Heckle is a horror-thriller that isn’t scary or tense, and drags its feet.
The doldrums of Martyn Pick’s movie makes your mind wander. I started asking myself if there’s ever been a movie about a comedian that was funny or convincing. Judd Apatow’s Funny People perhaps? For some reason, movies like Heckle are too timid to show comedian characters at work. The comedians featured in Heckle, the allegedly sharp-tongued Joe Johnson (Guy Combes) and bitter veteran Ray Kelly (Steve Guttenberg), are embarrassingly inept despite their following. Johnson’s act is seen through a lame montage but, otherwise, he resorts to stammering and spinning his wheels out of nervousness. Kelly, using profanity as adjectives, is always angry. He is never once seen telling any jokes.
This poor characterization doesn’t help the story whatsoever. The mystery is initiated by Kelly’s murder, but there isn’t any interest if the comic was insufferable to begin with. When Johnson, who is being eyed to portray Ray in a biopic, is targeted next by a persisting heckler (the late Clark Gable III, grandson to the legendary actor), a similar indifference occurs. Instead of the audience being annoyed by a character’s toxic personality, we’re now annoyed because of how dull this other person is. The only interesting thing about Joe is that he wears different hats in the public eye – that’s it. When a character is clinging on to their cowboy hat as a trait, things are not looking good for the audience.
During this first act, Heckle doesn’t offer anything for the viewer to grasp or care about. In fact, I felt a wave of relief when the movie snapped into a standard slasher formula during the middle. Joe attends a party, and guests are picked off by a masked stalker – a routine follow through. There are a few nasty kills, although they’re not flaunted as much as the average horror hound is looking for. Even so, this is still an appreciative change in pace. Unfortunately, because of the contrived plot in Airell Anthony Hayles’ script, the slasher plot is dropped for twists that are not as clever as the screenwriter believes.
Heckle is a strained endeavour, hampered by a production that alternates between working too hard and not working hard enough.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie