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It’s a happy horror holiday as we get another Joe Bob Briggs Christmas special on Shudder with Joe Bob Saves Christmas. This night has everything! Killer Santas! Home invasions! Charity auctions! QVC-stylings! It makes for a nice, full night of heartwarming horror fun. Between Dial Code Santa Claus, Christmas Evil, and heartwarming auctions, there is something worth stuffing into every mutant’s stocking.

On another note, however, I may have gone a bit overboard with Christmas puns during the live tweets throughout the night…

Dial Code Santa Claus

Opening Rant: “Shut the fuck up.”

My experience with Christmas horror films has been fairly limited and because of this, 1989’s Dial Code Santa Claus (also known as 3615 code Père Noël, Game Over, and a billion other titles) was not on my radar. It turns out that I have been missing out. This French holiday horror film is such an odd but wonderful movie.

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The movie follows perhaps the bougiest child protagonist since Richie Rich who, eager to contact Santa Claus, uses the internet to reach out to who he thinks is Saint Nick, only to get the attention of a disturbed Santa Claus wannabe who sets his deadly sights on this child and begins a fairly low-key murder spree. The film is an odd sort of artifact for horror fans and has some striking similarities to the holiday classic Home Alone. Both films climax with a home invasion, and while Home Alone‘s is far less lethal, Dial Code Santa Claus does not shy away from deadly consequences and disturbing revelations. The revelation of the state of mind of the pseudo-Santa Claus upon gaining the upper hand in this Christmas battle is absolutely terrifying.

It’s a gorgeously shot movie and the craftsmanship is readily apparent. René Manzor’s stylish approach to the material creates such a wonderfully messed up story that explores growing up in the absolute worst way possible during the Christmas holiday. Manzor still mostly works in French cinema, but as Joe Bob Briggs reveals during the host segments (in between hawking wares) that he directed some installments of various series such as The Red Shoe Diaries and The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. At times earnest, horrific, and that special sort of late-1980s cheesy, Dial Code Santa Claus is a holiday horror film that deserves to be seen and is a perfect sort of film for the spotlight of The Last Drive-In.

As for the inter-film shenanigans we come to expect from The Last Drive-In, the coronavirus is still wreaking havoc with the production dynamics of the show. I felt that it hurt the last Halloween special, feeling oddly isolated and melancholy, but this time around the gimmick does a lot of work to keep the proceedings light, funny, and also allowed for friends of the Drive-In to leave behind holiday wishes. For this special, the team does a sort of QVC-cum-horror network experience, complete with requisite graphics and title cards. It’s a lot different from the usual experience but in a way that fits the tone of the night, particularly given the film selections.

Throughout the night 18 different auctions were dropped on a special website and the proceeds of the bids which climbed throughout the night were designated for four distinct charities. These charities were very much right in the wheelhouse of hosts Joe Bob and Darcy, including The Trevor Project, The National Women’s Law Center, The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, and the Organization for Autism Research. One of the highlights throughout the night was seeing the bids climb both on social media and the occasional reference on show to the impressive numbers. Bidding continues until the 22nd of December, so if you are interested in some incredible swag for good causes, be sure to take a look.

As far as the first half of the night goes, one couldn’t ask for a better holiday horror film; Dial Code Santa Claus was funny, thrilling, incredibly French, and had a requisite out-of-place Bonnie Tyler sad music montage. Joe Bob Briggs gave the film three stars, but I’d argue he scored it a little low. It is easily worth an extra half-star for the wide-eyed beard-flocking sequence alone. The movie is a great Christmas experience, surely nothing could be better… You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. The second film of the night is even better than the first. But don’t let that detract from the pure, unadulterated joy of Dial Code Santa Claus. I give the movie the four Cthulhu treatment.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Best Line: “I don’t like your face.” – One perceptive little girl

Not the worst Reindeer Games I’ve ever seen.

Christmas Evil

Opening Rant: Crystal chakras or some insanity in the desert.

The second film of the night, also a new experience for me, was my favorite: Christmas Evil. A film adored by John Waters is always a great sign. Released in 1980 on the heels of Halloween and Friday the 13th, one would expect the film to be just another sort of holiday-themed slasher copycat, but this is far from. Lewis Jackson’s film is relatively tame in violence, skewing more psychological than a slasher, but the film benefits all the more from the approach, crafting an ultimately heartbreaking chronicle of a man drifting further into madness over the holidays.

The film is a b-movie at heart, however, and for however subtle and nuanced it can be, it also delights in the absolute insanity of creating a Christmas-themed horror story. It delivers on multiple levels. The movie follows a man, Harry, who has grown up traumatized by a childhood witnessing of his parents engaged in sexual acts while his father is dressed as Santa Claus. As an adult, Harry has grown obsessed with Christmas, decorating his home with various seasonal decorations and knick-knacks and working at a toy factory. At home, he engages in dressing as Santa and taking on the requisite duties of observing and recording the local children, documenting their behavior in his book.

Harry, put upon by his coworkers and his frustrated younger brother, begins to spiral and believes himself to be Santa Claus, acting oddly but harmlessly, donating stolen toys from the factory to the local children’s hospital. This doesn’t last long, however, and soon Harry’s actions turn to murder and the film’s final act echoes the horror classic Frankenstein in several surprising ways. The film is a bit slow, however, and lacks a certain visual punch, but that’s no dealbreaker.

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The film is ultimately a sad story about a broken man who truly needs help and doesn’t get it. It’s actually fairly fitting for a movie set in a season of high suicides and melancholy. This is also the more interesting when paired with a trans allegory, as Joe Bob reveals was theorized by John Waters. Given the time the film was made, the theory slides into place; it would be hard to do a trans movie, but burying the message in a movie about a man who thinks he is Santa Claus is a bit easier to swallow. General audiences didn’t really respond to the film though, so much of this discourse feels newer and in a way a little more timely. It all clicks, however, and whether or not it was intended, is worth discussing further given today’s trans community discourse.

As for the rest of the festivities throughout the night, however, one of the great treats of the host segments was the video Christmas cards featuring Drive-In favorite guests and Silver Bolo winners. Whereas the recent Halloween special felt more isolated, there was a certain level of togetherness presented in this special’s festivities, and those video Christmas cards went a long way towards that. The more live nature of the bidding on the auction also helped out quite a bit, really letting viewers feel like they were a part of something in the now.

While it was a great night for holiday horror, the standout of the films is most certainly Christmas Evil, both as a sort of holiday horror classic, but also on a more intellectual level. Sometimes the Last Drive-In pokes fun at the more scholarly side of the film world in the pursuit of blood, breasts, and beasts, but sometimes Santa Joe Bob gives unto us good little children a little something to chew on for a while, even awarding it that coveted four stars; Christmas Evil gives me just the sort of film I want to gnaw on for a bit. Happy holidays indeed! Definitely the full five Cthulhu sort of film I adore. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “But now I want you to remember to stay good boys & girls. Respect your mothers & fathers and do what they tell you. Obey your teachers and learn a whooooole lot! Now if you do this, I’ll make sure you get good presents from me eeeevery year. Ha ha ha… but if you’re bad boys & girls, your name goes in the ‘Bad Boys & Girls’ book, and I’ll bring you something… horrible.” – “Santa” Harry

Santa’s a blade-man, man. Santa’s gonna cut ya.

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

As always, we begin with the official Drive-In totals, courtesy of the Shudder twitter account:

As for my own totals? Here is what I have:

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  • 1 Yuki sighting
  • 1 Dead dog
  • 2 Bad Santas
  • 3 holiday themes
  • 3 alternate titles
  • 3 instances of holiday aardvarking
  • 18 auction items
  • 25k eBay monthly earning limit
  • 23 minutes of exposition
  • 36.15
  • Globe Crushing
  • Overly French holiday traditions
  • Child endangerment
  • Open-eyed beard flocking
  • Christmas terrorism
  • Terror train
  • Suspiciously rich family
  • Mansplaining QVC
  • Child slapping
  • Child spooking
  • Eye gouging
  • Santa transitioning
  • Catholic Joking
  • Gratuitously elaborate handshaking
  • Gratuitous Frankensteinesque torch pursuit
  • Gratuitous “Hogzilla” chanting
  • Gratuitous Bonnie Tyler sad Christmas sequence
  • Minitel Fu
  • Video Christmas Card Fu
  • Silver Bolo Award: Geeks Who Eat
  • #MOSSGARCIA4LIFE
Bonus Yuki Action Shot!

Episode Score

In a world beset by a plague, nothing can be business as usual, and the Last Drive-In is no exception. The show continues to be fun, but after the relative disappointment I felt from the Halloween special, I was concerned that coronavirus was going to take yet another toll on a show I love. I am pleased that is not the case with Joe Bob Saves Christmas. The show found a great gimmick this time around that worked in the necessary COVID 19 restrictions while also delivering on a sense of community that is more vital than ever.

It’s good to be a mutant. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Well, that’s it for The Last Drive-In until the start of the new season, or another special. What comes first? It doesn’t really matter… we’ll still be covering it and doing our live-tweet sessions here at Haunted MTL.

… the drive-in will never die.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Target

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Episode two of Amazon Prime’s Fallout was equal parts funny and bloody. This almost always leads to a good time.

The story

We begin this episode with the birth of some puppies that look like they’ve had a rough start to life. Each one is weighed, with the ones who fall short being incinerated.

One pup who is just below the correct weight gets a bit of a thumb on their scale. The scientist weighing them, Wilzig, writes down the proper weight. He later takes the puppy home to raise instead of putting them into what looks like an unforgiving training program.

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Eventually, we see Wilzig put some blue glowing thing into his neck. When a soldier comes for him, Dog attacks the soldier, and the two escape.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

We go from there to the wilderness, where Lucy is recovering from the last episode and enjoying a campfire at night. Wilzig and Dog come out of the shadows, saving Lucy from a bug monster. Wilzig tells Lucy she should go home. And if she’s not going to go home, she needs to evolve.

The next day Lucy finds her way to a town called Filly. As a Pennsylvanian, it hurts me to spell it that way. Lucy is entranced by this town, though clearly put off by the fact that no one is very nice here.

She eventually finds her way to a shop run by a delightful woman named Ma June. Ma doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping Lucy. Or, frankly, having Lucy in her shop.

Or in her town.

Eventually, Wilzig is tracked to this same shop, being tracked by The Ghoul. This is our final primary character. Lucy defends Wilzig, being aided at the last moment by Maximus.

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Maximus, by the way, has been having a terrible time. After finally becoming a squire he’s disappointed to find that his knight, Knight Titus, is a terrible person.

Fortunately, Maximus doesn’t have to put up with Titus for long. After Titus gets the bright idea to go hunting, he’s attacked by a mutated bear. Maximus freezes, unable to save him. Then, well, he decides not to save him.

It was Titus’s idea to go hunt the bear, after all.

What worked

Walton Goggins in Fallout.

The first thing I want to draw attention to is the shootout scene at Filly. This scene checked every box a fight scene should check. It was fun to watch, with great effects. But it also gave us insight into the characters. Lucy is a decent fighter and has a strong moral compass. The Ghoul is callus and desensitized to death. And Maximus continues to be, well, sort of bad at this whole fighting thing. But with enough moral fortitude that we have a hard time blaming him.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dog. Who’s name, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is just Dog. Which is fine. He doesn’t need to have a name to be a very good boy. He’s sweet, loyal, and fearless.

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Also, puppies. Puppies are always great.

Finally, I’d like to shine a spotlight on Lucy’s reaction to the world at large. She is both amazed and terrified by everything. And while she certainly doesn’t want to be rude, she also doesn’t want to be taken advantage of. The best example of this is when she stops to ask for directions with a bright smile and a gun.

Once again, I don’t have anything bad to say about this episode. It was funny, dark, and fun to watch. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The End

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Launching with worldwide excitement, Fallout is based on the extremely popular game series of the same name. Fans of the series have waited with anticipation and trepidation to see if the Prime series would live up to the game.

Having now watched the first episode I can say that, so far, it’s successful.

The story

Our story begins with a children’s birthday party. A performer is there with his daughter, giving horse rides and taking pictures with the kids.

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As much as the adults try to focus on the party and the kids, it’s impossible to ignore the looming threat of war that’s on everyone’s mind.

Of course, it’s during this party that war comes, and the bombs drop.

We then cut to after the war and into one of the vaults established to protect humankind and the American Way. For future reference, this is Vault 33. We meet Lucy, our first main character, who’s petitioning to be married to a man from Vault 32 to ensure DNA diversity.

On the wedding night, though, Lucy and the rest of Vault 33 are met with a horrible surprise. The group they let in is not in fact from Vault 32, but is instead a team of raiders from the surface. The raiders kill a lot of the vault dwellers and kidnap Lucy’s father.

We are then introduced to our second main character, Maximus. He is in training to become a Knight in the Brotherhood of Steel. And, well, he’s not doing great.

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Things get worse when his best friend Dane becomes a squire before him. But when Dane is hurt, Maximus gets their spot.

Aaron Moten in Fallout.

We then go back to Lucy, who has decided to leave the vault and find her dad. Of course, the council of her vault doesn’t want her to go. So she is aided by her brother Norm and cousin Chet in a wild escape.

What worked

The first thing that deserves attention is the exceptional character work. Our three main characters are fleshed out and relatable right away. We feel sympathetic for The Ghoul before he’s even introduced as such. We love Lucy’s nativity and selflessness. And we love Maximus for his honesty and passion for his cause.

While these characters are their own people, they also exhibit the three responses we might expect to see in a post-apocalyptic world. We have the hopeful optimist who doesn’t understand how bad things are. We have the aspiring hero who wants to make the world better by force. And we have the self-serving individual who’s given up on the rest of humanity and is only focused on surviving.

Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was the balance of humor and gore. Because there was certainly enough blood and guts for even the most hardcore horror lover. We had a violent sabotage, a brawl with raiders, and even several nuclear bombs.

But there were a lot of funny moments as well. Usually from Lucy. Her overall goodwill and fearless gumption are absolutely hilarious, especially given the horrors she’s facing. It never ceases to amuse me.

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Ella Purnell in Fallout

Both of these aspects are done perfectly. The jokes land and the bloody scenes pull no punches. It was delightful.

All in all, this was an exciting start to a much-anticipated series. Here’s hoping they’re able to stick the landing.

For more tv shows based on video games, check out my review of Witcher. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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American Horror Story Delicate, Ave Hestia

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Episode seven of American Horror Story Delicate was a classic AHS flashback episode. If you were excited to see what Preecher had to say to Anna at the end of the last episode, I’m sorry to say that you will not get that satisfaction. However, we did learn all sorts of other fascinating things about the strange coven hunting Anna. And, we learned all sorts of things we didn’t know about Dex’s first wife, Adeline.

The story

We begin our story with a woman giving birth alone in a barn. When it becomes clear that she’s not going to be able to deliver vaginally, she pulls out a knife and cuts her stomach open to pull out her children.

For whatever reason, this is when the coven of witches decides to make themselves known.

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Ashlie Atkinson in American Horror Story.

We then cut to 2013, when Dex was still married to Adeline. In true Dex fashion, he’s surprised her with a puppy.

While that sounds great in theory, dogs are something a couple should talk about, not gift each other with as a surprise. An adult would know that. A trust fund boy like Dex does not.

Adeline owns a vegan restaurant called Ave Hestia. Love that name. She seems to be living a great life. She has a career she’s passionate about, friends who love her, and a husband she seems kind of fond of.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t want a puppy. She already had one.

Of course, things aren’t as good as they appear. We soon find out that Adeline was one of those babies we saw at the start of the episode. The other baby was Sonia, the painter.

Annabelle Dexter-Jones in American Horror Story.

And yes, both of these characters are played by Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

Adeline has stepped away from their family, and whatever dark things they do. But the family isn’t happy with her decision. And if she isn’t going to come back willingly, they’re going to make her.

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What worked

To start with, I loved the character, Adeline. She is fierce, she is fearless, and relentless. I feel like this would have been a far different story if Adeline had been our main character. It was astounding to see her interact with the same people Anna has, and get a completely different response. It’s clear now, how much everyone around Anna resents her for simply not being Adeline.

I also appreciated that there was just a shocking amount of blood in this episode. From the start when Adeline and Sonia are born, to the climactic end of Adeline, this episode is just drenched in blood.

Finally, I’m fascinated by the changes in this season from the book it’s based on. Because absolutely none of this was in the book. Compared to this, the book is heartwarming.

The book is kind of heartwarming even without the comparison.

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But I love the fact that, even with just two episodes left in the season, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I do not know what Anna is carrying. I do not know if she’s going to survive this. I do not know what these people want with her.

But I can’t wait to find out.

What didn’t work

All that being said, it is a bit frustrating to have no forward momentum in this episode. This was all backstory, and it felt like there wasn’t enough backstory to fill a full forty minutes. Because of that, it dragged. There were a lot of scenes that just didn’t need to be as long as they were. It felt like they could have cut that down considerably, and had some time to check in with our main characters at either the start or the end of the episode.

There are only two episodes left in the season, and I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen. But so far the story has been dark, bloody, and provocative. So I hope they can manage to end it on a high note.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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