Last Seen: Final Girls Berlin Review. Full disclosure: I really, really enjoyed this. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, that when it ended, I was left wondering what had happened to the rest of the movie. I knew going in that it was only going to be around 15 minutes long, but those 15 minutes flew by, and I really wanted more. Like… actually, I’m kind of annoyed. Where’s the rest of this movie? What happened? I got the set-up. In fact, no, I got the set-up to the set-up, and then I got nothing else. What the hell? Give me the other 90 minutes, guys!!! C’mon! Where is it?
Telling the story of a wannabe crime journalist who takes matters into her own hands in order to be taken seriously in her field, it’s an intriguing premise. Our heroine kicks off the film by killing someone, and then, as the plot unfolds, we begin to understand that she is now the host of a successful true crime podcast (the titular Last Seen) in which she attempts to “solve” the murder she committed in the opening moments.
That’s the sort of Hitchcockian premise that immediately grips. It certainly gripped me. And the smart move to modernize such a premise with the use of a podcast makes the content feel fresh and entertaining in a way so few modern thrillers can claim to. And the flashy visuals, which utilize certain expected true crime tropes, leaping around like it’s part true crime documentary and part genuinely thrilling and suspenseful thriller, only furthers the engagement and the excitement.
This is a damn good film. Well made, well-acted, well directed, well written… and then it abruptly, frustratingly, infuriatingly stops just when it’s getting going.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so annoyed as I was when the credits to this one rolled. See, what the filmmakers have here is a fantastically smart, expertly crafted, unique and modern premise, but nothing else to build on. It’s like we’ve just watched the prologue to a longer story and, without the longer story for context, I have little to nothing to say about it beyond how damned frustrating it is that there isn’t more.
When it comes to short films you have to expect a certain level of what one might call ambiguity. Short films tend to hinge on one of two things; either there’s a stereotypical set-up and then a subversion or twist in the final moments, or they work more like a sort of hint at wider things, almost as if they’re like the back story to some supervillain who will show up later to fight Batman or whatever. Either of those two approaches work when it comes to shorter narratives because you have just enough time to engage and to set-up, but very little time to payoff, so utilizing a quick payoff based on the audiences pre-existing knowledge (a twist or a hint of things to come) works.
See, the audience brings their own expectations to things. It works almost like cinematic shorthand. We all understand certain things and so we’ll be able to extrapolate from what the film is giving us.
Last Seen, however, doesn’t do that. It has ambiguity, but that ambiguity doesn’t seem to hint toward an inevitable outcome or any kind of outcome we can understand. How does this story end? I don’t know, and since I didn’t write this movie, I’m not in a position to really guess, either. It’s not like I can imagine it turns into anything else. It’s nothing. It’s a unique premise, one that I was really enjoying. One that I would like to know the ending to. Give me the ending!
To say this flaw makes me dislike the film would be a disservice to how much I was enjoying it. This isn’t Lost, I didn’t wind up in the final moments furious and annoyed I’d just wasted the last seven years of my life on J J Abrams’ bullshit mystery box, but it also isn’t wholly satisfying. I was genuinely hoping there would be more on offer.
As the film was playing out, I was gripped, watching eagerly to see where this all went. I found myself trying to solve the mystery – not of who the killer is, obviously, because we already know that, but rather of how this was all going to resolve. Ultimately, I’m left wondering whether the filmmakers found themselves equally as gripped, and equally as unable to extrapolate an answer. Perhaps that’s why it ends in such a frustrating and abrupt manner. Maybe there isn’t a conclusion that would satisfy? Still, I’d rather they tried, because this has real promise.
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