Heckle (2022)

Director: Martyn Pick

Running Time: 75 Minutes

Starring: Steve Guttenberg, Clark Gable III, Guy Combes, Madison Clare, Louis Selwyn, Helena Antonio, Stephanie Leigh Rose, Natasha Starkey, Dani Dyer

Christmas Eve, 1992. Stand-up comedian Ray Kelly (Steve Guttenberg) relaxes with a cigar and a seemingly adoring wife, a traditionally festive image that's mired by the husband's bad attitude. This moment will become their last, as the couple are soon murdered by an unexpected visitor. Cut to the present day when a biopic is being made about Kelly, the lead role inhabited by stand-up comic Joe Johnson (Guy Combes). After hitting back at a heckler during one of his performances, Joe finds himself stalked while his friends gets killed off.

Centred around a profession horror rarely focuses on, the potential is there for screenwriter Airell Anthony Hayles and director Martyn Pick to deliver something unique showcasing actions having consequences. A shame the film is victim to clumsy filmmaking, where the fumbling begins with depicting stand-up comedy as merely spitting out childish insults. No matter how many scenes show audience members laughing, it remains unfunny.

An early scene shows Joe's strained relationship with his daughter, making promises it's clear he'll struggle to keep. This inclusion would be a way of informing Joe's career trajectory and how it affects his relationships, particularly when flashbacks of Ray Kelly being awful are repeatedly included, yet it has no impact on the characters journey throughout. As such, these scenes amount to just padding out the runtime and showing Guttenberg in bad wigs.

As for the whodunnit, this mystery would stump even the smartest detective because it makes no sense. The crucially-missing tension leaves the rising body count to feel tiresome, while no build-up to the barely approached mystery results in confusing revelations amidst sloppy editing and a sluggish pace. Little feels natural with the insufferable characters, seemingly programmed to move the plot along instead of acting or speaking as any human would do, while "sexual-interest in the lead" is substituted for a character trait among the women. The end-result is a grab-bag of ideas thrown together for an incomprehensible package, with a film title reflecting the audience reaction.

Heckle is available on Digital Download