"The Last Stop in Yuma County" (2023) [Fantastic Fest]

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Francis Galluppi’s  western-infused heist movie, The Last Stop in Yuma County, courtesy of Fantastic Fest.

When a traveling knife salesman is forced to wait for fuel at an isolated rest stop, violence erupts around him when two bank robbers arrive during their getaway from a big heist.

The Good
Joseph: Holy smokes, I had an absolute blast watching this movie! Pitch-perfect performances from a sizable cast filled with genre-film favorites — Jim Cummings (The Wolf of Snow Hollow; Halloween Kills) as a traveling knife salesman, Jocelin Donahue (The House of the Devil; Insidious: Chapter 2) as a diner waitress, Michael Abbot Jr. (The Dark and the Wicked; Organ Trail) as her lawman husband Charlie, Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator; Jakob’s Wife) as receptionist Virginia, Richard Brake (Barbarian; Offseason) and Nicholas Logan (Organ Trail) as bank robbers, and Alex Essoe (Starry Eyes; The Haunting of Bly Manor) as traveler Sarah, to name some examples, and Faizon Love deserves special mention as his portrayal of the owner of a gas station bereft of gas, which leads to all the trouble — edge-of-the-seat suspense combined with jaw-dropping darkly humorous sequences helmed and framed masterfully by writer/director Francis Galluppi, all captured beautifully by cinematographer Mac Fisken, and a terrific score by Matthew Compton all blend together superbly. The Last Stop in Yuma County does a bang-up job of combining elements of Westerns, heist thrillers, and neo-noir in its tense tale of people being in the wrong place at the wrong time, with some trying to seize opportunity while others are simply trying to stay alive. 

Mike: I feel like the best thing I could do here is to make a checklist of things a movie needs to accomplish to be successful and then just put a check mark in each box.  Of course that would be lazy and not very helpful when it comes to letting you, our beloved readers, know whether or not this is good or bad.  So, let me try and put things into words instead of just blabbering.
Francis Galluppi has created a marvelous experience with The Last Stop in Yuma County.  Interesting characters, great camera work, and a story with a crazy-simple premise that allows the tension to build with each passing minute without worrying about twists and turns that have to over-explain “hows” and “whys” to result in a satisfying payoff.  The icing on the cake is the timelessness of the story. 30 cent cigarettes, older looking cars, prices for food that seem higher than they would have been when both of the previous things would have been commonplace.  It’s a great look and feel that seems right at home in the desolate setting.
In short, Galluppi deals the cards right on the diner counter face up and, without any bluffs, wins big.
It’d be too hard (and unfair) to single out any one performance as a stand-out as everyone does a stellar job at bringing their character to life, giving us a motley crew of believable folks just looking for some gas and maybe a slice of rhubarb pie.  Galluppi also does a fantastic job with framing his shots, using slow-motion and casual - yet crucial - observations by the patrons to ratchet up the tension, all while a great selection of music adds to every scene it plays over until everything culminates in a clever Mexican, or maybe a Yuma County, standoff.

The Bad
Joseph: I have no complaints here. Not one.

Mike: I jokingly told Joseph that I’d find something to put here in the bad section when he told me he didn’t think he could come up with anything.  I had to think hard about this and all I could come up with is that I was wrong.  

The Verdict
Joseph: The Last Stop in Yuma County gets my highest recommendation, and it is a strong candidate for my top 10 favorite films list of 2023 — heck, make that top 5. Genre-film fans are going to dig this one. There’s no way you can’t love that cast! Galluppi has done an outstanding job, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. 

Mike:  Frequent visitors to our site will have seen we review a lot of horror and horror-adjacent films, so this one may seem a bit out of place but don’t let that fool you - The Last Stop in Yuma County is an amazing film that needs to be seen.  A great cast (hello, Barbara Crampton!), a smart script, and camera work that shows both isolation and intimacy all results in one of the best films we’ve had the pleasure of screening in our short existence as a review duo.  If we could, I am sure Joseph would join me in giving everyone involved a standing ovation.
Highly recommended!

The Last Stop in Yuma County from Local Boogeyman Productions screens as part of Fantastic Fest, which runs in Austin, TX, from September 21st–28th.  For more information, visit https://2023.fantasticfest.com/welcome.

The Last Stop in Yuma County
Directed By: Francis Galluppi
Written By: Francis Galluppi
Starring: Jim Cummings, Jocelin Donahue, Richard Brake, Nicholas Logan
Run Time: 1h 30m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2023

[there is no trailer available at the time of this review]