Any story can become a horror, depending on your perspective. From the point of view of the men in Stephen Kay’s 1946 period piece ‘The Last Time I Committed Suicide,’ who include Beat Poet instigator Neal Cassady (Thomas Jane) and barfly Harry (Keanu Reeves), it’s a rip roaring time of doing what they please and not being tied down. Not to a job. Not to a woman. Not to a place. The only thing they commit to is their personal freedom.
But their freedom comes at a huge price, a toll that the women around pay over and over again. Starting with Joan (Clair Forlani), Neal’s live-in girlfriend, who attempts suicide and while hospitalized, Neal carries on with his adventuring. Escapades that include high school girls, inspiring Neal to flash back to before Joan, and the 16-year-old Mary (Gretchen Mol) he’d been “courting.” A tryst that he strung along, making Mary and her family believe he had husband designs, before abandoning her and leaving her to face the consequences of their sexual relationship on her own.
And then came Christmas, months later. Through a series of events, Neal finds himself face to face with Joan once again and falls back in love. By the light of a Christmas tree, they make new plans to build a life and family together. Neal even has a job interview lined up, but his friend has his one suit. Amid Joan’s protests, Neal goes out to hunt down the suit and instead gets plastered at the bar with Harry. The drunker they get, dirtbag Harry convinces Neal to pass over teenage Mary to him. And Neal agrees. But what he doesn’t know is Mary’s mother had been waiting to press rape charges against Neal, and before the end of Christmas, Neal is behind bars.
By the close of this film, Neal has contributed to the downfall of four women, two of whom were minors, with zero consequences to himself. And a now-famous letter that inspired poets like Jack Kerouac and Richard Brautigan, upon which a Keanu Reeves movie is based. Like I said, a hero’s tale from the men’s perspective. And a horror story of sexual and other violence from the women left in their wake.
✨Eggnog/5 stars. Highly recommend not idealizing the Beat Poets.✨
Zuzu Zombie’s #Horrorthon365 project is a collection of eclectic genre watchlists with accompanying microreviews to suit the changing seasons. Horrorthon365 was sparked by a gnarly hand injury and carpal tunnel surgery gone awry, hence the flash-style reviews. After a wicked fall at home and brutal elbow fracture that required surgery, posts will be sporadic until I’m healed. In the meantime, browse the entire collection here.