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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

American Horror Story Delicate, Multiply Thy Pain

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American Horror Story Delicate began last night, Killer Queens. And it was, well, a complicated episode. This makes sense because this season is about a complicated topic.

Just in case you didn’t know, this whole season is based on the novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. 

The Story

Anna Victoria Alcott is an actress who just got her big break. She was in a horror movie that no one can stop talking about.

Emma Roberts in American Horror Story Delicate

Except Anna herself. Because this career success couldn’t have come at a worse time. She and her husband Dex are in the middle of the difficult IVF process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and painful. Ironically, so is trying to win an Oscar.

But Anna has other things to worry about. Someone is messing with her. Several women are watching her in public. Worse, someone appears to be getting into her home, slashing notes she leaves for Dex, and removing her vital IVF medication from the fridge so it spoils. Her calendar is hacked to move her doctor appointments around so she misses them. Worst of all, someone broke into her home and crawled into bed with her.

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Of course, no one takes any of these concerns seriously. Her agent, Siobhan, is focusing on getting her an Oscar. Her husband, Dex, doesn’t seem to give a shit about her except for when it comes to having a baby. He’s frequently dismissive of her concerns and only seems to want her around when it’s convenient for him. He goes so far as to kick her out of his show opening because she’s on edge.

You know, maybe because she’s clearly being stalked by someone who is trying to keep her from having a baby. 

What worked

AHS Asylum had a lot of dark and important things to say about mental health care in America. AHS Coven had a lot of dark and important things to say about race and gender relationships.

Last season, AHS NYC wasn’t so subtle. Yes, there was a killer. But the real historical horror of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s was the focus of the season. And that worked very well.

This season, the story is clearly about female body autonomy. Anna is a woman struggling with so many issues that modern women face. The balance between our careers and our families. Feeling like growing old is the most unforgivable thing a woman can do. And of course, the fact that our bodies often feel like they don’t belong to us. 

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I was also pleased to see some AHS alumni. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Hill was delightful. Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd will be involved soon, and they never bring anything less than their A-game.

This episode also did something I never thought could happen. It managed to scare me with a calendar notification. That was a special moment for me as a horror fan and calendar-obsessed person.

What didn’t work

Here are some things I didn’t love. First off, the main character Anna is a pushover. She can’t say no to Dex, Talia, Dr. Hill, or Siobhan. No one gets a no from this woman!

Anna didn’t act like that in the book. She stood up to everyone all the time, it was great. She wasn’t getting any support, but she was advocating for herself! That was such an important part of her character, and I’m sad to see that she’s lost that here. 

I also hate the changes made to Siobhan and Talia. Now, please understand that this isn’t me complaining that the book was different. That’s not my point. Siobhan was a kind, loving woman who supported her best friend even while dying of cancer. Talia was a smart, business-oriented woman who was still kind. She was trying to start a family with her transgender husband, and bonded with Anna over their IVF journeys. These were vital characters in the story.

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Juliana Canfield in American Horror Story Delicate

I feel like they’ve been railroaded. 

All that being said, this was a decent start to AHS Delicate. It’s not the best start of a season we’ve had. But it’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season is going to bring.  4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Wheel of Time, Strangers and Friends

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Episode two of Wheel of Time, widened the divide between the show and the books. Things are happening out of order, people are acting out of character. Whether this is to the detriment of the show, however, has yet to be determined. 

The story

One character missing from episode one was Rand. You know, our main character. But we finally catch up with him now. 

He’s living in a city with a woman named Selene. They don’t have what I’d call a super healthy relationship. She spends a bit too much time talking about her ex. 

Yes, for those of you who didn’t read the books, this is going to be important.

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Rand is also working at an insane asylum. He’s kind and patent with his charges, but not all of his fellow caregivers are. 

Josha Stradowski in The Wheel of Time

Meanwhile, Lan and Moiraine are recovering form their Fade attack from last episode. Rather than taking the time to actually heal, Moiraine decides to head out to find Rand. Her team comes with her, which seems to really bother her. 

While that little hissy fit is taking place, Nynaeve is causing issues. Not by anything she’s doing, but by what she’s not doing. As none of the regular novice teacher have been able to get her to use the One Power, Liandrin offers to try. No one, including me, is thrilled with this. But, the Aes Sedai are desperate. They know that The Dark One is around, and they need Nynaeve to be ready. So, they let the person who’s driven other students to their deaths and actively committed multiple hate crimes take over. 

What could go wrong?

What worked

The special effects in this episode were really well done. I especially liked the dead fade nailed to the wall.

I was also pleased with the introduction of Elayne. Ceara Coveney is playing her, and doing a fine job. She’s warm, kind and sweet. I am thrilled that she’s around. 

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One of the greatest things about Wheel of Time is the friendships between the characters. Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve and Egwene legitimately care about each other. Elayne seems to care for Egwene right away. I really love that. 

What didn’t work

One thing that bothered me in this episode, and frankly the last episode, was Liandrin keeping Mat in prison. I feel like this wasn’t adequately explained. Why does she have him? How did she trap him? What in the hell is she trying to get from him? Perhaps I simply missed something, and please let me know in the comments if this is the case. But it feels like some poor writing to me. 

I also don’t love how Moiraine is portrayed in this episode. Really, in this season so far.

I get that she’s never exactly been a warm person. She’s not personable, open, or kind. Some (most) fans of the book would likely agree that she’s kind of a bitch.

But she’s not a bitch for no reason. She certainly isn’t the sort to lash out at the people who love her because she’s in pain. And that’s what she’s doing through this episode. She’s taking her pain out on Lan. And that’s just out of character for her. 

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Dónal Finn in The Wheel of Time.

It feels very much like a lot is being skipped over from the Wheel of Time books. But, so far at least, I don’t feel like anything vital has been missed. It feels more like the story is being streamlined. 

Yes, I understand how this might go horribly wrong. I think we’ve all seen that. But as of right now, the changes make sense for the switch in mediums. 

Now, let’s see if it stays that way. 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre: Francois and The Unicorn Review

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Gringo Fantastico is a troubled luchador presenting Troma films from the safety of a derelict recreation center nestled in chaotic Tromaville. He is tortured by the French-Canadian Demon Piñata Francois who trash talks and hurls abuse throughout the episodes. This week’s special guest is Jonah Ray Rodrigues. New episodes release on the first of each month on Troma NOW.

The poster for episode 2 of Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre featuring special guest Jonah Ray Rodrigues.
Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre: Francois and the Unicorn featuring Jonah Ray

Roll the Tape!

Welcome back to Tromaville for Chapter Dos of Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre! Gringo Fantastico (Nate Turnpaugh) returns to the screen with guest Jonah Ray (current host of Mystery Science Theater 3000) to proudly host Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). Turnpaugh espouses his love for the movie in our most recent interview and credits his friends with helping him to discover it. “They kept trying to get me to watch it, and one day I finally did.”

On a totally unrelated note, the Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines libel as “a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression.” For no reason at all, I choose to immediately correct the record and inform you that Fantastico actually hosts Herb Freed’s Graduation Day (1981).

A poster for Graduation Day. It reads "There are 200 seniors at Midvale High. And Seven days 'til graduation. The class of '81 is running out of time."

It shows a woman's face in a mirror, with a halberd shattering it.
A poster for Graduation Day (1981)

Turning Heel

We once again begin with grainy VHS footage of an interview from the luchador’s past. Much like the previous episode, Fantastico becomes upset at the prodding questions being asked of him. As this ongoing narrative continues to build, it is becoming obvious Fantastico is coming close to a breaking point.

These segments, while short, work to highlight Turnpaugh’s screenwriting ability. They feel authentic and demonstrate a solid understanding of wrestling culture. Crafting a compelling story can be difficult when it is broken into parts and spread across significant time. However, he creates bite-sized pieces of lore that manage to both satisfy and leave the audience craving more.

A Piñata by Any Other Name

Before the movie can start, Fantastico has to deal with the usual shenanigans from Francois. When it is time to bring out Jonah Ray for his interview from the Satellite of Love, Francois outright refuses. The interview must come at the cost of Fantastico’s soul. Fearing for the worst but desperate to continue the episode, Fantastico agrees to a one-day-only loan of his soul.

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Enter Francine. She’s a sassy yet loving unicorn who only wants the best for Fantastico. She is complimentary and eager to help, offering her kind words in a sugary sweet voice. For all intents and purposes, she is the opposite of Francois. And yet, she is Francois. At least, she is Francois after consuming Fantastico’s soul.

The unicorn pinata Francine and Fantastico sit in the rec center together.
Francine and Fantastico

Inner Demons

Turnpaugh continues the ongoing theme of addressing his PTSD within the episode. He explains it as, “the whole concept of self-worth with the PTSD and things like that because that is a problem that I’ve experienced. When people are constantly negative towards you and you constantly have to defend yourself and you constantly be on edge and finally something happens and you don’t have to do that anymore. But you’re so guarded when that happens that you don’t know how to act.”

Throughout the episode, Fantastico chafes against Francine’s presence. He is unsure of what to do when someone speaks affectionately to him after suffering Francois for so long. The only punishments she doles out are rainbows that make you laugh. It’s unsettling and a little uncomfortable and is exactly what working to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk feels like.

The Satellite of Love

The interview segments with Jonah Ray feel like listening to old friends banter. Turnpaugh tells me he first met Ray at the Malco Drive-In Theater last year where they both attended Joe Bob’s Jamboree. He admits to being caught off guard when Ray knew who he was and was familiar with his work.

Jonah Ray is shown on the screen of an old television for the interview segments.
Jonah Ray beaming in on the Satellite of Love

Fame and the mental games it causes one to play ends up becoming a large part of the interview. When asked by Fantastico when he felt like he had made it, Jonah Ray responds “I don’t think there is a there, there.” He likens the fame game to climbing a ladder. “You’re […] looking up […] but you rarely look back down.”

One of the best portions of the interview is when Jonah Ray goes full meta and begins roasting the ego necessary to take on the role of a media host. It’s hard not to laugh when you remember this is coming from the mouth of one host straight into the ear of another. It is important to note that both men are playing characters as hosts, which according to Ray changes the dynamic.

New Place, Same Thing

Jonah Ray also spends time talking about the difference in production having moved away from Netflix and onto Gizmoplex. He says it has been a lifelong dream to host MST3K and the move has allowed him space to better bring his vision of hosting to the screen. Netflix, while important in bringing MST3K back, seems to have sucked some of the soul out of the show. He believes moving to Gizmoplex helps with delivering the level of quality fans expect.

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Turnpaugh is familiar with format shifts, having moved his show from YouTube onto Troma Now. I ask how this has changed things in terms of production and he says while he has never felt more supported, he has started placing more pressure on himself. “The pressure is never from Troma.” Lloyd Kaufman clearly believes in the show, as he’s recently started giving it top-billing on the site. 

Back to Basics

The end of the episode brings back an extremely confused Francois. It seems consuming Fantastico’s soul didn’t go exactly as planned. Turnpaugh promises that audiences have not seen the last of Francine and that some answers may be coming sooner rather than later. You’ll just have to tune in next month to see what insanity happens next in Tromaville.

Francois sits in his ripped up picnic basket.
Francois the Demon Piñata

My rating for the episode: 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Follow @realfantastico on the platform formerly known as Twitter to join in with the rest of the Fantasticats as they live-tweet each episode the Friday after release. Episode three features special guests Toby Poser, John Adams and Lulu Adams. 

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