I love short horror films. The best ones tell an entire story in only a few minutes, but also leave you longing for a feature film version. One of my favorite short horror films is director Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian’s The Stylist, which tells the tale of a hairstylist who scalps her clients and wears their scalps. In an interview last year, she told me how much she was inspired by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This year Gevargizian made the short into a feature film and it’s one of my most anticipated horror films of the year.
I knew nothing about Gevargizian’s short film ONE LAST MEAL, but it was the only short film she’s made that I had not seen, and she is one of the most gifted and intelligent filmmakers working today, so I was excited to finally dive in. Written by Eric Stolze and filmed on location at Missouri State Penitentiary, the story revolves around “Missouri madman” Otis Boyle (Jake Martin), who is about to be executed. Matt Mercer, who you will recognize from countless horror films such as Contracted, Beyond the Gates, and The Mind’s Eye, stars as the fatigued Captain York. York has just returned to work after a leave of absence and assures the warden (Tim Marks) that he’s feeling much better and is up to the task of overseeing Boyle’s execution.
The old Missouri State Penitentiary, with its peeling paint, lighting, and dilapidated appearance, perfectly sets the atmosphere required for the increasingly macabre tone of the film. Mercer is a skilled actor and I’ve enjoyed his performances in previous films, but his restrained, tormented portrayal of Captain York in ONE LAST MEAL stands out as one of my favorite performances from him. Even when he isn’t speaking, he expertly conveys a wide range of emotions; from rage to trauma, and even bewilderment of the situation he finds himself in.
It soon becomes clear that director Gevargizian has once again drawn some inspiration from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, when Boyle gleefully requests human flesh as his last meal. Surprisingly, the warden doesn’t appear shocked by Boyle’s mortifying request and makes it clear to Captain York that he is to be solely responsible for ensuring that the inmate gets the last meal he craves. Utilizing some gnarly practical effects, York does as he’s told.
In a chilling, thought-provoking monologue, as Boyle is enjoying his last meal, he tells the warden and York that he began consuming human flesh because he believed that it gave him the strength of his victims, but along the way, he discovered that the flesh of the weak tasted the sweetest. Martin brings just the right amount of grit and madness to his portrayal of Boyle and the fact that we’re not told much about the crimes that led him to death row makes his performance even scarier.
With a runtime of only about ten minutes, ONE LAST MEAL effectively gets into the head of the viewer, features a consummate performance from Matt Mercer, and is guaranteed to satisfy the appetite of any horror fan.