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.
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 / 5)
Best Line: “It’s a bit of a work in progress, but I think you’ll like it.” – Ghost (about his face)
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 / 5)
Best Line: “But mom, I like the taste of blood. Grandpa said it’s good for me.” – Tommy to his mother
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
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 / 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!
X-Files, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas
Airing in December of 1998, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas is a classic monster of the week episode of the X-Files. Except, of course, it’s ghosts, not monsters. Because it’s Christmas, and there’s no better time for a little ghost story than that.
Our story begins like any good holiday evening should. Mulder is telling Scully a ghost story. They’re sitting together outside a supposedly haunted house on Christmas Eve, waiting for the ghosts of two lovers to appear. The story is that they killed each other eighty-one years ago, that very night. Mulder is very excited to see some ghosts. Scully would rather be at home celebrating the holiday.
One of these people has a family life and a dog. The other only has his partner.
Eventually, the two of them do make it inside, where they find an elderly couple named Maurice and Lydia. They seem like a nice enough couple until things start getting weird. Doors lock and unlock as they please. Lydia and Maurice seem to appear and vanish. And, of course, some dead bodies are found.
As Scully and Mulder try to find each other in this sprawling maze of a house, the ghosts are after them. They tell them terrible, insightful things about themselves and each other. The scary thing is that some of this is good advice.
The scary thing is how much of this Mulder and Scully needed to hear.
Eventually, our heroes escape, though they sure don’t exorcise the ghosts in the house or themselves. Lydia and Maurice are left to enjoy their quiet Christmas Eve in the comfort of their love, no longer a raging fire of passion, but a warm bed of glowing embers.
First off, let me say that I’m a sucker for a bottle episode. Especially in a show like X-Files. (And it is a true bottle episode, being the cheapest episode of the season.) For the most part, our story takes place in one location, with just four actors. It is tense, it is tight, and it is intimate.
Honestly, this episode has everything going for it. Of course, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson bring their A Game. And they’re joined by two of the funniest comedic actors of all time, Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. These people could read you the phone book and have you in stitches.
But the writing is also exemplary. Mulder and Scully are forced to take a good look at how they treat each other, for better or worse. They have to consider their relationship, the way they live their lives, and the darker voices in their heads.
In the end, I think they come together beautifully.
Finally, I want to praise the location. The haunted house looks so much like Hill House, it can’t be an accident. It’s in turn freezing and warm, falling apart and beautifully maintained. The cobwebs and hanging sheets on the unused furniture are just classic. And with the massive fireplaces, bookshelves to the ceiling, and the well-stocked bar, the whole place has an air of old-fashioned comfort, left to rot.
What didn’t work
I honestly cannot think of one thing that didn’t work in this episode. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s dark. It’s the perfect Christmas episode of television.
In the end, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas is a dark, spooky little tale. It’s filled with scares and chills but still manages to warm your heart. And if you want to fit a little more blood and gore into your holiday watch list, this is a great way to do it.
(5 / 5)
Released in 1997, it would be understandable if you confused this Jack Frost with the movie of the same title that was released in 1998 and starred Michael Keaton. We are not talking about the Michael Keaton Jack Frost because it’s not horror. It’s also not good.
(Look at that, you’re getting two reviews in one today. Merry Christmas.)
No, today we are talking about Jack Frost, starring Christopher Allport and Scott MacDonald. And it is possibly the most bonkers Christmas movie I have ever seen.
We begin our tale in a very messed up fashion. A little girl asks her uncle for a bedtime story on Christmas Eve. The uncle tells her about a serial killer named Jack Frost who was caught after leaving bits of his victims inside pies. But there’s no need to worry, the uncle explains. Because Jack Frost was caught and is being executed that very night.
And we won’t be hearing from these two characters again for the whole movie.
Instead, we cut to Jack, being transported to his execution. Somehow he manages to escape, only to be doused with some sort of acid and melted into the snow.
Meanwhile, the sheriff who caught Jack Frost, Sam, is trying to come to terms with his death. He’s thankful that he’s gone, but the nightmare just doesn’t feel over yet.
Then, of course, people start turning up dead in his little town. And in spectacular ways.
Slowly, Jack Frost seems to work his way through a family called the Metzners. Even though it appears that this family didn’t have a single thing to do with him. First, he murders their son, then proceeds to stalk the entire family.
Sam is joined by an FBI agent named Agent Manners and a scientist named Stone. Together they fumble around the tiny little town, trying to figure out how to kill Jack. Bullets do nothing. He can melt and slip through cracks. But hairdryers seem to do the trick.
I’m going to be honest here. Nothing in this movie was good. The effects were bad. The writing is bad. The constant snow puns are bad. The acting is bad.
But it is this exact combination of bad aspects that makes Jack Frost funny. It is so intentionally bad that it is hilarious. None of the characters are likable, so we’re not overly upset when they’re murdered in horrific ways. None of the effects look real, but they look fun. The writing is awful, but it’s hilarious.
And here’s the greatest thing about Jack Frost. Everyone working on it is having fun. You can just tell that every single actor is having the time of their lives. Nobody was having a single bad day on stage here. And that alone makes Jack Frost enjoyable to watch.
What didn’t work
One thing I have to say here is that the acting was just bad. It was not, I believe, intentionally bad acting. That is to say, it wasn’t a talented actor acting badly for comedic effect. This was just bad acting from almost everyone in the cast. The two exceptions are Allport and Marsha Clark, who plays Marla. Everybody else is overacting so hard that they’re pulling muscles. They’re chewing the scenery so much that they’re not going to have room for Christmas cookies.
To enjoy Jack Frost, you need to have a deep appreciation for campy effects, bad snow puns, and really inappropriate humor. It’s one of those movies where you turn off your brain, make sure all loose items are secured and your lap bar is completely locked, and enjoy the ride.
If you can do that, then you’re going to have a great time with this movie. If not, don’t worry. There’s lots more holiday horror to come. (4 / 5)
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023), a Film Review
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is an award-winning sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is a sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this unrated and award-winning film stars Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad L. Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, and Amani Summer. As of this review, interested viewers can enjoy this film from Shudder with additional availability through purchase or rent.
After a sequence of tragedies and loss, Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) seeks to cure death. Despite her genius earning her a private school education, few take this ambition seriously. Those who see it think of her only as an example of a girl separated from reality. But all that changes when she has a breakthrough. Unfortunately for her, the systemic issues that oppress her neighborhood can’t be solved as simply as curing death.
What I Like about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster and Recognition Earned
This film received nominations from four separate film festivals. It won Best Narrative Feature by the Calgary Underground Film Festival and Best Horror / Sci Fi from Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival. In addition, it received nominations for Best Narrative Feature from the Atlanta Film Festival and a nomination from the SXSW Film Festival.
The beautifully shot scenes earn respect, and the cast remains strong throughout. While Laya DeLeon Hayes executes the most demanding role, Reilly Brooke Stith (Aisha) and Amani Summer (Jada) elevate their material.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster dips its commentary into several hot topics. While I would have liked to see further exploration, it deals with scientific responsibilities, systemic issues facing Black Americans, and more. Needless to say, this film has ambition.
While particular elements vary in execution, this remains a unique approach to the dehumanization of these racist and systemic issues while telling an engaging story in the process. While I wouldn’t consider this an arthouse film, it dips into that category in many ways.
Tired Tropes, Trigger Warnings, and Considerations
For a better viewing experience, don’t take the film with the utmost realism in mind. An example of what I mean is how easily and unnoticed bodies are moved and hidden. As a metaphor or motif, it works better to serve the overall message.
As mentioned, many systemic issues come to light within the story, with varying levels of depth. Some examples include racial profiling, police violence, and microaggressions that stretch the “micro” aspect of the word. I also want to clarify that the film focuses on Vicaria’s personal story, using these experiences when applicable to the plot.
Drug addiction and gang violence play prominent roles in the plot. As mentioned above, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster addresses many of the systemic issues that make a thriving drug industry as opposed to dehumanizing those participating in it.
The titular Monster evokes levels of realistic body horror. While it’s not particularly extensive, the rot remains present and vivid. Partly related, the film creates a surprisingly gory story.
What I Dislike about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
Several plot points remain underdeveloped or underexplored. This choice might indicate sequel material, but I don’t think that’s the case here. For example, viewers hear about a “body snatcher,” but the narrative doesn’t build the mystery until the end. Perhaps this requires a slightly longer run time, but it also could be cut with some edits to the script.
Her Monster didn’t particularly evoke fear. The rot evokes disgust but not terror. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains more focused on the story than the horror.
For those looking for horror rooted in real issues but not afraid to delve into the absurd, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains a strong choice. While it might not evoke the terror and haunting we horror fans hope for, the bittersweet film certainly provides many reasons to give this film a view.
(4 / 5)
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