Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Heckle (2020, director: Martyn Pick; script: Airell Anthony Hayles; cast: Steve Guttenberg, Guy Combes, Clark Gable III, Louis Selwyn, Helena Antonio, Stephanie Leigh Rose, Madison Clare)





Ray Kelly (Steve Guttenberg) is an aging standup comic, known for his acerbic wit and general meanness. One day he humiliates the wrong heckler and is killed.

Fastforward twenty years. Standup comic Joe Johnson (Guy Combes) is to star in a Kelly biopic. Whereupon a heckler (Clark Gable III) begins stalking Joe.

Is it the same one who killed Kelly?!

The heckler begins harassing Joe in clubs, and then via crank phone calls. Joe doesn't know what the heckler looks like (hard to see audience faces when you're on stage). His hangers-on downplay Joe's fears. Joe becomes increasingly paranoid, accusing innocent people of being his nemesis.

Is that the heckler's goal? To destroy Joe's life by turning him against all his friends?

Joe is a mixed bag. A reformed alcoholic. Divorced. Doesn't see his kid often enough. But he seems decent enough. More so than his sleazy, boozy hangers-on and "actress" girlfriend. So we sympathize with his plight.

Desperate for some peace of mind, Joe and his crew go off for a weekend to an isolated house in the woods for rest and recuperation (i.e., sex, booze, and drugs). Of course, the heckler shows up, leaving his trademark clown mask on a door handle.

Most of Heckle is set in and around Joe's house in the woods. That's typical for slasher films. Isolate your victims in a sparsely populated area, then start the body count.

The characters are stereotypes, but interesting enough. Catherine and David (Stephanie Leigh Rose and Louis Selwyn) are Joe's management team. Catherine is shrill, sexually aggressive, jealous, and snarky toward Evelyn (Madison Clare), Joe's girlfriend. David is a boozy wimp, meekly allowing Catherine to dominate him. One senses Catherine would rather be married to Joe. Evelyn seems more of an aspiring actress than a real one, the sort who gloms onto celebrities like Joe.


Joe's ex-wife Laura (Helena Antonio) also arrives at the house, uninvited. She is boozy, tearful, and volatile; doting on Joe one moment, spitting recriminations the next.

Apart from some early victims, those are the main targets for the upcoming body count. The killings are suitably grim and gory. The heckler/slasher adds some nice theatrical touches to his killings, such as placing giant masks onto his victims' corpses. Horror fans always appreciate a slasher who goes that extra mile.

Eventually we learn the heckler's identity, and some other surprises. Slasher films abound with loopy "final revelations," but as far as logic goes, the ones in Heckle aren't that bad. I've seen worse. So long as the deaths are gory, the women are pretty, and the pace isn't leaden, it's all good. On those scores, Heckle delivers.


Guttenberg is the big name in this cast, but this isn't really his story. He's killed in the first scene. He has a few flashback scenes, where we learn more about him and his killer. He performs effectively as crude, cruel standup comic Ray Kelly. Maybe his character was modeled on Andrew Dice Clay's stage persona. (I've no idea what Clay was like off-stage.)

Horror films set in the entertainment world are usually slasher films. Notable ones include Theater of Blood, Madhouse, Curtains, Terror (a slasher and a witch), Nightmares, Stagefright, and The Last Laugh.

Overall, while no ground-breaking masterpiece of the genre, Heckle is entertaining, well-craft slasher fare.


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