The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs


The Drive-In is open again!

Not … actual drive-ins. I think the few that still exist are mostly closed due to the pandemic, although the ones that are still open are doing well. Apparently, the entire domestic box office on the weekend of April 17 came from a single drive-in theater in Florida. How cool would it have been if this whole awful situation ended up giving us a drive-in renaissance, and with no new releases, it would even be a repertory screening renaissance. Too bad many drive-in theaters have closed up shop over the last couple of decades. 

Moving on to happier things, The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs has finally returned. The first season ended almost a year ago, and I’ve been missing what’s pretty much become my only actual appointment television. We got a couple of specials in the off-season—“Joe Bob’s Halloween Hootenanny” showed Halloween, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. While “Joe Bob’s Red Christmas” showed Black Christmas, Jack Frost, and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2— it’s nice knowing I get nine-weeks straight of unexpected horror double features.

The first week was a great way to come back to the show, exhibiting all of the selling points of something like The Last Drive-In. There were two disparate cult classics, two fun interviews, lots of interesting chat, and the kind of low-rent goofiness I expect from a show like this.

Chopping Mall (1986)Chopping Mall

I love Chopping Mall. I’m actually a newcomer to the film myself, having watched it for the first time only a couple of Halloweens ago. There’s something about it that makes you instantly understand why it became something of a cult classic. It’s the rare movie that is consciously trying to be a crass, B-level, self-aware horror movie and successfully pulls it off.

The story is simple; something I’m sure you’ve heard before. A mall invests in three killer robots as security after hours. Unfortunately, the mall is struck by lightning, and the security robots go haywire, killing anyone in their path. At the same time, a group of 20-somethings (I think?) who mostly work there have decided to party overnight in the furniture store—that classic tale.

I already mentioned it, but I think the best part about Chopping Mall is the fact that it hits its mark. The movie is exactly what you’d expect when you rent or buy or watch something called Chopping Mall—except, oddly, the robots never actually chop anyone—in that it’s unashamedly genre trash. And “trash” is not a pejorative when it comes to horror.

A special shoutout is deserved for two horror icons who appear in this film: Barbara Crampton and Dick Miller. Crampton obviously rules. However, she has the bad luck of playing a character who goes a little nutty for no real reason other than they needed a character to freak out. Up until that point, she’s one of the most fully-realized characters. Miller only gets one scene as a custodian trying to mop the mall after hours until he’s interrupted by killer robots. It’s a quick, obvious scene, but just having Miller in the movie classed the whole thing up for some reason.

Ultimately, I’d say Chopping Mall is a must-watch for horror fans. If you’re not sure whether this movie will be to your taste, then there’s a good way to judge it. The end of the movie shows footage of the characters with the actors’ names over it, like the end of Predator or a bunch of comedies. In Chopping Mall, the character who gets their head blown up has a still shot of their blown-off head for their actor’s name. 

It’s exactly that kind of movie. And I love it.

Blood Sucking Freaks (1976)Blood Sucking Freaks

I mean, I don’t even know what to say about this film.

It was an experience, for sure. I had never seen it before, and I was happy to experience it with some of my closest friends, because if I had watched it by myself, I’d probably be bored to death. The story is … non-existent? That’s maybe not fair. Let’s say, threadbare.

Having a guest like Chris Jericho there to talk it up helped me appreciate the film, but mostly I was waiting for the Joe Bob segments to come back around so I could listen to Chris Jericho talk some more.

The story (if you can really call it a story) is that Master Sardu and his assistant, Ralphus, put on a grotesque show involving sadomasochism, torture, dismemberment, and death. Unbeknownst to the audience, the victims are actual victims, and Sardu’s performances are his murderous art.

It’s a hard movie to even talk about because, for the most part, it’s just a showcase for effects. And I think the effects are pretty good, considering. They do a good job of making us, the actual audience, believe that the audience watching the show would think it’s “real” without thinking it’s real. Does that make sense? Probably not. It doesn’t matter.

This was my first time seeing Blood Sucking Freaks, so maybe I’d glean something else out of it thematically on a second watch, but, ultimately, it felt pretty empty to me. There were good effects and some good characters—Ralphus rules—but it felt like all show and no go. I didn’t love it, but I wasn’t upset that I watched it.

That’s the best part of The Last Drive-In: it’s a communal experience. I didn’t care for the second film of the night, but some of the people I saw it with did. We all had plenty to say about it, and if talking in-depth about trash isn’t the heart and soul of this experience, then nothing is.