Movie Review: A horror bomb not even worth a “Heckle”

The cast of “Heckle” includes “Police Academy/Three Men and a Baby” alumnus Steve Guttenberg, nearly 40 years past his heyday, Clark Gable III and Natasha Starkey, daughter of a famous drummer, granddaughter of the most famous drummer.

Seeing any one of those three names in a movie’s credits would raise an eyebrow, as in “this is how desperate the producers were for a ‘name,'” and “this is who the producers consider ‘name’ talent.” Showcasing all three is a very bad sign.

Not as bad as the beard that drifts from “real” to “fake” on our unheralded star from scene to scene. Guy Combes must’ve been called back for reshoots, which is where the grim, Astroturf matte was applied in place of whatever he shaved off. It’s the worst fake facial hair since “Gettysburg,” if not Groucho.

“Heckle” is a horrifically-bad horror tale set in in the world of British stand-up comedy. Everybody in it is at let’s just say “something less than their best.” The script is garbage, the direction, lighting and cinematography incompetent.

Feel free to shout “CUT, let’s go again, and THIS time, Guy, FIND YOUR LIGHT and STAY IN IT” at the screen.

Not that this will do any good.

After seeing Guttenberg, playing a coarse, cruel stand-up comedy “legend,” murdered in the first scene, you figure “He collected a check and maybe a trip to the UK, and got off easy. Good for him.”

But no, he’s here in flashback after flashback, playing the meanest comic in show business, one we never once see or hear do anything remotely funny. By the third or fourth flashback, you start to feel sorry for ol’Steve. And nobody wants that.

Combes, in greasy long hair (A wig? Dunno.), real-and-then-fake beard and cowboy hat (probably to hide the wig), plays Joe Johnson, an abrasive and shockingly popular stand-up who’s just landed the lead in “The Ray Kelly Story,” playing “my idol,” the jerk we see killed (Guttenberg) in that first scene.

But that news has earned Joe a new “”fan,” a heckler who shouts “Knock knock” in the most threatening manner possible in the middle of his act, causing on-stage meltdowns and later paranoid threats on the phone. Somebody has decided to “make destroying your life my life’s mission.”

Perfect time for Joe and his entourage (Madison Claire, Louis Selwyn, Stephane Leigh Rose etc) to dash off to the country, “no cell phones,” to throw an ’80s fashion Halloween costume party.

Naturally, somebody shows up in a red hoodie and killer clown mask to murderously thin their ranks and face down Joe over some grievance, real or imagined.

“I’ll take you to hell, and heckle you there, too!”

The accents are an off-putting mix of American and sometimes indecipherable British. Combes isn’t the only actor on board who forgets to “find your light.” Guttenberg is bad, and while not everybody on board is as bad or worse, enough of them are to make you puzzle over how something this crummy, but not crummy enough to be any fun, ever got made.

Oh, right. “We’ve got ‘Steve Guttenberg…and Clark Gable III! And Ringo Starr’s granddaughter!”

Rating: unrated, graphic violence, sex, profanity

Cast: Guy Combes, Steve Guttenberg, Clark Gable III, Stephanie Leigh Rose, Madison Claire, Louis Selwyn and Natasha Starkey

Credits: Directed by Martyn Pick, scripted by Airell Anthony Hayles. A Shudder release.

Running time: 1:21


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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