Welcome to “Notes from the Last Drive-In,” Haunted MTL’s review and recap series of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder. This December we received a Christmas treat in the form of a new special, “Joe Bob Ruins Christmas” which brings back the telethon format of the last Christmas special with a few fun surprises and two decidedly un-holiday films.
Nothing quite like spending the holidays with the Mutant Fam taking in the delights and horrors of Ice Cream Man (1995) and Gator Bait (1974).
Ice Cream Man
Ice Cream Man is a 1995 direct-to-video slasher produced and directed by Norman Apstein/Paul Norman. The film was written by Sven Davison and David Dobkin. It stars Clint Howard, Olivia Hussey, and David Naughton. David Warner, Jan-Michael Vincent, and Lee Majors II make brief appearances.
The plot of the film is pretty simple: a man, Gregory Tudor, is released from a sanitarium and reopens a childhood favorite ice cream factory. However, soon enough the secret ingredient of the ice cream “hardpack” is every other customer. As a result, a group of local kids, fueled by the story of the Pied Piper, seek to stop Gregory’s murderous sourcing of ingredients.
Ice Cream Man is not a good movie, but it is a fun movie. It is entirely possible to enjoy something while pointing out it is not very well made. The movie hits the sweet spot (pun intended) between awful and awfully funny, and it makes for a great selection for The Last Drive-In. I mean, any film you could reasonably define as a “Clint Howard vehicle” is pretty much going to have some laughs. The guy is fantastic and made some strange, strange films, such as last season’s Evilspeak. If there is peak Clint Howard, however, Ice Cream Man is it, and we’re all the better for it.
The film is very 1990s and direct-to-video. It doesn’t look particularly good. The quality of the lighting is muddy. Cinematography is virtually absent as well. At no point does the film introduce a shot that is unique or visually interesting. The music is budget for even 1995, cheesy synthesized plinks.
And yet it is a movie you can’t walk away from because of the sheer magnetism of whatever the Hell Clint Howard is doing with the character. Most of the performances are functional at best. The only real stinkers of the bunch are Jan-Michael Vincent and Lee Majors II as the one-note cops. David Warner shows up for about five minutes of screentime and does his thing (excellently), but beyond that, nobody stands out, especially when in a scene with Clint Howard’s Gregory Tudor.
The story can be non-sensical at times, the character motivations a mystery, and the film is full of strange, offputting moments. The special effects are low-budget mid-90s at the best of times. Yet something about this film is compelling. It’s exactly the sort of cheesy, direct-to-video material that horror fans will watch at 2 AM. The comedy, while largely unintentional, buoys the film and makes it a great drive-in movie.
This movie was Joe Bob’s gift to Darcy. He initially gave it three stars, but gave it an extra star bump due to the spirit of the season, making Ice Cream Man a four-star Drive-In movie.
Joe Bob did a lot to contextualize this movie for me. I had only seen it once before when I was a teen, and it didn’t really draw me in. Having watched it now with some guiding words from our venerable movie host, I have a better appreciation for it. The movie is very much a mess, as Joe Bob points out that the film was originally going to be a children’s film. That changed, however. That does explain the strange tonal shifts in the movie. It feels like a knockoff of The Goonies young cast set-up, only with Clint Howard manhandling the ice cream instead of treasure hunting.
Part of the odd tonal shifts in the film is also explained by the director, Norman Apstein/Paul Norman. A former pron director most known for Edward Penishands, he might be the last choice you would expect for a horror film, let alone what was to be a children’s film. But considering the amount directors who started in porn and moved onto horror, such as Wes Craven, this isn’t that odd. Regardless, the shift in tone within the movie stems from some of these elements, undoubtedly, as well as the fact that the director was going through a painful separation from his family during the production. It’s a pretty crazy story.
The film is just filled with some bizarre little moments that Joe Bob Briggs points out in the host segments. Whether it be the pillow stuffed under the shirt of child-actor Jojo Adams to make him look fatter, David Warner showing up to film for a day or two, or the rather bonkers nature of the scene at the asylum, which feels like another movie entirely. There are, of course, rumors that the asylum scene was a troubled shoot due to Jan-Michael Vincent being wasted. Plus, with Clint Howard being the focus we also heard a wonderful little bit about his screaming out the window of his car on the drive to the set to get that graveled voice for Gregory.
Final Thoughts on Ice Cream Man
Ice Cream Man is fun as Hell. It is not a good movie by any stretch of the conventional definition, but the Mutant Fam is not obligated to derive enjoyment based on the quality of a movie. In fact, collectively we tend to value the rougher films. Ice Cream Man was a lovely little treat for fans of The Last Drive-In, and the culmination of what’s been a fun little joke over the past couple of years regarding Darcy’s love for Clint Howard. While I did have a lot of fun, the movie does have some significant flaws. I can’t award it anything more than three Cthulhus. (3 / 5)
Best Line: “Trolling for Tuna!” – Ice Cream Man, grabbing Tuna from his bicycle
The 1974 hicksploitation film Gator Bait was a special treat from Darcy to Joe Bob for the telethon. Gator Bait, directed by the married Beverly and Ferd Sebastian, is most famous for starring former Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings. The film also stars Douglas Dirkson, Bill Thurman, and Sam Gilman. The film was written by Beverly Sebastian with Ferd responsible for the music.
Gator Bait is set in the swamps of Louisiana and follows poacher Desiree Thibodeau (Jennings) who lives in the swamps with her kin. One day, two men seek to rape her while trapping alligators and in the pursuit, one of the men dies. Soon the sheriff, the surviving, the serving deputy, and the incestuous family of the dead would-be rapist hunt her down for revenge.
Gator Bait is a rough film. It is pretty good, all things considered, but it can be quite graphic and disturbing for the unprepared. It is in many ways an ugly, brutal film. It is also a prime example of what a hicksploitation film is and makes wonderful use of the setting, which coincidentally was in the same area as another Drive-In favorite, The Legend of Boggy Creek. The violence of the movie, more specifically sexual violence is what will generally cause most people to reject it as too far, but it is worth powering through for a strong string of revenge sequences from Desiree.
The writing of the film is the greatest strength, crafting interesting characters that I found myself really hating or intrigued by. Specifically, T. J Bracken, played by Sam Gilman, is a fairly complex antagonist who leads a rather horrific brood that he can’t keep in check. While a great deal of credit goes to Sam Gilman, such characters are a collaborative art and Beverly Sebastian’s writing creates a compelling and ugly situation that spirals out of control. It’s a feel-bad movie that creates some genuine interest in the destruction of three families brought on by an attempted rape and a cowardly lie.
Claudia Jennings is also a strong performance. Largely silent, her dialogue is a bit childish and simple, constructed of short sentences in creole, befitting her nature as a child of the swamp quite effectively. It may take a moment to let that idea set in as you watch, but it comes across quite well. She also has a certain physicality in her performance as well. Obviously, there is sex appeal, but there are moments of genuine strength where her demeanor and the framing of the shot establish that she will have her revenge in no uncertain terms.
The movie is cruel, perhaps the cruelest that has been on The Last Drive-In since Cannibal Holocaust, but that cruelty does serve a point. Gator Bait, beneath the trappings of sex, violence, and the assumed stereotypes of swamp people is a morality tale in which nobody really wins. It’s worth a watch if you can make it through a couple of particularly brutal scenes.
When he wasn’t expressing utter shock and dismay at triathletes, Joe Bob regaled Darcy and the rest of the telethon crew with his love of Gator Bait. He is a fan of the movie for a couple of reasons, and at least two of them involve the presence of Claudia Wells. it can be fun when the show dives into the more exploitative nature of sex. Audiences love a sexy actor or actress, and it is one of those things that the show highlights as part of the Drive-In appeal. While this is mostly revolving around the male gaze, the show is as evenhanded as possible when it has to be.
The big punchline to this is that Joe Bob established the idea of Darcy replicating the iconic look of Claudia Jennings from the poster for the film, which does happen, of course. That’s not until after Darcy subverts the gag by wearing an alligator costume. Over the past couple of years, Darcy and Joe Bob have established a wonderful rapport and in my estimation, the show is very much equally Darcy’s at this point, as she serves as the sexy angel and devil on our host’s shoulders. The Last Drive-In makes good use of their back and forth as well as the expanding roster of the guests, such as Felissa Rose, and contributors to the show such as John Brennan and Yuki Nakamura.
The host segments for this section of the film were full of fascinating information, of course. One example includes a very funny, bizarre connection to Walt Disney that I don’t believe happened, but is just odd enough to be true. There was also a lot to discuss regarding the married team who made the movie possible, particularly Beverly, who sounds like a real badass. Beverly and Ferd Sebastian strike me as representatives of the drive-in spirit we celebrate through the show, so it was particularly fun for Joe Bob to give them their due and to put these two filmmakers on more people’s radars. This was my first experience with Gator Bait, and I am happy that Joe Bob’s show was able to put this challenging yet compelling movie on my radar.
Final Thoughts on Gator Bait
Gator Bait isn’t my favorite movie that has been shown on The Last Drive-In, nor is it my favorite movie that has been introduced to me through the show. But the movie has stuck with me quite a bit since I watched it. It is a visceral film, for sure, and likely to be as divisive with the Mutant Fam as Cannibal Holocaust. As far as shock pictures go, I’d argue Cannibal Holocaust is the stronger one and features a more compelling theme, but Gator Bait is quite good. Joe Bob, being a fan of redneck pictures, gave the film four stars. I am not as enthused by it, but I did enjoy it, rough spots and all. I give Gator Bait three-and-a-half Cthulhus. (3.5 / 5)
Best Line: “She ain’t got no choice. She either screws us, or she gets behind bars. Puttin’ a wildcat like that behind bars is bad.” – Deputy Billy Boy, immediately raising concerns in us all about the nature of law enforcement
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
Here are the official tallies from Shudder.
As for our own tally, we have…
- One Dead Dog
- Two Darcy Cosplays
- Four Causes Championed
- Thirteen Items Auctioned
- One Dozen Snakes
- Christmas Joking
- Jesus Joking
- Incestuous Son Whipping Fu
- Drunken Stumbling Through Asylum Set Fu
- Zoom Call Yuki Fu
- Gratuitous Holiday Musical Verses
- Gratuitous Musical Number
- Gratuitous “Reason of the Season” Lecture
I do appreciate the telethon format for the previous Christmas special that has carried through into this one. I also really like that the items up for auction were also a little more substantial than last year’s. I just wish I could have afforded to bid. But even then, allowing flat donations in exchange for merch was an excellent tough and with luck, the telethon has raised a substantial amount of money for each of the organizations and causes selected this time around. The selections were all themed around the nativity story of the three wise men, and throughout the night the show had a welcoming, encouraging atmosphere.
This was probably best punctuated by the recurring gag where everyone would burst into a line from a spontaneous Christmas song, to which Joe Bob would play the bah-humbug role. Of course, that led to Joe Bob taking us into a full musical ending, which is always welcome. I am always impressed with the show’s embracing of original songs and how good John Brennan and his crew are at putting them together.
After a long stretch of episodes dealing with the isolation that reflected the world struggling with COVID and all-around suck, this Christmas special felt like a great example of the togetherness that The Last Drive-In can bring for horror fans.
Plus, there was the Chili Bandit again. I love that little hog. (4 / 5)
And that is where we leave you until The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs returns to Shudder in 2022. I would love to read your thoughts on the special and the films chosen. I’d also like to read your thoughts on the reviews. Are they too long? Not long enough? Please, let us know.
Otherwise, please, have a Merry Christmas, and may all your gators be baited safely.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a Film Review
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a R-rated horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas, available on Amazon Prime.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas. Based on Grady Hendrix’s novel of the same name, this R-rated film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathay Ang, and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. As of this review, the film is available to Amazon Prime subscribers.
Abby Rivers (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen Lang (Amiah Miller) seek to escape the monotony of high school drama with their friends. However, in their efforts to have fun, Gretchen Lang encounters a troubling otherworldly demon bent on controlling her body. It’s up to Abby to help her overcome this demonic threat.
What I Like in My Best Friend’s Exorcism
The effects are surprisingly good. While not overwhelming, these effects never take me out of the film. Even the less realistic scenes fit the overall tone while looking better than expected or required. The 80’s aesthetic strengthens that believability.
Continuing that thought, My Best Friend’s Exorcism oozes the 80’s. Perhaps this comment should set an expectation for the viewer. I can’t exactly comment on the accuracy of the era, but it certainly fits the era of film. If 80’s films don’t interest you, consider looking somewhere else.
While I don’t meet the target audience, the jokes land and provide an enjoyable horror comedy feel. My Best Friend’s Exorcism focuses more on comedy than horror, but this remains a common trend in horror comedies.
The performances remain strong throughout, with leads Elsie Fisher and Amiah Miller pulling off that best-friend chemistry. The cast purposely captures that 80’s nostalgia. Added to the campy nature of the film, one might grow irritated with the acting choices. For me, it certainly fits with the tone and setting.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Drug use might deserve a mention on this list. While I don’t find this egregious, I imagine this point, or some other technicality, earns the film its undeserved R-rating.
The possession lends itself as a rape allegory, with some characters even believing this to be the trauma Gretchen Lang suffers from. While this isn’t the case, the conversation remains for those who want to avoid such material.
Body horror describes a few scenes of the film, though sparingly. However, one scene convinces me to bring this up for those who get squeamish at the cracking of bones or slimies in the body.
A character is tricked into outing themselves and faces some homophobia because of it. This homophobia is rightfully taken as cruel, not condoned in the slightest, but it remains potentially triggering and deserves mention here.
What I Dislike, or Food for Thought on My Best Friend’s Exorcism
This film seems to earn its R-rating off some technicality. It is neither raunchy nor gruesome for those expecting that from their R-rated horror films. For me, it’s more an issue of setting expectations. I expect my R-rated horrors to hit hard. My Best Friend’s Exorcism doesn’t.
It would be unfair to expect something like Jennifer’s Body, as this is a lighter and zanier film. There are elements of sisterhood and bodily autonomy that echo the cult classic, but My Best Friend’s Exorcism remains an entirely campier affair.
In terms of performances that lack the intended impact, three over-the-top anti-drug spokesmen outstay their welcome. It’s clearly a jab at D.A.R.E., which certainly works in increments, but then one character becomes an important part of the plot and still keeps his caricature.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism fits the taste of an 80’s horror comedy fan. Don’t expect to be frightened at any point, but the comedy lands well enough. The film knows its niche and hits most of its targets. It’s hard to say if the film will stand the test of time, but it certainly earns its runtime.
(3.5 / 5)
American Horror Story Delicate, Rockabye
There’s a lot to unpack from this episode of American Horror Story Delicate, Killer Queens, so I don’t want to waste any time. I just want to take a moment and issue a trigger warning. This episode, and therefore this review, talks about several topics that might be upsetting. These include abuse, pregnancy trauma and miscarriage. It’s heavy. If you’re not up for that, here’s a link to my review of Tucker and Dale, which is considerably lighter and funnier.
Our episode starts with Anna trying to get the police to take her seriously about the break-in. There’s just one problem. No one was seen coming in or out of the apartment except Dex. No one shows up on any of the security footage. The police are convinced it’s just Anna’s IFV medication making her see things.
But Anna doesn’t have time to think about the break-in. She’s just been nominated for a Gotham award, and she needs to get into full Awards Show mode. Siobhan gives her something she calls B12 and tells her that her life now revolves around awards prep.
But Anna’s whole life can’t revolve around that, because she’s pregnant now. Even though she seems to be losing time. Like, weeks at a time without even realizing it.
Things just get stranger when she’s at the Gotham Awards and accosted by an overzealous fan in the bathroom. After the woman puts her hands on Anna’s stomach, she knocks her over and the woman hits her head on the sink.
Rather than aiding the woman, Anna goes out to accept her award.
Or does she? After throwing up blood on stage, she finds herself back in the bathroom, being helped up by paramedics.
Everyone agrees that Anna needs some rest and space to heal. So she and Dex go to Talia’s house in the country. There, of course, everything gets much worse. Anna starts to bleed after a yoga session and is taken to the hospital. There, she gets an ultrasound by Nurse Ivy. A nurse that no one else knows at the hospital.
Sadly, the bleeding doesn’t stop. And as we end the episode, it appears that Anna has lost her baby.
Emma Roberts is doing a fantastic job playing Anna. Proving as always that American Horror Story actors are nothing if not flexible. I find myself wanting to compare Anna to Madison Montgomery from AHS Coven. They’re both actresses who experience abuse from men that one might, sadly, expect for women in their station and age range. Madison is gang-abused by frat boys, and Anna has her autonomy taken away from her as soon as a baby is in question.
That’s where the similarities stop. Can you ever imagine Madison saying, “You’re right, I’m sorry,” to literally anyone? She’d have snapped a man’s neck first. Anna’s body language, voice modulation, and the overall way she carries herself in the world is so different.
This is also part of what makes her relatable. I imagine many of the female-presenting people reading this can remember a time when we’ve said, you’re right, I’m sorry when they were wrong and we weren’t sorry at all.
I also really loved the amount of blood in this episode. There is so much blood involved in being a cisgender woman. It’s something we take for granted, but shy away from when in polite company. There was no shying away here. We’re made to see all of it. I don’t think the amount of blood in the miscarriage scene was overkill at all. If anything, it wasn’t enough.
Finally, it’s a small point but one that I appreciated. I bet you already know the one I’m talking about. When Anna is overjoyed to get to wear the same dress once worn by Madonna, Siobhan reminds her in a stern voice not to rip it.
If you didn’t get the joke, look up Kim K and an incident with the iconic Marilyn Monroe dress. I do appreciate anyone who can poke fun at themselves.
The reference to ‘don’t rip it’ with the dress was fun. I hate Kim K and her whole family, but that was funny.
What didn’t work
I’m honestly struggling to find anything in this episode that didn’t work. If I had to pick out something I didn’t like, it was probably that we got the barest cameo from Zachary Quinto. I really hope we get to see more of him as the season progresses.
Another thing I don’t like overall is the character Siobhan. I mentioned this last week, and I’ll try not to mention it again because I don’t see it changing. But the character in the show is a bare reflection of the one in the book.
Siobhan in the book was a loving, selfless friend. Which made the ending, well, let’s say impactful to avoid spoilers for both AHS and Delicate Condition. This version, if she continues as she is, is not going to have the same effect.
I’m also quite done hearing the internet swoon over what a great job Kim K is doing. She’s been acting her entire life, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t good at it. And she’s doing no better or worse than many other guest stars have done in the past seasons of American Horror Story. She’s not bad. But she wouldn’t be getting the credit she is if she wasn’t who she is.
Overall, this was a great episode. It was equal parts funny, gory and infuriating. At this point, my only real complaint is that there are only three episodes left until a season break. But now that the writing strike is over, hopefully the break won’t be too long.(4 / 5)
Cadaver (2020), a Film Review
Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal and currently available on Netflix.
Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal. This unrated film stars Thorbjørn Harr, Gitte Witt, and Thomas Gullestad. As of this review, the film is available on Netflix.
After an apocalyptic event, the survivors endure in a hopeless world. Among these survivors are Leonora (Gitte Witt), Jacob (Thomas Gullestad), and Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman), a family fighting the hopelessness of a lost world. Leonora desires to keep her daughter (Alice) hopeful, and when a theater opens in their decrepit city, she thinks she has found the solution to their despair. However, they will all soon learn how desperate people have become.
What I Like from Cadaver
Cadaver takes on a unique focus for a post-apocalyptic movie. While most in the genre tackle the question of where you find hope, the theatrical lens is not one I’ve seen before. It blends these two unique environments together for a pleasant concoction. As a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I must admit I find my niche in the everyday lives of someone in such a world.
Leonora’s (usually called Leo in the film) dreamer nature in this horrendously hopeless environment creates a sympathetic contrast. This dreamer nature doesn’t excuse some of her choices, but she evokes sympathy. While most post-apocalyptic entries provide this balance of hope and survival, Leo’s creativity and passion for the arts give her hope and a more focused ideal.
The relationship between Leo and her husband also creates a nice contrast, as Jacob plays the rationalist and survivor. In this decision, both characters provide that post-apocalyptic dynamic of survival and hope. These interactions allow both actors opportunities to create friction as they pull the plot from their differing perspectives.
I had the chance to listen to the dubbed version, which sounds good. I’m not much for dubs, especially on Netflix, but they did Cadaver with respect and a focus on quality. At the very least, it’s competent and doesn’t distract from the viewing experience.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
As hinted at earlier, there are some dumb decisions in the plot. While many fall within character traits, the actions don’t escape criticism. This flaw becomes incredibly repetitive when characters make the same mistake.
Implied suicide occurs throughout the film with one shown incident, but there are circumstances that change the context slightly. A world this bleak invites this depressive and dangerous state as a normality. However, one should prepare if this is a trigger.
What I Dislike or Considerations for Cadaver
Again, some decisions had me roll my eyes and endure the plot. This reaction isn’t exactly the experience I seek out in my horror. It’s more haunting to make sensible, or even intelligent, decisions and still endure unavoidable or unforeseen consequences.
It’s likely that nothing in Cadaver surprises you, which underutilizes the interesting premise. There are unique elements, certainly, but never a twist I didn’t see coming. It’s in that execution that Cadaver falls flat and fails to engage a viewer.
The film doesn’t exactly haunt the viewer, but the bleak world effectively depicts the hopelessness of a post-apocalypse. Don’t expect much genuine horror, but you can expect an appropriately uncomfortable and unnerving experience. In short, viewers of Cadaver likely want a unique twist in their post-apocalypse, not a traumatic horror.
Cadaver remains a unique viewing experience by adding a slight twist to its post-apocalyptic story. While not a haunting masterpiece, this bleak film will have you feeling the characters’ struggle. While lacking sensible decision-making skills, they are certainly sympathetic survivors struggling in a hopeless world. If this is your niche, it’s certainly worth a view.
(3 / 5)