Early on in Too Late, the audience is alerted to the fact that this is not just any horror-comedy about an undead creature from beyond the cosmos (if you didn’t already get it from the tinny organ music and plasticine head that rolls off a cart at the beginning), but one that directly addresses the cutthroat world of stand-up comedy in an entertaining, somewhat violent fashion. Violet (Alyssa Limperis) is arguing on the phone with her boss in a pretty typical fashion – he’s demanding more work, she has other things to do. Then he intones something about the “dark of the moon,” and things pause for a second as the audience absorbs this. Oh. Things are going to be weird.
Too Late is a horror-comedy that’s very openly, explicitly about show business and, more particularly, about the soul-sucking, self-consuming nature of comedy. Violet is assistant to Bob Devore (Ron Lynch), a popular comedian who runs his own stand-up show Too Late, where he showcases a run of sharp talents, backed by Violet, the one who brings him the brilliant young comedians. Violet runs a comedy show herself with her friend David (Jack De Sena), but spends much of her time finding comedians for Bob, presenting him with new talents that suddenly, inexplicably disappear. Because Bob is actually a devourer of flesh and bone, an undead creature (not really a vampire or a werewolf, though he seems to need to feed on “the dark of the moon”), who literally eats young talent for breakfast.
Why does Violet do this? Well, Bob regularly holds out to her the possibility that he’ll give her a chance to perform on his show, or give her more power and prestige and influence—just enough to keep her on the hook. But things take a turn when Violet meets Jimmy Rhodes (Will Weldon), a young comedian she actually likes, and begins to wonder whether what Bob offers, but never provides, is really worth it anymore.
Too Late has some excellent concepts underlying it—it might be on the nose (a producer literally eating talented performers), but that’s part of the fun of stories like this. The problem here is that the film doesn’t follow any of them out to their natural conclusions. The central conflict starts out as Violet’s rather contentious relationship with Bob, as she brings him people to eat and he keeps promising that he’ll give her something in return. This is a nice little restructuring of the vampire/minion relationship along the lines of fame and attention—Violet doesn’t want to be like Bob, she just wants to be a comedic force in her own right. But the story shifts to Violet’s relationship with Jimmy and the underlying threat that Bob is, well, going to eat him too. And this is where Too Late wanders off on a different track, muddling the plot arc and providing some sudden turns and character introductions that muddy the waters.
Too Late does have an amusing, Addams Family-esque vibe, organ music and all, and the depictions of Bob’s monstrosity are both gross and entertaining. The performances overall are strong—Lord, though, I wanted more of Belinda (Jenny Zigrino), Violet’s instantly entertaining roommate—and some of the comedy lands perfectly. It just never completely coalesces the way that it needs to. Amazingly, a story about a comedic monster eating other comics needed more acidity, a deeper willingness to get bloody and nasty and just a little bit mean. There are hints of this, as Violet faces sexism in the LA stand-up world and more than one aggressive male comedian that she’s thrilled to feed to Bob, but these elements don’t amount to enough to give the film its needed push into darker, potentially funnier territory. Too Late is entertaining, it has good ideas and a solid foundation, but unfortunately not all the jokes land.