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We are blessed on the spookiest of months with a new Joe Bob Briggs special! How fortunate we are for this Fall bounty. Welcome to The Last Drive-In‘s “Halloween Hideaway,” filmed on location in a very familiar location in New Jersey.

The trailer park crew at Shudder brings us two movies for the night, Haunt, and Hack-O-Lantern. So, how did it go? Let’s find out.

Haunt

Opening Rant: In between the night’s skit regarding employee dissatisfaction, Joe Bob talks about fresh fruit and vegetables and agricultural exports.

Haunt was a new experience for me but surprisingly worth it. This 2019 slasher, directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, stars Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, and Lauryn McClain. The film was produced by Eli Roth and very much fits under his horror umbrella: The movie follows a group of young folks who, after a Halloween party, find an isolated haunted house attraction. They give up their cell phones, sign liability waivers, and quickly get separated inside the maze. It turns out the house is a trap and the mysterious group running it has homicidal intentions.

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The movie is very sleek, very modern, and very good overall. It has some surprisingly fun kills, and in a refreshing change from current horror standards, the filmmakers choose not to cut away from them. Many modern horror films do quick cuts before points of impact for various purposes, most often to ensure a larger audience, but Haunt does not shy away from showing this kills with very good special effects work. The number of skull penetrations is impressive.

The movie also handles the issue of cell-phones in a horror movie in a very clever way, even subverting the idea that a cell-phone can essentially save the day. The film even has a very cool version of “the final girl” in Katie Steven’s Harper who, despite one glaring lack of logic that may be hard to attribute to fear alone (seriously… dump the damn bucket), ends up ending the film in a rousing fashion.

The film isn’t perfect though, but few films are: the influences in the script may be glaringly obvious at times, to the point of distraction. The film also does have its coincidences that ultimately work, but the hands of the writers laying out the pieces still feel too contrived. Performances are suitable with only a couple of standouts, such as Katie Stevens and Damien Maffei as the Devil-masked killer. Overall though, these aren’t enough to tank what is an otherwise solid slasher.

Joe Bob’s praise of the film was pretty strong, but he had his issues with the movie. He also addressed horror-bloggers (such as myself) by calling out complaints about the contrivances of the film. Among some of the reveals in his segments, between the increasing ire of the crew, he talked about the unrevealed backstory development of the antagonists. Producer Eli Roth pushed for directors Beck and Woods have a background in mind of the villains, but they had no obligation to share it.

The other fun segment revealed the directors were also the writers of the mega-horror-hit A Quiet Place. With that and Haunt among their credits, which are rapidly growing, Joe Bob suggests we’re likely to see more of them in the future. Joe Bob is right. These are two people worth keeping in mind, especially as horror fans.

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Haunt is a largely smart and satisfying slasher that may wear its influences a little too obviously. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Best Line: “It’s a bit of a work in progress, but I think you’ll like it.” – Ghost (about his face)

When you arrive at the Halloween party without a costume.

Hack-O-Lantern

Opening Rant: Joe Bob talks Ouija boards in a skit that sets up an increasingly dark night for the venerable host.

Haha, oh boy. So, Hack-O-Lantern is not a good movie. We’ll just establish that first. This 1988 satanic slasher is a mess of half-baked ideas, pointless nudity, and incredibly inconsistent logic. So yeah, not a good movie, but still very much fun. Hack-O-Lantern, directed by Jag Mundhra, stars Hy Pyke, Gregory Scott Cummins, and Katina Garner. I use the term “stars” very loosely, here. Not a non-laughable performance in the bunch.

The movie is about a rural community that is the home of a satanic cult that causes all sorts of murderous trouble on Halloween night. Tommy, the lead character, becomes a thrall for his grandfather, the man who runs the satanic cult that seems to meet in a barn and brand bare asses. There’s not much going on in this movie. There’s more backstory than an actual story, as it just ends up being a costumed slasher movie with some very PG-13 Satanic worship and rituals. None of the deaths are particularly memorable, either.

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The film’s largest problem is one of identity: the film was apparently intended to evoke the John Carpenter classic, Halloween, but director Jag Mundhra ended up creating something that borrows less from American sensibilities about Halloween and instead grafts on some of Mundhra’s Indian background, such as an extended musical number with a dancer referencing the deity Kali for… reasons. The movie is very thin in the story and stuffed to the gills with such odd padding, including a multi-minute standup routine in the middle of a night full of massacres.

The whole film just feels amateur. Everything from the lack of research in the “Satanic” hand gesture (it’s literally the ASL sign for “I Love You”), to the hilariously inept and non-threatening cult scenes, to the non-sensical ending. Nothing about the film makes sense. But that’s actually okay. The movie can be hilarious and it’s very much like a precursor to The Room. A film that was intended to be something far different from what it became. While there is fun to be had, it is kind of hollow.

Joe Bob has his usually assemblage of factoids about the production of the film. As always, these were entertaining breaks where we learned interesting things, for example, the producer pushed for full frontal nudity, and it seems the movie was happy to deliver on that front, casting adult actress Jeanna Fine as the platinum blond cult girl. There was also much fun to be had in discussing the inexplicable top-billing and scene-chewing of Hy Pyke.

The storyline that ran through the host segments was fun but also felt a bit off. The segments were shot on location at the Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco grounds in Hardwick, NJ, and led to a great little homage to Friday the 13th. But it was a lot of effort for what felt like a progressively lonelier and lonelier night on set. It’s a clever way of keeping socially distant, yes, and it’s obvious the crew was still around, yet it still felt oddly isolated for little gain. For a show that has grown a dedicated community, there was something that rubbed me the wrong way about the choices made for the host segments, especially for a Halloween special, something that brings the horrorfam together between seasons.

This Halloween film is mid-season material that worked its way into the special.

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2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Best Line: “But mom, I like the taste of blood. Grandpa said it’s good for me.” – Tommy to his mother

Rough night?

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

We start, of course, with the official Drive-In Totals, provided, as always, by the Shudder Twitter account.

Here is our traditional Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals, enjoy!

  • One Darcy Jail Trip
  • Two Skull Penetrations
  • Two new Musical Numbers
  • Body Branding
  • Nail in the Foot
  • Odd Number Breast Count Red Flag
  • Awkward Stand-Up Bit at a Halloween Party
  • Gratuitous Adult Actress Full Frontal
  • Unfortunate Incest
  • Terrifying Music Producer
  • Hy Pyke Dialogue Croaking
  • Throwback Joe Bob Costume Fun
  • Tactical Joe Bob Briggs F-Bomb
  • Hindu Joking
  • Leprechaun Joking
  • Hillbilly Incest Horror
  • Graveyard Aardvarking
  • Diminishing Film Crew
  • Yuki Sighting: In a tree blind!
  • Silver Bolo Award: StabbyTime TV
  • Darcy Cosplay: Devil Cultist Darcy
Someone just walked in on the host playing with himself.

Episode Score

While a fun night overall, the cabin in the woods theme felt a bit hollow, ultimately stripping out some of the communal fun we’re used to on the show. The addition of the wildcard selection of Hack-O-Lantern, as well, kind of created a mid-season episode vibe rather than a special Halloween event. Had this pairing been episode 4 or 5 of the next season I probably wouldn’t be as critical, but for an event as big as a Halloween special, I expected something a little more celebratory.

Where’s the love, man? 🤟 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Well, that wraps up the “Halloween Hideaway.” What did you think of the pairing of Haunt and Hack-O-Lantern? Do you think I am a bit too critical of this special? Was the increasing feeling of isolation worth it for the cute Friday the 13th homage? How terrifying is John Brennan when he stomps across the front of the cabin?

Let us know in the comments. See you in season three!

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Movies n TV

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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Movies n TV

The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs: An Eggs-celent Time

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The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs returned March 29th for the first ever Easter-themed episode. Debuting the new series format, hosts Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl presented only one film. The Drive-In can be watched on AMC+ and Shudder every other Friday during the season.

This week on The Last Drive-In, Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl hopped onto our screens to include us in their Easter party. Festivities include decorating eggs, blowing noisemakers, cuddling mutilated stuffies, and of course, swigging down Lone Star beer. You’re invited to consume whatever substances you like best to enhance the viewing experience of this week’s film, Brian Skiba’s Rottentail (2019).  

Season 6 poster for The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.

As Joe Bob opens the episode, there is hope he will remain focused and on topic. He begins with innocent rabbit behavior patterns before taking a turn into the best methods of hunting them. Darcy grows increasingly uncomfortable as he delights in giving pointers to would-be hunters. She incredulously asks, “Are you talking about killing rabbits right now?” 

Believing the audience is on her side, she throws up a Twitter poll. It was a close split, but 50.2% of viewers who responded do agree with her. See? Every vote does count. (Seriously, make sure you are registered to vote in this year’s elections.) 

Ch-Ch-Changes

Calling out the elephant in the room, Joe Bob reminds viewers about the new one-movie format of the series. Instead of two movies every Friday, this season has been stretched out with one movie showing every other week until Labor Day. 

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If you want someone to blame, Joe Bob says you can point at us tired folks on the east coast struggling to stay awake past midnight. However, between the new format and specials, we have been assured there are actually more movies this season. 

Thankfully for the audience, Rottentail is packed with action and hits multiple genres to the point that it feels like at least a movie and a half. 

A poster for Rottentail (2019) featuring the mutated Peter Cotten and the tagline "Hippity Hoppity Homicide."
A poster for Rottentail (2019).

Rottentail tells the story of unassuming scientist Peter Cotten (Corin Nemec) being transformed into a rabbit-human hybrid after receiving a bite from a genetically-engineered rabbit. He embarks on a journey of revenge against those who wronged him in his childhood such as Pastor Jake Mulligan (William McNamara). He even finds time to rekindle a past romance with Anna Banana (Dominique Swain).

The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: 4 dead bunnies, 1 mad army general, mutated bunny rampage, lettuce nibbling, heart tossing, 1 mutant bunny baby, and erection fu. “Four stars. Joe Bob says, ‘Check it out.’

No Animals Were Harmed

It goes without saying that there are a few depictions of animal cruelty within this film. Darcy feels it is prudent to warn the audience. Whenever an animal dies on screen, Twitter is flooded with upset viewers expressing their distaste. Dragging the warning out of Joe Bob, she reminds him of the gentle nature of the #MutantFam. We’ll watch humans be slaughtered all day, but don’t you dare hurt that animal.  

Joe Bob seems to not understand the need for the warning as, “this whole movie is about taking revenge on people who harm animals!” He insists no animals are actually harmed and implies that being bothered is indicative of good effects. To demonstrate, at one point he “snaps” Darcy’s neck with the assistance of a sound effect.

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Joe Bob demonstrates the use of sound effects as he fake kills Darcy.
No mail girls were harmed in the filming of this episode.

Pages to Print

The film is based off of the graphic novel Rottentail by David C. Hayes and Kevin Moyers. Initially self-published, Source Point Press picked up the novel and are responsible for its translation onto screen. The film is very stylized and Joe Bob says it gives Re-Animator (1985) vibes. 

Nemec is a big fan of graphic novels, and had read the story prior to the film’s production. He ended up becoming a co-producer of the film. Joe Bob believes Nemec should get more praise for his role as Peter/Rottentail, and the hosts bemoan his lack of availability to come on the episode.

Furthering my belief that Joe Bob is secretly a huge fan of Lifetime Christmas movies, he highlights that director Skiba is perhaps best known for his work on the network. I am continually baffled at how many of these Christmas movies he can name and refuse to believe he doesn’t actually cozy up to watch them.

Tis The Season?

Speaking of Christmas, this week’s mail call features a letter originally sent back in December. Joe Bob immediately senses what is going on and chides Darcy, “I do not want letters that make everyone cry.” Brad from Loretto, Kentucky writes in to share his Halloween memories with his daughter. Unfortunately, she passed away at the age of 20 before Brad had a chance to share The Last Drive-In with her.  It’s a sobering reminder that we truly do not know how much time we have left to spend with someone.  

No, Wait, Come Back!

It is understandable why some folks were upset with the new format change of the series. However, the episode is still full of The Last Drive-In spirit. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it feels as if there was more time & space for host segments. At points, Joe Bob and Darcy were breaking in almost every 15 minutes. It’s very much still the same show we love, just now featuring more anticipation.  

My rating for Rottentail: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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My rating for the episode: 4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Opening Night

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American Horror Story Delicate returned last night with the episode titled Opening Night. After a wait of six months due to the SAG strike, we finally get to see how this story ends.

Eventually, of course. This was just episode six.

The story

This episode begins in 1988, with Anna’s parents. Her mother, after complaining of pain in her thigh, dies of a heart attack. Alone in the hospital with a crying child, her father is overcome. When a nurse comes out of nowhere to help soothe baby Anna. A nurse that looks exactly like Nicolette.

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From there, we pick up our story right where we left off in October. Anna has just found out that Babbett, her biggest competition for the Oscar, died in a car crash. Siobhan insists she has to come to the funeral, and even give a speech. Anna refuses at first but eventually goes along with it.

Kim Kardashian, Billie Lourd and Leslie Grossman in American Horror Story.

Back home, she continues to find dolls of herself all over. Even Nicolette finds one and brings it to her as though she’ll get a laugh out of it. It should surprise no one that she does not.

Anna’s stress comes to a head when at an art show for Dexter’s client Sonia. With everyone else being unkind and demanding of her, Sonia at first seems like a port in the storm. Until that is, she is part of a strange circle of women.

Sonia, Ivy, Tabitha, and Nicolette surround Anna, taking turns to touch her, kiss her, caress her. And in the end, we’re left wondering if it ever really happened.

We’re left wondering what, if anything, is happening.

What worked

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I appreciated the character work in this episode. For example, we finally met Dexter’s father. And it took one sentence to realize that he is an absolute monster. The rest of the conversation just reinforces this.

This works on a couple of different levels. First, it makes us question every single thing Dexter’s mom said about this guy in the first part of the season. Then, it makes Dexter’s interactions with Anna so far make a lot more sense.

It also allows Dexter to grow. In being reminded what a garbage person his dad is, he realizes he doesn’t want to treat Anna like this. And, while it might be too little too late, he treats her with more compassion and kindness in this episode than he has this season so far.

I was also really impressed with the scene at the art gallery. When Anna was suddenly surrounded by the women, I honestly wasn’t sure if it was happening or not. The whole thing felt surreal, both affectionate and primally threatening at the same time.

This just added to the feeling of paranoia that’s been strong throughout this whole season. We just do not know what is real and what isn’t. And we are not supposed to.

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Finally, I want to draw attention to a detail that I’m sure you’ve noticed. Everyone, every single character, cannot keep their hands off Anna. Everyone is always touching her face, her hair, the small of her back. Strangely, almost no one touches her stomach. But everyone is always reaching for her. It’s to the point where I’m wincing anytime someone does it.

Juliana Canfield in American Horror Story.

What didn’t work

Here’s one thing I don’t love about this season. It doesn’t feel like American Horror Story. Some of the hallmarks of the series are there. The settings are gorgeous. The gore doesn’t hold back. And yes, a few of our favorite AHS actors are involved.

This season does seem to be setting itself apart on purpose. But in doing this, it does feel like they’re losing one of the strongest hooks in AHS lore.

All of the previous seasons are in the same universe. This was made most clear in Apocalypse but does come up at other times. This season feels entirely removed from the rest of the series. And this is disappointing. I went into this expecting a season of American Horror Story, not a mini-series based on a book that has little to do with the AHS franchise.

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Setting this disappointment aside, this was a good episode. I am completely unsure of what’s going on, in a good way. And I am interested to see what’s coming next.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 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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