Combining the genre of horror and humor frequently proves a difficult endeavor to master, and most films attempting both will often excel in one area, while coming up short in the other. So, for D.W. Thomas to make her directorial debut with a horror film set in a comedy lounge, she took on an already difficult task. And even though TOO LATE offers a creative platform for young comedians, both the jokes and the scares should stay as the opener and not the headliner.
Overworked and undersexed, Violet (Alyssa Limperis) works with comedians day in and day out, booking small venues and forever under the heel of her perfectionist boss, Bob Devore (Ron Lynch). Violet wants to either book talent for Bob’s club (which is called Too Late), or become a comedian herself. Both of which her boss dangles in front of her but will never grant her. Instead, the young woman responds to Devore’s every word, puts up with his abuse, and finds him people to eat. Yes, Bob Devore (get it? Devour?) must eat someone to sustain himself. Every full moon Bob needs to feed. And he needs to specifically eat comedians (the more talented the better). I don’t know if the humor adds to the flavor or provides extra nutrients, but either way, eating the talent seems bad for business. That is where Violet comes in. She needs to scout the talent and then arrange a discrete meeting between Bob the Monster and the wannabe stand-up.
So, on stage, we have comedians. And behind the scenes lurks an immortal talent-vampire. Laughs in the front and monster in the back seems a good formula for a horror-comedy, but neither side of the story fully delivers. Some of the stand-up will amuse, but it is always cut short. The practical effects and make-up create an impressive devouring scene considering the budget, but the few scares will leave most viewers unsatiated.
While some areas might deserve only a polite golf clap of appreciation, the commentary on the performance industry will help warm up the crowd. In between sets and big meals, the film portrays the unfair treatment women receive in the comedy world. Violet gets no respect from her male boss and he even makes jokes about how women cannot do comedy. And when she is not trying to win favors with a literal man-eater, Violet must put up with male comedians who fall into either the category of unprofessional or just straight-up sleazy. Even her new love-interest Jimmy (Will Weldon) quickly surpasses her on the ladder to success.
Thomas combined some strong color and lighting with an interesting concept and fun comedians, but much like Violet, the whole movie just felt like it was being held back and not being allowed to fully shine. I mean, Fred Armisen plays a small role and through the entire film you expect him to contribute to the comedy and it just never happens. Perhaps the story would have served better as an episode of Creepshow, or some series similar to Tales from the Crypt: a medium that would have allowed the film to rely less on stand-up segments for filler and more on the practical effects.
TOO LATE opens in select theaters and on Digital Platforms on June 25th.