THE LAST DRIVE-IN WITH JOE BOB BRIGGS
Very few pieces of media actually make me nostalgic. There are still shows and movies that I loved as a kid and still really love as an adult, but I can’t think of anything that’s made me yearn for a specific time or place, let alone actually transport me back there.
Until some shit-kicking redneck with a deep love of B-movie gems found his way onto Shudder.
Sitting down to watch Joe Bob Briggs host a double feature of trashy horror classics brought me back to the days of sleepovers with my friends, hopped up on popcorn and soda. A parent would come into the room at least three times in the night to tell us to shut the hell up and go the hell to sleep.
Like his previous Shudder marathons — which I talked about here — the pre-recorded segments take place on his usual trailer park-esque sets. There are interludes during the movies (almost mirroring basic cable commercial breaks), interviews with people involved in the film, and discussions with Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince), which occasionally devolves into friendly bickering.
The first film of the evening was…
Joe Bob took to Twitter before the premiere to promise that one of the films tonight would be, 1) one of the most-requested films for the show, and 2) a movie he — controversially — doesn’t like that much.
As usual, Joe Bob offers a lot of interesting information about the film itself and how it was made. That actually dovetails nicely with why he doesn’t like it. It’s a bunch of “Shakespeare in the Park”-type actors who are slumming it by playing around in the horror genre. He doesn’t think they have much of an affinity for it, and that shows in the sloppiness of the final product. It’s a fair point.
I probably lean closer to Darcy’s opinion of the film. It’s fun! The C.H.U.D.’s themselves are kind of disappointing. The effects are fine, but once Joe Bob said they only had the face and arms to use, it becomes very obvious that the movie goes out of its way to obscure them, and not in an effective way like Jaws. However, I think Daniel Stern gives a great performance. It has a lot of grimy New York locations (even though the underground locations look a lot like unfinished basements), which I adore. It also has a John Carpenter-style social commentary, with the poor and homeless being killed and no one really gives a shit but our heroes.
I think Joe Bob’s assessment of the final product is correct, but I don’t mind that some artsy types wanted to slum it. Plus, any time Darcy and Joe Bob are at odds it’s good television.
The second film in the double feature was great, mostly because it was a first-time watch for me.
Castle Freak (1995)
I love Stuart Gordon, and I really love his H.P. Lovecraft adaptations. Castle Freak had been on my watchlist for a while, and I just never got around to it. So it was a nice surprise to get to watch it for the first time with Joe Bob.
One of the film’s stars, Barbara Crampton, joined Joe Bob to watch and discuss the film. It was nice seeing her. She continues to be a really charming person, on and off the screen. I liked hearing about her working relationship with Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs. All three are to thank for Re-Animator and From Beyond, two of my favorite horror movies of all time.
I don’t think Castle Freak is as good as the other two (but probably better than Stuart Gordon’s Dagon), but it was really fun and really gnarly. It owed a lot to Italian splatter flicks from people like Fulci or Argento. Combs and Crampton, as usual, put in some excellent performances and play so well off of each other. The effects of the titular freak were just the right amount of creepy. The gore was the kind that makes you laugh to keep from cringing.
Also, the Wikipedia page for this film includes one of my favorite bits of trivia. It perfectly encapsulates everything beautiful about horror movies:
Director Stuart Gordon was in Charles Band’s office, and he noticed a poster entitled Castle Freak with a Quasimodo-like man chained to a wall being whipped by a woman. When Gordon asked about it, Band replied, “Well, that’s a castle and there’s a freak.” Band said he had no script but if Gordon wanted it, he could do whatever he wanted with the idea as long as he maintained the concepts of a castle and a freak.
How can you not love something like that?
Overall, Week 1 was a huge success. My favorite parts were probably Joe Bob’s discussion of horror movies using a “shower scene,” his discussion with Barbara Crampton, and the surprise phone call to Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp as their resident dick trauma expert. The cons were a rant about the Miss America Pageant that didn’t come together as tightly as his usual rants, and a strange, tinny sound during the Joe Bob segments that I hope to get ironed out for the rest of the weeks to come.
If you love horror, and you love horror hosts, it’s hard to beat a throwback like this.
Now, since Week 1 began with a surprisingly touching video of a much younger Joe Bob delivering “The Drive-In Oath” to a theater crowd, I’ll end this the same way:
We are Drive-In Mutants
We are not like other people
We are sick
We are disgusting
We believe in blood, in breasts, and in beasts
If life had a vomit meter
We’d be off the scale
As long as one Drive-In remains
On the planet Earth
We will party like jungle animals
We will boogie ‘til we puke
The Drive-In will never die
The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs airs every Friday at 9 PM est until May 24.