Story: Leslie Chase (Robert Patrick) is a real estate developer with a grand vision and his latest project is set to be his finest hour, though some last minute obstacles need to be resolved. But Chase is determined to eliminate those obstacles regardless of what that takes, even it means breaking the law. After a lengthy dispute with a local Native American tribe, tensions escalate and Chase decides to do the unthinkable. The standoff turns deadly and Chase plans to wipe out the tribe, which would ensure his development would continue. His murderous vision is soon realized, but just before the tribal chieftain passes to the other side, he engages a ritual that will change Chase’s life forever. After the violent encounter, Chase finds himself in a strange mindset and involved in unusual situations, as if his mind has taken a path of its own. When a series of murders unfolds around the expansive development project, how is Chase involved and what has happened to him since the assault?
Entertainment Value: Last Gasp has some interesting potential, with a slasher vibe blended with supernatural mysticism, but the movie as a whole fails to capitalize on that promise. The shifts in tone between eerie thriller and slasher type horror is one reason why, as the picture is unable to find a proper balance between the two, let alone allow either side of the coin to shine. The horror elements fall short due to a lack of creative or splashy kills, as well as minimal scares or atmosphere. I’d say that when the atmosphere does work, it is due to the mystical traits of the narrative, rather than the horror angle. The split focus costs the interesting mystical elements as well, cutting short on some of the more promising script ingredients. I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the possession and lore involved in that aspect of Last Gasp, as that seems to be when the movie works best, only to taper off when the gears switch to slasher mode. The tone is serious and mostly effective, but the inconsistent writing and lack of bite with the horror elements take a real toll. The movie has some flaws to be sure, but I still think Last Gasp is solid enough to elicit a recommendation to genre film fans.
One reason folks might be lured into Last Gasp is Robert Patrick, who has a central role here and brings a strong base to the ensemble. Even when the role calls for Patrick to dial up the drama, he does so in controlled ways and rarely comes across as over the top. I love a wild, over the top performance, but I think Patrick hits it just right here and holds the screen time quite well. I know sometimes these lesser known roles for future stars are glorified cameos, but fans of Patrick can rest assured, he is around a lot in Last Gasp. As this was only his second feature film appearance, you can tell Patrick was a natural for the silver screen. I would list the acting as one of the movie’s strongest positives, with Patrick surrounded by capable talent. Joanna Pacula is solid in a prominent role, while Vyto Ruginis steals the show at times in a memorable effort. If the cast had been given more consistent material, they’d likely have been able to carry the picture more effectively. When Last Gasp does gain traction, it is usually a combination of the mystical thriller touches and the cast’s notable performances. The cast also includes Nan Martin, Mimi Craven, Don Edmonds, and Caroline Barclay.
The Disc: As always, Vinegar Syndrome has spruced up a movie beyond fans’ wildest dreams, with Last Gasp being given a brand new 4k restoration sourced from the original camera negative. The print is simply excellent, with a super clean, ultra sharp look that should thrill fans to no end. The clarity allows for a remarkable level of detail, even down to the finest visual touches. I am constantly amazed by how Vinegar Syndrome raises the bar on their restorations and Last Gasp continues that trend. The supplements for this release include over fifteen minutes of outtakes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.