Hello Mutants, and welcome back to the weekly recap of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. Remember that you can catch the double feature on Fridays at 6pm PST only on Shudder.
So, what did Joe Bob have in store for us this week? Well, how about perhaps the oddest pairing of films yet? It’s metal vs. classical this time, and yet chainsaws are always invited to the party.
Opening Rant: Tesla cars (Joe Bob is not a fan)
DEATHGASM is a 2015 New Zealand horror comedy film about a teenage metal band that summons a demonic entity by playing ancient sheet music. The film is the directorial debut of special effects artist and rotoscope artist Jason Lei Howden. The film stars Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, and Daniel Cresswell. What makes the film stand out in particular is the soundtrack, featuring the likes of Emperor, Axeslasher, Nuslaughter, Beast Wars and other great metal bands.
Joe Bob was particularly glowing in his praise for DEATHGASM. The film, directed by Jason Lei Howden, earned 4 stars. There was a great deal of discussion on Joe Bob’s part regarding the metal soundtrack and the film culture of New Zealand, where the movie originates. In particular, the film was part of a New Zealand horror competition where filmmakers were able to pitch horror films and receive government money to film their projects. Joe Bob did address some of the similarities between DEATHGASM and Braindead, of course, while mentioning several of the other major New Zealand horror core films. Basically, all the other New Zealand horror core films as Joe Bob points out correctly that… there simply are not that many outside the ones we all know.
Yet, the most interesting insights Joe Bob provided in the episode were the parallels between DEATHGASM and 1983’s Trick or Treat. Namely how much DEATHGASM seems to borrow from and reference that classic film. Naturally, being a post-2000s New Zealand film, there was mention of the whole Hobbit-dominated production industry down there, particularly in that Howden worked on some of those very films.
This was a solid film and really had some insane, adrenaline-pumping energy that would get any horror fan excited. However, as good as it was, the film was just a bit too self-aware. Self-awareness is not an inherent issue, of course, as many great films have it, but in the case of DEATHGASM there are moments where the film’s cleverness cannot mask some issues with plotting. Just as Joe Bob points out during one of the breaks, it takes heavy plot to get the two leads to the record shop midway through the film. This self-awareness is also worn too easily on the sleeve, which tends to be a trend in a lot of 2010s horror movies and horror comedies. The film is hilarious as hell though and it has a very dry sense of humor that one can expect from New Zealand. Additionally, the gore is absolutely top-notch. Plus, it has demon zombies getting messed the fuck up by sex toys. Haunted MTL gives DEATHGASM 3 and 1/2 stars.
Best Line: “You’re pretty good at whacking those off, bro.”
The Changeling (1980)
Opening Rant: Craft whiskey (Joe Bob is not a fan)
The second film of the night couldn’t have been more differently in tone and pace from DEATHGASM. The Changeling is a 1980 Canadian psychological horror film about a haunted house. The story follows a grieving composer who, after the loss of his family, moves into a 30 room mansion to work on his music. Naturally, the man finds out he is not alone, and that something from the other side is steering him toward a chilling mystery. The film was directed by journeyman/auteur Peter Medak and stars George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas, and John Colicos. Widely considered a slow-burn experience, The Changeling is a cult classic, but it also has a reputation of having pretentious fans. Naturally, this is something to be addressed in The Last Drive-In.
Joe Bob’s assessment of The Changeling puts the film below DEATHGASM at a rating of 3 and 1/2 stars. Before fans of The Changeling get unnecessarily worked up, the film is definitely not drive-in fare and Joe Bob’s rating is very generous given then huge lack of blood and boobs that make up the usual diet of the drive-in mutant. Therein lies the challenge of showing a classic, moody ghost story in the drive-in setting. The Changeling is an excellently done film, as JBB indicates during the run-time, but it is so incredibly different from any of the previous films on the Shudder marathon, with the single exception of The Legend of Boggy Creek.
With that being said, watching such a movie with Joe Bob Briggs himself to guide us is a rare treat. Joe Bob’s encyclopedic knowledge of film, particularly when discussing the incredible breadth of work of Peter Medak, is invaluable. Some of JBB’s best bits in the episode, however, revolve around veteran actors George C. Scott (who was a real piece of work) and Melvyn Douglass. Perhaps most relevant to Haunted MTL, however, was Joe Bob’s assessment of Canada itself in relation to the U.S. film industry, as “Canada is like out sweet little brother” and acknowledging the role of “Canadian funny money” during film production in the 70s and 80s.
The best moment of the night, however, is Joe Bob’s take down of the pretensions of those in the horror fandom who suggest that films that are inherently lesser if they rely on a lot of special effects. This is naturally preposterous as The Changeling is loaded with special effects, but particularly this is more getting at a division of the suspense vs. shock distinction in horror. As JBB pontificates, it is all art, it is just different tools being used. You wouldn’t criticize a pointillist for not making their painting out of clay, after all.
I am going to get a bit personal here. In these recaps I try to avoid putting myself into the experience too much, but with The Changeling, one of my all time favorite horror films, I cannot help it. The Changeling is an important film for me in my development as a fan of horror and it stands out to me as one of the most effective and downright creepiest ghost stories ever made. That being said, the film is not without faults, but the same can be said about any film shown on The Last Drive-In. What the presence of The Changeling at The Last Drive-In means to me is a sort of validation that I am not the only one who admires this strange and very basic, slow-burn ghost story. I don’t feel the film was best serviced in a pairing with DEATHGASM, but the experience of the tonal whiplash between the two definitely added something I cannot quite identify… but I like it. The Changeling is a film I fully intend to write about separately in the future here at Haunted MTL, so for now let’s just leave with this assessment of the film: it is a 4 star movie.
Best Line: “That house is not fit to live it. No one’s been able to live in it. It doesn’t want people.”
Haunted MTL’s Drive-In Totals
- 1 blue shirt with white trim
- 1 oval bolo tie with turquoise stone
- 1 Darcy Cosplay (Medina from DEATHGASM)
- 1 name drop of another Haunted MTL favorite (1981’s Ghost Story)
- 2 Joe Bob Fact Checking Notices
- It’s “Gimli,” Joe Bob, not “Grimli”
- Coal carts exist independently from trains. How else do you get coal from the train to the rest of the town?
- 2 Plot-relevant chainsaws
- 2 Power Rangers mentions
- 3 Twitter bans for Darcy (for being a tweet machine during the stream)
- 3 Shakespeare in the park references so far (at least 1 every week so far)
- 5 improvised sex toy weapons
- Dry Kiwi Humor Fu
- Sword Jerking Fu
- Joe Bob Spoils Ending Fu
- Skeptic Fu (take that “based on a true story” gimmicks)
- Marriage Counseling Joke Fu
- Fast Car Joke Fu
- Felissa Rose Dick Consultation Fu
As always, please share your thoughts with us about The Last Drive-In. Also, please check out our other great content here at Haunted MTL.
Let’s close out with Joe Bob’s wonderful assessment of Joseph, the spirit at the center of The Changeling: “The ghost takes no fucking prisoners in this film.”