Joe Bob Briggs and Shudder deliver a Valentine to the MutantFam with the release of a Valentine’s Day special, “Joe Bob Put a Spell on You.” It was a night of love, sex, magic, and dinosaurs and the sort of shocking wedding you’d expect from the trashiest of soap operas. Plus, all the sheer, unadulterated Yuki lust was just too hot to handle.
It’s the sticky, oozy love that you need to take a shower to get off of you in this special. Our two films? 1994’s Tammy and the T-Rex and the recent, retro-throwback The Love Witch.
Let me whisper some sweet nothings into your ear about it…
Tammy and the T-Rex (1994)
Opening: Wild Man Weekends
Haunted MTL is no stranger to the unique joys of 1994’s Tammy and the T-Rex. This cult classic pretty much tells you everything to expect from the movie in style and substance from it’s IMDB synopsis:
An evil scientist implants the brain of Michael, a murdered high school student, into a Tyrannosaurus. He escapes, wreaks vengeance on his high school tormentors, and is reunited with his sweetheart Tammy.
If that does not scream B-movie fun and drive-in fodder I worry about how you define those things.
So, Tammy and the T-Rex is the stuff of legend, or at least as legendary as 1994 dinosaur high school films can be. The film, directed by Stuart Raffill, was written by Raffill with Gary Brockette, and had its script turned around in about a week subject to the revelation that Raffill had access to an animatronic T-Rex. The film stars relative newbies Denise Richards and the titular Tammy, Paul Walker as the hunky-boyfriend-cum-robot-dinosaur, and the film is basically stolen by Theo Forsett as Byron. Oh, and the biggest star is, of course, the life-sized animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. I could also go on about all the other great character actors in the film, a hallmark of any great drive-in movie. The movie has a solid cast of characters of all stars, stripes, and claws.
The film is the good kind of cheap. Not at expense of the overall quality, but because of the ingenuity involved in production because most of the money went toward a T-Rex that had to spend a lot of time stationary, barring shots involving a moving head. The film is also a great example of the sort of controlled-chaos of the best drive-in movies. A pivotal scene of Tammy riding Walkersaurus-Rex off into the distance was short amidst a photogenic orange sky, but the orange was due to wildfires raging at the time. Sometimes smoke from the fires even show up in frame. How could the film even be filmed in such conditions? A $250 bribe to the right people.
It’s just that sort of movie.
The writing will not generally “wow” most people. There are jokes that simply don’t really land today, and probably never really did. The plot is insane and a lot of logic flies out the window when you deal with brain transplants into robot dinosaur bodies. The film also rewards the actors who are best able to commit to the absurdity of it all, with Paul Walker and Denise Richards proving surprisingly adept at walking the line between sincere and silly. Theo Forsett, playing Tammy’s gay bestie, however, absolutely steals the show. But everyone from the mad science party to the police to the dopey-ass teens deliver some fun, campy performances.
The film, originally released as a PG-13 family film, which makes absolutely no sense, is in many ways saved by it’s “gore cut” which is what The Last Drive-In opted to show. The camp of the film is elevated to incredible levels and the gore is absolutely hilarious, and arguably necessary to the film.
A lot of Joe Bob’s factoids of the film sort of worked their way into my review, which happens when so much great information is given. Among the highlights is the reveal that we were absolutely robbed of more Theo Forsett, who made Tammy and the T-Rex his final film. He is probably happily retired somewhere. The other strange reveal, Stuart Raffell would work again with J. Jay Saunders (sheriff and Byron’s father) for the film Lost in Africa (1994). The curiosity here? It was financed by the Duke of Northumberland to promote wildlife conservation.
The principal gag of the night, dealing with the topics of love and witchcraft, were shenanigans involving potions. Throughout the night love, or something like it, was sought through the creation of potions, all revolving around witchcraft, as befits the second movie of the night. As far as the setting, we are still in the cabin in New Jersey, a lingering reminder of the coronavirus on production. The cabin is starting to grow on me, however. The last Halloween special was a bit rough and felt a bit isolated in a way that stripped the fun out of the experience, but things are becoming a little more homey with each new special set in the cabin.
That being said, I really want to get back to the trailer. It’s an iconic set design.
For a Valentine’s Day special, Tammy and the T-Rex is a surprisingly perfect choice that illustrates undying love that comes in surprising forms, and that the right person will move Heaven and Earth to be there for you. It also features a robot-dinosaur that murders several people in cartoonish gory ways. Joe Bob Briggs gave the film four stars, which I’d say is a fair assessment and well deserved. It is impossible to find something to dislike in this movie, for me. On that note, I give Tammy and the T-Rex the five Cthulhu treatment. (5 / 5)
Best Line: “He’s a brother. Soulfood. Rythym.” – Byron handling a corpse for a potential brain transplant.
The Love Witch (2016)
Opening: Word choice matters, an etymology lesson.
I came into the Valentine’s Day special already very, very excited because I had guessed that 2016’s The Love Witch was going to be one of the films for the night. It is in many ways the perfect film for The Last Drive-In‘s approach to Valentine’s Day. The Love Witch is a horror comedy written, directed, edited, scored, and produced by all-around badass Anna Biller. It is an absolutely gorgeous 1960s-throwback in visuals but with modern feminist themes and explorations into contemporary gender roles, sex, and love.
The IMDB synopsis doesn’t give away the story, but doesn’t exactly really sell just how good the film is.
A modern-day witch uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her, with deadly consequences.
The movie was a limited release but caught the attention of horror fans, witchcraft enthusiasts, and cinephiles around the US. It had quite the impact as far as cult projects go. Anna Biller gathered a talented group of naturalistic actors, including Samantha Robinson as the titular Love Witch, Gian Keys as the detective who she falls for, and Laura Waddell as the real-estate agent whose life Elaine selfishly ruins. My only real criticism of the film, a minor one, is that the performances could have been a touch more camp. Not overwhelmingly so, of course. I understand Biller’s choices when it comes to how she wanted scenes played… but I do want to see the more tongue-in-cheek version of The Love Witch.
There is a lot going on with this movie, and a lot to say, more so than I can do in this article. As far as why the film is so good, though, there are a couple of reasons: the style, the exploration of gender, and the usage of witchcraft.
Stylistically, this movie is astounding, taking some of the aesthetics of the 1960s and transplanting them to the modern-day. The effect is so good, that moments where cell-phones and modern cars pop up feel positively anachronistic because you’ve been so pulled into the technicolor stylings of the camera and design. So much of that is at the hand of Anna Biller who led virtually every choice seen on-screen, down to costumes and set design, collecting and crafting items for the film herself. The colors, as well, stand out. The film uses the technicolor aesthetic well, with bright colors emphasizing moods, traits, and on-screen magic. At times you wonder if you’ve maybe watched a lost Alfred Hitchcock film, or perhaps something from Hammer Horror.
The other two reasons for the film’s success, the exploration of gender and the film’s usage of witchcraft is also of note and deserve to be explored in a much more thorough essay. At heart, though, during her discussion with Joe Bob Briggs, Anna Biller mentions the female gaze and how that gaze is reflected in the witchcraft done in the film, which I think makes up the heart of the movie. The movie is all about the selfish desires of the narcissistic Elaine and the tragedy that transpires all derives from her inability to come to terms with her desires and how she wishes to see love written in the way she mistakenly believes it must be for her to be fulfilled. The problem is that Elaine can never be fulfilled and magic becomes a sort of addiction to fill that missing something in her life.
As far as the episodic festivities with Joe Bob, Darcy, Yuki, and the behind-the-scenes crew, we still have everyone held hostage at the cabin with Joe Bob doing the best he can. Darcy has also grown to be a snarkier and more assertive presence in the show, which I welcome entirely. I’ve followed JBB for a long time, since I was a kid, really, and Darcy is the most-involved and most fun Mail Girl of the bunch.
As for the potion shenanigans, all the strange brews begin to have some delirious and fun effects on the show, with Joe Bob and Darcy both feeling a little something about the resident Kyoto Cowboy, Yuki, and culminates in trippin’ Joe Bob hallucinating (or was he?) a Ren-Faire wedding between Darcy and a cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins. It’s one of the most deliriously funny, and out-there skits in the show, and I was reminded of the host segments from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
The real highlight of the host segments, however, was the interview with Anna Biller. Socially distanced through a screen on the body of a mannequin, the interview proved to be a fascinating discussion and love letter to film in general, perhaps the real Valentine of the night. Joe Bob’s understanding of film is that of a master, but even the master himself can learn something new, and Anna Biller brings in some great moments with our host. Of note was her discussion of the female gaze. There is a moment where you see something on Joe Bob Briggs’ face… a genuine moment of surprise and delight – all in raised eyebrows and wide eyes.
This was perhaps my favorite guest spot on the show. I love getting actors and such on the set, do not get me wrong, but something about the behind-the-scenes directorial talent just adds something special to The Last Drive-In. Anna Biller might be the best guest since ol’ Uncle Lloydie. I was absolutely thrilled to just hear Briggs and Biller talk, and I think Shudder is sitting on a potential podcast of Joe Bob talking horror with the people who make it. It feels appropriate to their brand, gives Joe Bob more money, and makes the fans happy. I hope it happens one day.
I have to quibble with Job Bob giving The Love Witch the mere three-and-a-half stars he opted for. Generally, I feel his judgment is pretty strong, but there really is no reason not to give The Love Witch perfect marks. Hell, it has 25 breasts, blood, and it has the beast with two backs. It’s a triple-B feature with the aesthetic and indie credit of “real” film. As far as I could tell, he didn’t really deliver much in the way of a major critique of the film either, leaving me a bit lost in his reasoning. As for me, The Love Witch is a perfect film, and it’s pretty hot too, in a number of ways. See it with your partner while having a glass of wine. Trust me. I give it the full five Cthulhu treatment.(5 / 5)
Best Line: “I’m the love witch! I’m your ultimate fantasy!” – Elaine, not being wrong…
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
We start, of course, with the official totals. Thanks, Shudder.
As for our own quirky count, we have:
- 1 Darcy Jailing
- 2 JBB “Thee-ate-ers”
- 2 Weeks to Film Tammy and the T-Rex
- 3 Punches to Paul Walker by Strong Germanic Woman
- 3 Love Potions
- 4 Punished Testicles
- 6 Day Script
- 7 Yuki Sightings
- 7 Years to make The Love Witch
- 35mm Film
- $250 Bribe
- Gratuitous 90s Fashion
- Gratuitous “Tootsie-Wootise”
- Gratuitous Pillow Sulking
- Surprise Bard Brennan
- Goon Flattening
- Dinosaur Towing
- Awkward Stripteasing
- LA Joking
- Brooms in Love Joking
- Wig Fu
- Surprise Wedding Fu
- Nude Ritual Fu
- Silver Bolo Award goes to The Real Queen of Horror
- Darcy Cosplay: 3, an inflatable T-Rex suit, the striptease outfit, and the Ren-Faire wedding dress
Over 2000 words so far on this special so far. I had a lot to say on it because it was that good, frankly. It is always a treat to discover that my favorite episode or film pairing can always update and I applaud The Last Drive-In for delivering new surprises. I do worry we may be running out of holidays, however. Maybe they can do some of the Leprechaun films for St. Patrick’s Day. Shudder can get the rights to those, right?
Maybe they can do something for Arbor Day. There is a killer tree movie out there, right? (5 / 5)
And, with that, we reach the end. Please let us know what you think about these recaps, and please consider commenting and sharing them to spread the word. I am not so secretly gunning for a Silver Bolo for myself one day. Why not help us out, huh?
We’ll see you at the next special or season, whichever comes first.
Shutter Island (2010): Review
Leonardo Dicaprio’s films rarely disappoint. It was interesting to see him flex different acting muscles in this psychological thriller Shutter Island alongside Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams. When I say that I was not expecting such a turn in the story, I mean that my jaw was pretty much on the floor the entire time. Without any further ado, let’s dive into its mastery, shall we?
A cliché setup done right
We have been here before a million times. A character stumbles into a scene to solve a mystery. Everyone is acting just the right amount of suspicion to make you wonder. Dicaprio’s Edward ‘Teddy’ travels to an extremely remote island where a woman goes missing from a psychiatric institution. He’s experiencing migraines and flashbacks to his murdered wife while receiving little to no help from the hospital staff.
Teddy soon suspects that the hospital is experimenting on patients which fuels his theories on what happened to the missing woman. Things take even more of a turn when his partner also disappears. Unsurprisingly, everyone insists Teddy came to the island alone. Feeling like he’s losing his mind, our protagonist finds out that this is exactly the case. He is a patient in the hospital and the entire investigation is an attempt to get him to understand the truth.
While the whole ‘it was all in your head’ trope has a bad rep for the fans of any genre, this film uses it masterfully. Watching it for the first time not knowing what to expect is obviously a shock and then watching it again, looking at all the clues that were the which you missed – that’s a treat on its own. After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using cliches if they are done the right way.
Things that go bump in our minds
A huge part of this movie’s storyline is Andrew’s inability to process the truth. The roots for it stretch far beyond the plot twist. Andrew is unable to acknowledge that his wife is mentally ill and believes that moving them to the countryside will fix everything. After she murders their children, he is further pushed into the world of delusion, convincing himself to be a hero because he couldn’t save his own family.
It’s interesting to note that in his delusion, Andrew is the one who set fire to their house. Is this a little sliver of his mind whispering the truth to him? Is it his subconscious villainizing himself out of contempt, searching for answers that are never going to come? Andrew’s psychiatrist pointed out that his moment of clarity has happened before, only to be undone quite quickly. Perhaps it was easier for Andrew to shut it off rather than live with the knowledge that he could’ve done something to prevent a terrible tragedy.
Shutter Island is a movie that provides both the entertainment value you would expect from a suspense thriller and a deeper layer of thought. Coated with a perfect atmosphere and amazing acting, it’s a piece that will definitely hold the test of time. (4.5 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Daughter of The Night
We’ve reached episode four of Wheel of Time, which means we’re halfway through the season. While it doesn’t seem like much has happened so far, this is the episode where things start heating up.
We begin this episode with a flashback. Ishamael is raising something dark and twisted. As we watch, it takes the shape of a woman.
More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, Nynaeve is healing from her time in the arches. She is quiet and withdrawn. She’s also awkward and uncomfortable around Egwene now that she’s initiated and Egwene is not. Her new friendship with Elayne isn’t helping.
But the three girls come together when Liandrin tells Nynaeve that Perrin has been captured by the Seanchan.
However, Perrin is no longer in the clutches of the Seanchan. He was rescued by Elyas and a pack of beautiful wolves. Beautiful and deadly AF by the way. If you have any fear of dogs, this episode might not help that.
Elyas explains to Perrin that he is a Wolf Brother. This means that he can communicate with the wolves, and eventually will gain some of their abilities. While Perrin and Elyas don’t exactly get off on the right foot, he does find a fast friendship with one specific wolf. After a time, he introduces himself by showing Perrin an image of himself jumping up and down. From this, Perrin assumes his name is Hopper.
Finally, we return to Rand. He and Selene have been off in the mountains. They haven’t done much more than each other so far.
And that’s exactly what it appears they’re about to do when Moiraine bursts into the cottage and cuts Selene’s throat.
Rand is surprised and furious until Moiraine explains that the woman he knows as Selene is the Dark Friend Lanfear. With this shocking revelation, the two run off into the night.
It should be a surprise to no one that I loved the wolves in this episode. Hopper himself was worth an extra Cthulhu. But this is not just because dogs are cute. It’s also because the dog playing Hopper just does a great job.
On a more serious note, I loved how Nynaeve responded upon coming back to the real world. She isn’t okay.
And it’s a good thing that she isn’t. Too often in fiction we don’t see the fallout of emotional damage. Hell, we don’t usually see realistic fallout from physical damage.
But she is hurt by what she experienced. And you can tell. That’s realistic character building, and we don’t see that enough.
I also really appreciate the special effects in this episode. The first time we see Lanfear, she’s eerie. She’s frightening. Part of this is thanks to Natasha O’Keeffe, who does a great job. But the effects are what really sells this.
What didn’t work
If Wheel of Time has any fault, it’s that there is far too much sitting about and talking about things. In this case, there’s a lot of standing about and talking about things. Some of this was necessary, and some of it could have been done better. Honestly, there just has to be a better way to convey that characters are struggling.
This was most apparent with Rand and Selene/Lanfear. Honestly, anytime the two of them were on screen it was a great time for me to catch up on Instagram.
This might come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t read the books, but Rand is supposed to be the main character. And here we are, four episodes into an eight-episode season, and so far all he’s done is mess about with his emo girlfriend!
That being said, the story is starting to pick up. With four episodes left, I can’t wait to see how far we go.
(3 / 5)
Elevator Game, a Film Review
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks.
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks. It adapts the supernatural myth and creepypasta of the same name while providing an original plot. This unrated Shudder exclusive stars Gino Anania, Samantha Halas, and Verity Marks. In full disclosure, I had the opportunity to interview Gino Anania and Stefan Brunner about the film.
Ryan seeks to find answers to his sister’s mysterious disappearance. To do this, he infiltrates a myth-busting web series that seems to have some ties to her final confirmed moments. Desperate to force a confrontation, he encourages them to play the elevator game. Unfortunately, there seems to be more truth to the myth than expected.
What I Like about Elevator Game & as an Adaptation
I am lucky to have additional insight into the development hell this movie overcame due to COVID. It’s commendable that the film manages to make it of that, even if it requires a lengthy delay of the film.
Usually, I provide a separate section for adaptation quality. However, the source material remains the ritual, which Elevator Game performs accurately. While the myth inspires many creepypastas, Elevator Game doesn’t directly take or adapt any of these works from what I’ve seen. Instead, it makes its own film based on the legend.
As the Fifth Floor Woman, Samantha Halas creates an eerie and disturbing character. While I won’t go so far as to say terrifying, she certainly makes an impression. The revelation that the stunts and performance are all her, as an actual contortionist, I give her more credit.
Gino Anania, given a more complex role than most of his cast members, really does bring a strong performance that creates either friction or synergy with his cast members. I suppose I wanted more of these interactions as some cut sooner than appreciated.
Another amusing element is that the entire motivation for the plot to follow is a forced advertisement from an investor. Something about the chaos being a product of appeasing some investors feels uncomfortably real.
The alternate reality remains surprisingly effective. To be clear, it’s not impressively realistic but stylistic. It genuinely seems like an alternate world with a skewered impression.
Tired Tropes or Trigger Warning
I feel weird mentioning this, but endangering a sister’s life to push the brother’s story forward seems a common trend beyond one form of media.
No discredit to the actors, but the romance feels rushed and unnecessary. Without going into too much detail, to avoid spoilers, there is synergy between the actors but little chemistry in the plot.
What I Dislike or Considerations
Elevator Game remains set in providing a B-movie experience. Its tight budget leaves little room to surprise the viewer visually. While I am surprised at what it accomplishes, it’s far from overwhelming. This film also remains the first production of Fearworks, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m interested in the future, but Elevator Game leaves much to grow from.
Rebekah McKendry may have a directorial style that influences dialogue, but the line delivery evokes an overexpression that’s common in Lovecraftian films. I say this not as a direct negative, but it remains a required taste best known before viewing. As this isn’t Lovecraftian, I fear it removes some of the reality and tension of those haunting elements.
Many of the characters feel underdeveloped, making me wonder if cutting these roles might lead to more invested characters. While the performances hit their marks, a tighter cast might give each role more to work toward. As this is a tight cast already, it seems an odd issue to rectify.
Elevator Game provides an interesting B-movie experience for those who know the legend. For those expecting something different, this film may not work for you. This film overcame a lot to exist but doesn’t break the mold. While I am excited to see Fearworks pursue further ventures toward its ambitious mission statement, I find Elevator Game falling short of its goal.
(2 / 5)