Connect with us

Published

on

Welcome, Drive-In Mutants, to the first installment of our series “Notes from The Last Drive-In” where we cover each episode of Shudder‘s “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.” We’ve mentioned Joe Bob Briggs a couple of times here on Haunted MTL, naturally, and it makes sense to cover all the new episodes as they are released. We’ll talk about the films, provide our own reviews of each, and share some observations about the episode.

So, let’s dive in, shall we?

Joe Bob is back in town!

C.H.U.D. (1984)

Before the start of the episode, the Shudder crew managed to unearth footage of Joe Bob circa 1985 where he swears in the live-show crowd with the Drive-in Oath. It’s enough to make this mutant cry.

Joe Bob is not a fan of C.H.U.D., an oft-requested film among the Drive-In mutants. Joe Bob’s rating was a mere 2 stars and throughout the presentation he makes his disdain the focus as only he can. Among his issues with the film are the weak performances, with the single, scenery-chewing exception of Daniel Stern, and the distinct lack of C.H.U.D.s in the film. The C.H.U.D.s, of course being the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, though the acronym carries another meaning as well. You’ll just need to watch to find out what that is, though.

C.H.U.D. is a 1984 film about a group of people who become swept up in a conspiracy involving the sewers of New York and the vanishing homeless population. Naturally the homeless are transforming into cannibalistic killers and things escalate as you would expect. The film stars John Heard, Daniel Stern, and Christopher Curry, though the only one who really seems to not sleepwalk through the film is Stern. John Heard is a virtual non-presence.

Advertisement

As for the Haunted MTL rating, we give C.H.U.D. 1 star. It’s just not very good beyond the curiosity factor and recognition of some of the actors in the film, such as a brief appearances by John Goodman and Jay Thomas. That being said, the blood bukkake scene in the shower is particularly fun. Otherwise, really, C.H.U.D.‘s a dud.

C.H.U.D. happens

Castle Freak (1995)

The second part of the inaugural episode of the ongoing “The Last Drive-In” series is definitely a superior film of the pair. Joe Bob awarded Castle Freak 4 stars and his affection for the film can be felt throughout the episode. It also helped to have Barbara Crampton herself drop by the drive-in to spend some time with Joe Bob. There was a lot of fascinating insight into the experiences of the crew on the actual castle-set of the film, and, naturally, there was a great deal of insight from Joe Bob about Italian film as well. Naturally, Castle Freak was not the most successful of critically lauded of the Stuart Gordon H. P. Lovecraft adaptations, but it’s a solid third after Re-Animator and From Beyond. Of course, there is also an insightful discussion on Joe Bob’s end regarding the origins of the adaptation, pulled from the pages of Lovecraft’s “The Outsider.”

Castle Freak is a 1995 direct-to-video film loosely based on Lovecraft’s “The Outsider.” The film follows the traumatized Reilly family, still grappling with the blinding of their daughter, Rebecca, and death of their son JJ from a drunk driving accident caused by the father. The remaining three Reillys soon discover that they are the inheritors of a 12th century castle in Italy. Little does the family know, however, that the son of the duchess lurks within the castle and he has a violent streak. The film stars Jeffery Combs, Barbara Crampton, and Johnathan Fuller as the titular Castle Freak. As always, Combs and Crampton are fantastic together as they were in Re-Animator and From Beyond, but special recognition of Johnathan Fuller is totally necessary. The Freak is incredible.

We here at Haunted MTL love Castle Freak and Stuart Gordon’s work in general. Naturally, Castle Freak is a 4 star film, a true drive-in classic even though it was a direct to video movie. There is a scene involving handcuffs and the removal of a thumb that is particularly choice.

Something very, very bad is about to happen here…

Haunted MTL’s Drive-In Totals

Lastly, we’re wrapping up with some of our own Drive-In totals, in tribute to the legend himself.

  • 1 red shirt and bolo tie
  • 1 behatted lizard
  • 2 blonde jokes
  • 1 Darcy Cosplay (as Sylvana of Castle Freak)
  • 1 Barbara Crampton guest appearance
  • Shakespeare in the park mocking fu
  • New York theater vs Chicago theater fu
  • Mangled dick phonecall to Felissa Rose fu
  • Stumped Joe Bob Fu

The Drive-In will never die

Well, how was the first trip back to the drive-in for you? Let us know in the comments, and let us know what stuff you want us to focus on in future recaps. In the meantime, please read all of our other great content here at Haunted MTL.

Advertisement

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

Movies n TV

Goosebumps Say Cheese and Die

Published

on

Released in 2023, Goosebumps is the latest in a line of content based on the insanely popular children’s book series with the same name. And if you’re here, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you a lot about Goosebumps. Most horror fans are at least passingly aware of the colorful covers, dark plotlines, and surprise twist endings. Some of us even have a few of the original books lying around.

For nostalgia.

Cover for Say Cheese and Die, Goosebumps number 4.

With so many good and bad versions of the original stories floating around, I was unsure how to feel about this brand-new series. I was sure, however, that I had to watch all of it. Especially with the infamous Slappy appearing so prominently in the advertising.

So, how was the first episode?

The story

Advertisement

We start this episode with a flashback to 1993, and a young man named Harold Biddle. We don’t spend a lot of time with him. He comes home from school and goes right to the basement. There he starts writing some concerning notes in his journal. This is interrupted when a fire consumes the basement, killing him.

We then flash forward thirty years to the real start of our story. The Biddle house has just been inherited by a man named Nathan Bratt, played by the delightful Justin Long. He adores the place but is less than thrilled when a bunch of teens crash it for a Halloween party.

The teens end up not being thrilled either.

Now we come to our real main characters, Isaiah, Margot, Allison, and James. It is the four of them that planned the ill-fated party.

Zack Morris in Goosebumps

While in the house, Isaiah finds a Polaroid camera. He starts taking pictures of his friends, only to find that they don’t come out right. One of them, Allison, shows her on the ground in the woods, terrified for her life. Another shows Margot in a panic next to a snack machine.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he eventually sees both of the girls in those exact situations. The real trouble comes when Lucas takes a picture of him, and it shows him on the football field, horribly injured.

Advertisement

All of these near-death experiences seem to be caused by the flaming spirit of Harold Biddle. And it soon becomes clear that the adults of the town likely know more than they’re willing to tell about what went down at the Biddle house thirty years ago.

What worked

For someone who grew up with the series, and is therefore of a certain age, the first scene of the episode was a lot of fun. It oozed 90’s vibe in a way that’s immediately recognizable to most, and familiar to my generation. Well, insomuch as wearing flannel and coming home to an empty house is the pinnacle of being a 90s kid.

It was also fun for the constant references to books in the original series. Blink and you missed them, but I saw the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Haunted Mask, and Go Eat Worms. These make sense, as they each have their episode this season. But I’m sure I missed a few. Please let me know in the comments.

That was a lot of fun for someone who grew up with the series. But it wasn’t so constant and all-consuming as to distract from the story. Someone could have never read a Goosebumps book in their lives and just enjoy this episode of television.

Advertisement

More importantly, younger viewers can watch this and feel like it’s for them. The main characters aren’t the parents, they’re the kids. And it’s clear even in this first episode that, even if it was the grownups who caused this horror, it’s going to be the kids that fix it.

This is a series that is for kids. And that’s great. It’s introducing a whole new generation to a series in a way that feels like it can be theirs just as much as it was ours when we were kids.

What didn’t work

All that being said, the story also felt a little dumbed down. A little too predictable. There was one line that particularly irritated me in this regard. When Nora goes to see Isiah’s dad in the hospital, she just flat-out says, “The children will suffer for the sins of the fathers.”

Not only is that just a bad line, it’s also a lazy one. It’s awkward and unrealistic. People simply do not talk that way. And we frankly didn’t need this information dropped on us. It was pretty clear during the football game that at least some of the grownups in town were going to be involved with this when we saw Nora recognize what was happening to Isaiah and try to stop the game. Kids are smart. They would have figured this out by themselves.

Advertisement

It’s also a really tired trope. Freddy and Jason after all, are both killing young people for the sins of their parents. It was a big part of the storyline in Hide. And while I get that this might feel relevant to the next generation who are all paying for the mistakes of Boomers that Gen X and Millennials have not done enough to solve, it’s also a bit lazy. I just feel like, if this is going to be our main story, it could have been a better one.

But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this episode. Overall, it was a fun start that left me with lots of questions. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.

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 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Book Reviews

The Dead Take the A Train Review: Queer Magic and Monster Mayhem

Published

on

“Julie crawled onto the table, straddling her intern, both hands around the knife. She torqued it downward, cursing. Brad shrieked harder.” -pg 57, The Dead Take the A Train by Cassandra Khaw & Richard Kadrey

The Dead Take the A Train is the first book in a duology by authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey. It was published in 2023 by Tor Nightfire (like the Scourge Between Stars, which I reviewed here). I was not previously familiar with Kadrey’s work, which most notably includes the Sandman Slim series. However, I was introduced to Khaw through The Salt Grows Heavy (review here), which I absolutely adored in all its twisted, gory glory. Therefore, I was thrilled to pick-up The Dead Take the A Train, which promised similar heart in a modern cosmic horror package.

In The Dead Take the A Train, a magical fixer named Julie must hunt down eldritch monstrosities threatening the lives of those around her. To do this, she has to go up against her shitty ex, a questionable angel, finance executives, and her own sobriety. When an old friend shows up, Julie is terrified to find herself making a retirement plan that doesn’t involve getting murdered by a demon.

The Dead Take the A Train is reminiscent of N.K. Jeminsin’s The City We Became, with both featuring queer characters tackling eldritch horror plots in New York City. In the same way, the novel was reminiscent of a gorier version of Dimension 20’s Unsleeping City actual play series. However, it clearly carves out a space for itself among the droves of cosmic-horror inspired love letters to New York City. For one, it is mostly unconcerned with borough beef, which (not to sound like a curmudgeonly Midwesterner), is so refreshing. The book also has a relatively novel way the world works, which helps it stay memorable.

Advertisement

Overall, I really liked The Dead Take the A Train. First off, the characters are fun and easy to root for. Julie is a mess in pretty much every aspect, but her bad decisions are understandable and she is charismatic. Her romance with her friend, Sarah, also serves to make Julie more likable. It helps that the villains are so easy to hate too. What’s not to hate about rich Wall Street assholes engaging in human sacrifice? Speaking of which, I liked the juxtaposition of corporate Wall Street and cosmic cultists. The actions taken were evil, but more importantly, they were just business.

The prose was flowery, but not quite as much as in The Salt Grows Heavy. So, if you struggled with Khaw’s other works for that reason this may be a much easier read. Personally, I enjoyed the prose in both. There is quite a bit of gore in The Dead Take the A Train, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming. I think you could still enjoy the book if you don’t love gore, though maybe not if you have a weak stomach.

One of the largest issues I have with The Dead Take the A Train, is the lack of clarity in power levels of the various characters. Especially since all their forms of magic work in different ways, it is sometimes unclear the level of danger present. This can also sometimes create room for plot holes. For example, Julie has a friend who is tapped into anything and everything happening online. This is an absurdly powerful ability (and is used as such). But there were moments where the main conflict probably could have been avoided or solved using that power. It also felt odd that no one else in this thriving magic community felt strongly about stopping a world-ending catastrophe. Because of this, the magic underground of NYC could feel smaller than I think was intended.

Having been familiar with Khaw’s work previously, The Dead Take the A Train clearly feels like a mix of Khaw’s style with someone else’s. This could be a boon or a hindrance, depending on your view of Khaw’s distinct prose and storytelling. Either way, if you are interested in learning more about the process or the authors, check out the interview they did for SFF Addicts Podcast!

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey on the SFF Addicts Podcast

I recommend The Dead Take the A Train, especially for those who are fans of modern urban eldritch horror. The book is an even bigger steal if you are looking for danger, gore, and queer characters. Check it out! And keep your eyes peeled for the next book in this duology. 

Advertisement

[USR 4.2]

Continue Reading

Movies n TV

Dolores Roach, A Fillet of Left Cheek

Published

on

The second season of Dolores Roach started with a bang. The first episode was dark, gristly and in a strange way whimsical. It certainly brought to light new elements of the character.

The story

We begin our story with Dolores somewhere, talking to someone. I’d like to be more specific, but that’s all we know right now.

She tells this unknown person about her flight from Empanadas Loco. How Jeremiah killed Luis. How she, whether she meant to or not, killed Jeremiah. How she then set the building on fire by blowing up the fryer in the kitchen.

Advertisement

Scared and alone, Dolores then ran for the underground. Dragging her purple massage table she runs into a hole in a subway track and finds herself in a whole different world.

Almost at once, she finds a place where someone is living. There’s a hot plate, a kettle and several packets of ramen. Even better, everything has Jeremiah’s name on it, literally written on it. Exhausted and alone, Dolores makes herself a cup of ramen and goes to sleep on her massage table.

She’s woken sometime later by a small man named Donald. He knows her because he knew Jeremiah. Dolores proceeds to tell him an abridged version of events that led up to Jeremiah’s death. And by abridged, I mean she blamed Luis for everything, throwing him under the bus so hard I’m surprised she didn’t pull something.

Donald seems inclined to help Dolores. He tells her that if anyone messes with her she should go further down, down a stairwell that he points out for her.

Dolores thanks him, then tries to go back to sleep. She’s soon woken again by a young woman collecting Jeremiah’s things.

Advertisement

While Dolores has an issue with this, she’s willing to let it go. Until that is, this woman tries to take her table. Then, Dolores does what she does best. Because one thing is for sure. Dolores is going to take care of herself.

What worked

One thing I love about this series so far is that our main character, Dolores, is crazy. And hearing her rationalize her crazy is both terrifying and fascinating. I hate/love how sweet and soothing she can be. Even with the rat that she killed in this episode. She cooed at it, encouraging it to come to her, even calling it a subway raccoon.

Then she killed it and started crying.

I also love the underground community. It’s both horrific and whimsical. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which is full of worlds most people don’t see but are all around us. It’s also horrific because there are so many people that our society has failed, that they’ve gathered underground and made their own little society. That’s not great. There just shouldn’t be that many people who need homes.

Advertisement

What didn’t work

Unfortunately, this episode did have two major flaws. And the first one is a personal pet peeve of mine.

In the last episode of season one, certain things were established. Dolores said she was carefully rationing her weed. She said she didn’t have anything to eat since coming down to the tunnels. She still had her massage table. This episode rewrote a lot of that.

Frankly, I hate when stories do that. It may or not make a difference to the story. It just strikes me as poor planning and lazy writing. This show has proven it’s capable of doing better.

All things considered, I thought this was a great start to the season. I’m invested in the story, curious about the new characters, and worried about the well-being of everyone Dolores comes in contact with. And that’s all as it should be.

Advertisement
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing, you might want to check out my latest sci-fi horror story, Nova. It’ll be released episodically on my site, Paper Beats World, starting February 5th.

Continue Reading

Trending