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Hello Mutants, and welcome back to the weekly recap of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. Remember that you can catch the double feature on Fridays at 6pm PST only on Shudder.

So, what did Joe Bob have in store for us this week? Well, how about perhaps the oddest pairing of films yet? It’s metal vs. classical this time, and yet chainsaws are always invited to the party.

DEATHGASM (2015)

Opening Rant: Tesla cars (Joe Bob is not a fan)

DEATHGASM is a 2015 New Zealand horror comedy film about a teenage metal band that summons a demonic entity by playing ancient sheet music. The film is the directorial debut of special effects artist and rotoscope artist Jason Lei Howden. The film stars Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, and Daniel Cresswell. What makes the film stand out in particular is the soundtrack, featuring the likes of Emperor, Axeslasher, Nuslaughter, Beast Wars and other great metal bands.

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Joe Bob was particularly glowing in his praise for DEATHGASM. The film, directed by Jason Lei Howden, earned 4 stars. There was a great deal of discussion on Joe Bob’s part regarding the metal soundtrack and the film culture of New Zealand, where the movie originates. In particular, the film was part of a New Zealand horror competition where filmmakers were able to pitch horror films and receive government money to film their projects. Joe Bob did address some of the similarities between DEATHGASM and Braindead, of course, while mentioning several of the other major New Zealand horror core films. Basically, all the other New Zealand horror core films as Joe Bob points out correctly that… there simply are not that many outside the ones we all know.

Yet, the most interesting insights Joe Bob provided in the episode were the parallels between DEATHGASM and 1983’s Trick or Treat. Namely how much DEATHGASM seems to borrow from and reference that classic film. Naturally, being a post-2000s New Zealand film, there was mention of the whole Hobbit-dominated production industry down there, particularly in that Howden worked on some of those very films.

This was a solid film and really had some insane, adrenaline-pumping energy that would get any horror fan excited. However, as good as it was, the film was just a bit too self-aware. Self-awareness is not an inherent issue, of course, as many great films have it, but in the case of DEATHGASM there are moments where the film’s cleverness cannot mask some issues with plotting. Just as Joe Bob points out during one of the breaks, it takes heavy plot to get the two leads to the record shop midway through the film. This self-awareness is also worn too easily on the sleeve, which tends to be a trend in a lot of 2010s horror movies and horror comedies. The film is hilarious as hell though and it has a very dry sense of humor that one can expect from New Zealand. Additionally, the gore is absolutely top-notch. Plus, it has demon zombies getting messed the fuck up by sex toys. Haunted MTL gives DEATHGASM 3 and 1/2 stars.

Best Line: “You’re pretty good at whacking those off, bro.”

Not the strangest scene in the movie, but still pretty up there.

The Changeling (1980)

Opening Rant: Craft whiskey (Joe Bob is not a fan)

The second film of the night couldn’t have been more differently in tone and pace from DEATHGASM. The Changeling is a 1980 Canadian psychological horror film about a haunted house. The story follows a grieving composer who, after the loss of his family, moves into a 30 room mansion to work on his music. Naturally, the man finds out he is not alone, and that something from the other side is steering him toward a chilling mystery. The film was directed by journeyman/auteur Peter Medak and stars George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas, and John Colicos. Widely considered a slow-burn experience, The Changeling is a cult classic, but it also has a reputation of having pretentious fans. Naturally, this is something to be addressed in The Last Drive-In.

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Joe Bob’s assessment of The Changeling puts the film below DEATHGASM at a rating of 3 and 1/2 stars. Before fans of The Changeling get unnecessarily worked up, the film is definitely not drive-in fare and Joe Bob’s rating is very generous given then huge lack of blood and boobs that make up the usual diet of the drive-in mutant. Therein lies the challenge of showing a classic, moody ghost story in the drive-in setting. The Changeling is an excellently done film, as JBB indicates during the run-time, but it is so incredibly different from any of the previous films on the Shudder marathon, with the single exception of The Legend of Boggy Creek.

With that being said, watching such a movie with Joe Bob Briggs himself to guide us is a rare treat. Joe Bob’s encyclopedic knowledge of film, particularly when discussing the incredible breadth of work of Peter Medak, is invaluable. Some of JBB’s best bits in the episode, however, revolve around veteran actors George C. Scott (who was a real piece of work) and Melvyn Douglass. Perhaps most relevant to Haunted MTL, however, was Joe Bob’s assessment of Canada itself in relation to the U.S. film industry, as “Canada is like out sweet little brother” and acknowledging the role of “Canadian funny money” during film production in the 70s and 80s.

The best moment of the night, however, is Joe Bob’s take down of the pretensions of those in the horror fandom who suggest that films that are inherently lesser if they rely on a lot of special effects. This is naturally preposterous as The Changeling is loaded with special effects, but particularly this is more getting at a division of the suspense vs. shock distinction in horror. As JBB pontificates, it is all art, it is just different tools being used. You wouldn’t criticize a pointillist for not making their painting out of clay, after all.

I am going to get a bit personal here. In these recaps I try to avoid putting myself into the experience too much, but with The Changeling, one of my all time favorite horror films, I cannot help it. The Changeling is an important film for me in my development as a fan of horror and it stands out to me as one of the most effective and downright creepiest ghost stories ever made. That being said, the film is not without faults, but the same can be said about any film shown on The Last Drive-In. What the presence of The Changeling at The Last Drive-In means to me is a sort of validation that I am not the only one who admires this strange and very basic, slow-burn ghost story. I don’t feel the film was best serviced in a pairing with DEATHGASM, but the experience of the tonal whiplash between the two definitely added something I cannot quite identify… but I like it. The Changeling is a film I fully intend to write about separately in the future here at Haunted MTL, so for now let’s just leave with this assessment of the film: it is a 4 star movie.

Best Line: “That house is not fit to live it. No one’s been able to live in it. It doesn’t want people.”

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The greatest séance scene in film history

Haunted MTL’s Drive-In Totals

  • 1 blue shirt with white trim
  • 1 oval bolo tie with turquoise stone
  • 1 Darcy Cosplay (Medina from DEATHGASM)
  • 1 name drop of another Haunted MTL favorite (1981’s Ghost Story)
  • 2 Joe Bob Fact Checking Notices
    • It’s “Gimli,” Joe Bob, not “Grimli”
    • Coal carts exist independently from trains. How else do you get coal from the train to the rest of the town?
  • 2 Plot-relevant chainsaws
  • 2 Power Rangers mentions
  • 3 Twitter bans for Darcy (for being a tweet machine during the stream)
  • 3 Shakespeare in the park references so far (at least 1 every week so far)
  • 5 improvised sex toy weapons
  • Dry Kiwi Humor Fu
  • Sword Jerking Fu
  • Joe Bob Spoils Ending Fu
  • Skeptic Fu (take that “based on a true story” gimmicks)
  • Marriage Counseling Joke Fu
  • Fast Car Joke Fu
  • Felissa Rose Dick Consultation Fu

#cocktopus

As always, please share your thoughts with us about The Last Drive-In. Also, please check out our other great content here at Haunted MTL.

Let’s close out with Joe Bob’s wonderful assessment of Joseph, the spirit at the center of The Changeling: “The ghost takes no fucking prisoners in this film.”

Movies n TV

A House on the Bayou, A Film Review

A House on the Bayou is a 2021 fabulistic horror film written and directed by Alex McAulay, starring Angela Sarafyan and Paul Schneider.

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A House on the Bayou is a 2021 fabulistic horror film written and directed by Alex McAulay. This unrated film includes the talent of Angela Sarafyan, Paul Schneider, and Jacob Lofland. Currently, the film is available to DirecTV, MGM Plus, fuboTV, and Paramount Plus.

Despite her husband’s infidelity, Jessica Chambers (Angela Sarafyan) wants to make things work on her terms. John Chambers (Paul Schneider) seems keen on building back that trust. However, during their family getaway meant to mend the relationship, they are a long way from okay. Unfortunately for them, their bayou seems to bring unwanted locals who grow more malicious and push them further. Yet, the graver the situation, the more suspicious the circumstances.

Jacob Lofland as Isaac
Jacob Lofland as Isaac

What I Like

As a sucker for modern fables, I enjoy the concept of a mysterious bayou as a setting. Bayou themselves seem mystical, barring the mosquitos. While I feel like there could be more, considering the natural environment, it creates some of that mystical allure.

Jacob Lofland’s Isaac makes for an interesting antagonist, adding layers of mystery that give the actor a lot to work with. Adding to the performances are Angela Sarafyan and Paul Schneider themselves, who play off each other and have interesting arcs.

Paul Schneider’s John, specifically, plays a manipulative and passive-aggressive husband admirably–if such a word is appropriate. The most interesting scenes are how he effortlessly poisons their daughter against the mother. It can be so subtle I thought it was unintentional, but it is certainly intentional.

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Girl with a shotgun with the title "A House on the Bayou" atop the image
Lia McHugh as Anna Chambers

Tired Tropes or Trigger Warnings

I indicated that John is manipulative. While it makes for an interesting character, those with similarly toxic relationships under their belt should keep this in mind.

While Lia McHugh plays her role to perfection as the daughter, Anna Chambers, she really has little to work with. The character is little more than a moody teen.

Jessica Chamber looking worried
Angela Sarafyan as Jessica Chamber

What I Dislike

A House on the Bayou doesn’t attempt to impress you with any special effects or mysticism, which is fine in theory. However, the film could have used more mysticism to add to the point. I imagine this may stem from a low budget, but there are ways to add mystery and atmosphere on even a micro-budget film.

A few poorly designed scenes lacked depth or context, missing those key elements to make sense.

The fable itself could have used more build-up. A House on the Bayou opts for explaining everything at the end, which never feels satisfying. The story becomes shallower because of this decision, where dropping hints and withholding information remains a more effective strategy. The tired line of “show, don’t tell” comes to mind.

The chemistry, or lack thereof, between Lia McHugh and Jacob Lofland’s characters makes their subplot vastly underwhelming. I don’t blame this on the performance but on the writing and perhaps Anna Chambers’ already underwritten character.

As a horror film, A House on the Bayou is lacking. While it has its moments, you will likely struggle to flinch at the scenes. I suppose it strives to unsettle you with the concept, but this lacks that effective execution that makes something like Midsommar so revered.

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Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

A House on the Bayou has an interesting concept but lacks the resources to commit to anything exceptional. There are other potential fabulistic horrors to choose from. However, with a 1-hour and 28-minute runtime, the film knew the story it told and directed it without needlessly dragging on. In fact, it might have needed to add a little more for those earlier-mentioned scenes. The selling point would likely be Paul Schneider’s performance, though most performances are strong enough. It is an overall functioning film with little more to add than that.
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

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The Invitation, A Film Review

The Invitation is a 2022 horror thriller directed by Jessica M. Thompson and written by Blair Butler, starring Nathalie Emmanual.

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The Invitation is a 2022 horror thriller directed by Jessica M. Thompson and written by Blair Butler. This PG-13-rated film includes the talents of Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, and Stephanie Cornelissen. As of the time of this review, it is available for free to Netflix subscribers.

Growing up in the system, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) tries to find relatives through the program findyourself. She finds success through a distant cousin who is more than eager to meet her. With the promise of more family desperate to meet her, this cousin (Hugh Skinner) convinces her to visit this family in England to attend a wedding. When a Lord named De Ville (Thomas Doherty) becomes smitten by her, life begins to look up. But she learns her host, this estranged family, and even De Ville have ulterior motives.

Woman in red dress, two women holding her next to them and a third lingering in the shadows behind them
Stephanie Cornelissen as Viktoria, Nathalie Emmanual as Evie, Alana Boden as Lucy with Thomas Doherty’s De Ville behind them

What I Like

Nathalie Emmanuel and Thomas Doherty have good chemistry. It may not be exceptional, but De Ville charms with a confidence that Thomas Doherty hardly needs. With the fact that he’s a lord, it’s easy to see why the passion develops.

Another key performance is Stephanie Corneliussen’s Viktoria, who plays a towering and intimidating figure. Her natural friction with Evie makes her an interesting creative foil to the lead. I might even say this friction remains the selling point for me.

One final praise in chemistry is the friendship between Evie and Courtney Taylor’s Grace. If Viktoria plays the foil, Grace plays the voice of reason. The actresses work well off each other and make me wish Taylor’s role was a bit bigger.

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However, one of the best performances comes from Sean Pertwee’s Renfield, who is so needlessly aggressive that it almost borders comical. To me, it’s more impressive that this performance still lingers and feels genuinely threatening. The nature of the role can easily fall into that camp, but Sean Pertwee’s calm exterior makes him seem like a man ready to bash a skull into a wall.

There are some surprisingly good scares. While they aren’t exactly haunting, it sets up the expendable view the elite families have for the working class around them. The horror remains the strongest in the beginning.

Thomas Doherty smiles with smug confidence
Thomas Doherty as De Ville

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

An animal does die in The Invitation, for those of thus who don’t mind the deaths of people but do mind the death of birds. It’s sudden and feels almost unnecessary. I personally don’t have a trigger for it, but I recognize it as a common dealbreaker. From a story perspective, I wanted more context or purpose.

A specific name, no spoilers, reads like a first draft from the script. It shouldn’t take too long to figure out why. I find this goes into a larger problem of predictability. There aren’t many surprises you don’t see coming a mile away.

Woman in a red dress with a small smile
Nathalie Emmanual as Evie

What I Dislike

Let’s start with that name. I wasn’t expecting to be surprised, the trailer reveals enough, but it’s a bit on the nose. The reference is understandable, but The Invitation remains a reimagining. I don’t see why there couldn’t be an additional update. Or maybe use the default name and own the reference?

As mentioned, the film has its moments but don’t expect true horror, that tasty dose of terror. The Invitation plays it safe, which feels like a waste of talent. I don’t know what was behind the scenes, but I almost wish I didn’t enjoy the casting so much with how basic the execution remains.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

While I haven’t lingered on a plethora of negatives, it’s where it lacks creativity that brings the viewing down. The Invitation has many enjoyable elements, but together it falls flat. If the premise sounds interesting to you or the cast lures you in, The Invitation will satisfy your viewing pleasure. But I feel like there could have been a greater movie buried within, which always makes it less satisfying. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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2023’s ‘Summoning Sylvia’ is a Faboolous New Film

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I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I was asked if I wanted to cover the new “LGBTQ horror” film, SUMMONING SYLVIA from director/writer duo, Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse.

New LGBTQ horror can feel either very outrageous and full-on camp like Death Drop Gorgeous, Ticked Off Tr*****s With Knives, or You’re Killing Me.

Or they can be very cerebral and dramatic like Raw, Lyle, and Bit.

So, which route would SUMMONING SYLVIA take?

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four silly guys
I think we all know

Summoning Sylvia’s Plot:

It’s the bachelor weekend for Larry (Travis Coles) and his three best friends (Frankie Grande, Troy Iwata, and Noah J. Ricketts) have booked an entire weekend to spend together in a historic house. They’re set on getting glam, party games, drinking appletinis, eating fancy snacks, and the pièce de rĂ©sistance — a sĂ©ance to summon Sylvia (Veanne Cox), the murdering mother and resident ghost.

However, what they didn’t plan on was Larry’s new brother-in-law (Nicholas Logan) to crash the party and open up new doors to dark pasts…

spooky ghosts in Summoning Sylvia

Thoughts:

I was expecting to enjoy this movie enough. Nothing too much, nothing too little.

With a lot of LGBTQ horror comedies, they typically have the same jokes and punchlines. And as much as I love big dick jokes and bottoming jokes as much as anyone, but it gets to be…a lot. It gets stale. It gets boring.

And worse, inauthentic to the characters and plot.

one of the characters screaming

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, this caters to a very specific type of gay subculture, but it was authentic in its celebration. When Larry wipes off his eye makeup, knowing that his very straight and close-minded new brother-in-law is coming, it’s heartbreaking. It’s watching him wash a piece of his happiness away in a very quiet and sad moment. We understand his character completely in this small and subtle gesture.

The cinematographer (Matthew Roveto) did a fantastic job at focusing in on Larry throughout the film, reminding us that Larry is the focal point, regardless of the story. This was HIS story, even with other shenanigans happening.

And I’m really shocked to find out that Travis Coles hasn’t done that much in front of the camera yet, spending most of his experience as a crew member. His range and rawness are there throughout the film. As Larry, he was playful, nurturing, and self-conscious. For a silly-billy movie about ghosts and gays, he effortless portrayed a lot of depth.

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And in fact, the whole cast has real magnetism and cohesiveness that I often find lacking in many horror movies. It’s the common trope of “friends find a haunted house”, with an emphasis on “haunted house” but very little thought on the “friends” part.

The warmth that the characters had, even the catty diva Nico (Frankie Grande), was convincing and magnetic. The cast gelled well together and were believable as friends who sass each other and maybe (like many queer circles) have little crushes. The relationships in Summoning Sylvia were genuine and charming.

a party game scene where Nico is wearing a sticky note on his forehead that he can't read that says 'Mariah Carey's gay intern'

Also, the editing (Sara Corrigan) with the ghosts in the past and the characters in the present was incredible and stylized. The editing was so effective and precise, it delighted me every time I saw it.

The costuming and sets were so much fun and showed the juxtaposition between the ghosts and the guys. From dark and drab to light and…well…gay. Each character had his own design and brand, which was easy to pick up. All of them were dressed beautifully and Sylvia was foreboding and gothic. Pure perfection.

The only thing that I had a bit of a hard time with was…

Brainroll Juice : The Ending of Summoning Sylvia

The ending was a bit messy. Everything was kind of happening all at once, like a sloppy Joe sandwich coming out at all ends.

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And we haven’t really talked about Harrison.

Oh, Harrison.

Harrison with a knife

So, I know. I get it. People are awful. They get weirded out by things they don’t understand even to this day. And there’s a suspicion that some of what Harrison says and does in this movie are because he’s under the possession of Sylvia.

And regardless of that or not, I was really hoping that there would be another twist. Because Nicholas Logan’s acting isn’t bad. It’s good as a stereotypical cis-het white male as the villain. And the ending is the same as many other endings with the same, er, beats (I’m trying hard not to give this away). And while I applaud Larry for standing up to him, I wish there had just been a different twist.

It’s a safe ending. It’s a trope ending.

And that’s not necessarily bad, but I just wanted it to veer into new and fresh territory. I wanted more from the ending.

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Now, this was a short movie, and perhaps there was a longer ending, who knows. I would have loved a little more time to clean up the sloppy Joe mess and tie things up more gracefully, but obviously that wasn’t in the cards.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t ruin the movie, it just doesn’t hit as strong as the rest of it.

Bottomline:

Are you looking for a fun gaycation with a spooky house and an awkward new addition to the family? Look no further. SUMMONING SYLVIA is funny, charming, and will lift your spirits. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Release Information:

The Horror Collective is excited to announce the North American theatrical and TVOD release of their LGBTQ horror comedy Summoning Sylvia. Written and directed by Wesley Taylor (Smash, The Spongebob Musical) and Alex Wyse (Marvel’s Iron Fist, soon to join Broadway’s Good Night, Oscar), the hair-raising romp tells the story of a gay bachelor party that takes a spooky turn when sinister spirits are suddenly summoned. 

The Horror Collective will release Summoning Sylvia in theaters nationwide March 31, 2023 and on Cable VOD and Digital HD April 7, 2023.

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