25th Oct2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘Heckle’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Guy Coombes, Steve Guttenberg, Clark Gable III, Toyah Wilcox, Nicholas Vince, Madison Clare, Louis Selwyn, Stephanie Leigh Rose, Natasha Starkey, Helena Antonio | Written by Airell Anthony Hayles | Directed by Martyn Pick

Airell Anthony Hayles, who penned and co-directed They’re Outside, the found-footage meets YouTube, pagan-eqsue horror which screened at Frightfest in August, is back at Frightfest again with Heckle – a film which channels Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy by way of 80s slasher movie; an odd combination on paper but one that on screen works remarkably well.

Opening with the death of comic Ray Kelly (a cameoing Steve Guttenberg), shown in the opener and throughout flashbacks to be a total unlikeable bastard, Heckle tells the story of another unlikeable bastard and stand-up comic, Joe Johnson, who’s at the top of his stand-up comic game, so much so that he’s tapped to play Ray Kelly in a movie of his life… and death.

After a strange encounter at a show, where he’s heckled in bizarre fashion by an anonymous audience member, Joe decides to share a Halloween weekend away with a group of friends. They decide on the theme of a 1980s retro party, and jokingly suggest that if they get drunk, high, and behave badly enough, hopefully they’ll attract their own psycho killer. The joke is suddenly very much on them though, as in turn they reach their grisly demise at the hands of The Heckler, an uninvited guest out to turn their nostalgic horror movie fantasy into a terrifying reality, before delivering an unforgettable punchline…

And that punchline – unlike the ending of You’re Outside, which ran out of steam and fell apart in the last ten minutes – is the brilliant crutch on which the entire film rests. I say brilliant as it’s the type of conclusion that is totally unexpected; out of left-field yes but still completely believable within the confines of this films story. Which is essentially a story a twisted individual and those who seek revenge for him on another twisted individual… No-one here, apart from the fodder roles that are just there to be slaughtered slasher-movie style, is innocent.

Shot in neon-lit hues, reminiscent of Italian giallo (in particular the work of Dario Argento); with a killer in a clown mask and red rain mac that looks and feel like a total homage to 1976’s proto-slasher Alice, Sweet Alice; Heckle is a superb diatribe on perils of fame, personality and neurosis, and a warning to never, ever, meet your heroes!

***½  3.5/5

Heckle screened on Saturday October 24th as part of this months Frightfest Digital Edition.


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