society is being ripped apart.

    Liked by 1 person

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