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.

Huh.

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 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “He’s a brother. Soulfood. Rythym.” – Byron handling a corpse for a potential brain transplant.

“HELLO THIS IS DINOSAUR”

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 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “I’m the love witch! I’m your ultimate fantasy!” – Elaine, not being wrong…

Gee, I wonder which one is the innocent in this?

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
  • Braingasms
  • Tamponade
  • Graverobbings
  • 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
Expected, but welcome

Episode Score

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 out of 5 stars (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.

About the Author

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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