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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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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