In October 2020, in the middle of our super-sized pandemic induced horror movie marathon, we watched William Castle’s The Tingler. It was my first exposure to Castle’s wonderful gimmickry and I enjoyed it even without experiencing Percepto first hand. Cut to months later and I’m learning Joe Dante directed a movie inspired by Castle and The Tingler called Matinee starring John Goodman… it sounds too good to be true! And I was right!
It’s a trap we all fall in sometimes. We build up high expectations only for reality to knock them down like a Jenga tower of disappointment. My method of learning as little as possible about a movie before seeing it has cost me a lot of time watching bad movies I could’ve spent watching good movies but as I said in my The Ugly review, there’s something fun about exploring an awful movie no one’s talking about. I built up Matinee to be the “based on a true story” William Castle biopic I wanted. Turns out, I just wanted to watch Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist, and Dolemite is my Name again. William Castle was just as thrifty, crazy, and innovative as those other filmmakers… Why shouldn’t a celebrated director make an award winning biopic about his work?
But that’s not what Matinee is. Instead it’s about being a teenager during the cuban missile crisis. Yeah, it’s not even really about Lawrence Woolsey, John Goodman’s William-Castle-inspired huckster. He’s just the old film-wizard teaching the protagonist, Simon, a specific but meaningful lesson about life, it’s difficult to sell a horror movie to people who’re paranoid they could be bombed at any moment. Eternal wisdom to be sure.
If I could’ve seen Matinee without high expectations I would probably say it’s a cartoonish examination of humanity’s most harrowing times, the Cold War and puberty. I want to say it’s like a meld of so many different movies but really it’s just a movie I didn’t enjoy.