Last Orders is a short horror flick written, directed, produced, shot, and edited by the talented Jon James Smith. We tend to cover a lot of indie shorts where filmmakers have their fingers in many pies, but rarely in almost all. Smith is even credited with the sound design and VFX; talk about DIY. Starring Alastair Parker (The Witcher 3, Mass Effect 3) and Steven Elder (The King, Rillington Palace), Last Orders takes place during what one can only imagine to be the early morning hours after a pub’s last rounds (hence the name) with our protagonists beginning a tense conversation of memories past.
The film is heavily tinted with a monochromatic blue hue, traditionally used to signify nighttime or darkness in older films but also isolation (and sometimes serenity or trust) in more modern film psychology. Here, we definitely have the combination of isolation and night but there is nothing tranquil about our setting, though Elder’s antagonist is most definitely calm throughout. I personally liked the darker tone and feeling that the colourization gives to the film, though some may find it a bit extreme.
Speaking of tone, Last Orders has a constant feeling of dread that permeates the film and a tension that deliciously runs from start to end. It is creepy, suspenseful, anxiety-inducing edge-of-your-seat stuff that leaves you guessing for its entirety and I was pleasantly surprised by the production value, especially considering that—aside from the acting—most of the workload was done single-handedly by Smith himself.
Smith had to the following to say on the film’s production:
We made ‘Last Orders’ for a very low budget whilst the UK was in lockdown due to Covid. We had next to no money, but what we did have was access to an old creepy pub, which couldn’t open due to the Covid restrictions, so we wanted to utilise what we had and use this small window of time to create something.”
I wanted to create a horror film that makes you think, but without preaching to the audience. Stylistically there were some itches I really wanted to scratch with the supernatural genre, and I got to do that with ‘Last Orders’. One of my main priorities with the film was working with the actors to create intriguing characters. Pacing-wise it was an odd script, so I knew it would all hinge on performance, particularly with the opening scenes. Although I consider myself a writer & director, due to such a low budget, I have had to take on a lot of the work, from producing, shooting, editing, sound design, and even had to teach myself VFX and colour grading in order to finish the film.
Because of having such heavy (and exhausting!) involvement in every aspect of the film, it feels like the most authentic film I have made to date, and I believe it is a good calling card for my sensibilities and tastes as a filmmaker. I hope the film will act as a beacon, and attract future collaborators.
The score is above what usually passes for a budget indie film and added great tension with a mix of both suspenseful music and solid sound effects. The editing is masterfully done, with each scene using a myriad of shots and angles both in and out of focus and all in glorious 4K, a treat for those of us who review these films and are often stuck with screeners in 480p for fear of piracy. All in all, Last Orders feels nothing like its indie cousins and more like a masterwork in comparison. It is, for all intents and purposes, a beautifully crafted short film.
That said, it’s not really all that scary. Sure, the film is firing on all cylinders in regards to suspense and all of its technical aspects are winners, including the acting—but you’re not going to be cringing at gore, staring at creative slayings or peeking through parted fingers at your screen. It is a wonderful short film with a clever narrative and a twist ending, meticulously pieced together through a labour of love, but I doubt that your heart rate will increase much. As someone that appreciates a well-forged film, this was a definite two thumbs up, but if your preference is psychotic slashers, buckets of blood, and ghastly jump scares, then this may not be something you should be sinking your teeth into.
Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. The poster artwork is below. Last Orders has only recently finished its post-production and will be doing its festival runs this year, so it may be a while before it hits VOD, but do be sure to keep your eyes open and your wallets at the ready.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.