Off-kilter ‘Too Late’ is decently entertaining horror comedy

movie still from Too Late
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Grade: 3.0/5.0

“Too Late,” a horror-comedy that is as off-kilter as its genre suggests, is a clumsy indie film that embraces its peculiar nature. Centering itself around the “horror” of the Los Angeles comedy scene, the film’s self-awareness of its subjects’ desperation and the impending doom of the careers of many never-to-be-seen-again comedians allows for a comfortable laugh. That being said, the funniest moments of the film are found in quick scenes of said comedians performing and not much elsewhere. D.W. Thomas’s debut feature film is awkward, but suitable to its premise as it navigates between different subplots and the typical gore and suspense of a scary movie. It remains true to the slightly mishmashed aesthetic and mediocrity usually expected in the genre.

Comedy show booker and wannabe comedian herself, Violet Fields (Alyssa Limperis) suffers a demanding job as assistant to esteemed comedian and producer Bob Devore (Ron Lynch). The film illustrates her as the archetypal career-consumed main character — at first, annoyingly so — however, it is introduced early on that her role as an assistant is even more horrifying than it appears. Devore is quite literally an industry monster: When he meets comedians who don’t satisfy his funny bone, he eats them whole.

The film, which first premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in April, has rather misleading big names for what it is. Lynch, who is most notable for his work in the silly animation show “Bob’s Burgers,” and beloved “Portlandia” comedian Fred Armisen, who plays Fredo Muñoz, don’t necessarily outshine their castmates. Yet, they both deliver their performances in a way that proves their status as veterans amongst a smaller cast. Armisen’s character makes small cameos throughout the film, and even though he often provides insignificant blurbs, they are funny and charming. Without these two, the film wouldn’t have the self-assured sense of humor needed to keep it alive. 

Amid Violet’s frustration over delivering victims to Devore without gaining any career mobility in return, Belinda (Jenny Zigrino), Violet’s roommate and closest friend, pushes the assistant to “value herself” within her jaded approach to her work-life balance, alluding to her lack of time to pursue a love interest. Belinda’s character provides small instances of comfort within Violet’s stressful, fast-paced life, leading her to take a risk and skip out on work to go on a date with fellow comedian, Jimmy Rhodes (Will Weldon). Jimmy teeters the line of arguably funny, and his character adds a sense of relatability to Violet. What Limperis does best is stick to Violet’s rather uninteresting and anxious persona while the characters that surround her are anything but, and these moments between her and the other characters all add to her character’s depth. 

The film’s off-putting aesthetic isn’t what’s most disruptive throughout the film — the clunky and rather unappealing cinematography and poor lighting keep to its allure of expected amateurism. Even the soundtrack by Mikel Hurwitz (who also worked on “The Woman in the Window”*) gives a weird yet compatible Hollywood horror movie-esque sound. 

What’s most disruptive are the multiple subplots and relationships between characters that are often chaotic and lack development. There is too much going on between the characters, who aren’t given enough time to fully shine in their respective roles. For instance, it appears at one point that Violet is forming a sense of independence from her work due to her feelings for Jimmy, ignoring the previous bouts of motivation she derived from others and even from herself. Her character radiates girlboss energy and to see that misconstrued for love is unfitting. Because of this, the acting can be dry at times, resulting in an occasionally underwhelming performance and stale scenes.

While the film occasionally builds off of its stronger characters and creates moments of hilarity in the small moments of stand-up comedy, its adequacy will surely serve as a milestone for Thomas’ career. Even with a few disjointed scenes, the film stands as something fresh amid a multitude of remakes and reunions in Hollywood. Its unique presentation and candor in its mediocrity as a whole create an experience that viewers can surely get a chuckle out of. 

Contact Kaitlin Clapinski at [email protected].