There are two themes that link tonight’s films, and both are messy. First of all, we’re all about the “body melt” genre with tonight’s two features. However, grocery store anarchy is another theme you’ll see in both movies as well!
We’re back with Joe Bob again this week at The Last Drive-In, exclusively on Shudder. It’s important to note, Mutants, that as of this moment Shudder has not committed to renewing The Last Drive-In for another round, so what I ask is that you take a moment to tweet @shudder with your desire for more episodes. Don’t forget the hashtag #TheLastDriveIn either!
Also, can we say tweet of the night?
The Stuff (1985)
Opening Rant: Where did all the “Man-sized” Kleenex go?
The Stuff is a 1985 satirical science fiction horror film written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen. Cohen’s name should be familiar if you’ve watched Q: the Winged Serpent, which was also in this season of The Last Drive-In. The story follows the discovery of a sweet, white substance that bubbles up from the ground and is later mass-marketed as an addictive and popular desert called “The Stuff.” A consortium of desert moguls who find themselves being pushed out by The Stuff hire a former F.B.I. agent and industrial spy by the name of David “Mo” Rutherford who discovers the danger and true nature of… The Stuff.
The film stars Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris and Paul Sorvino.
Joe Bob is not the biggest fan of The Stuff only awarding it two and a half stars. On the other hand, Darcy is a huge fan and came out at the end of the episode dressed as a “Stuff” girl, so we have that to be thankful for. Yet, Joe Bob’s praise for the film was tepid at best. Mostly, he was confused by how many other people seem to love the film so much. To be fair though, he has a point. As great as Larry Cohen is, The Stuff is not his best work by a long shot. The story is filled with contrivances and as a whole the film is more of a collective of satirical sketches rather than a singular narrative
Yet, despite the issues with the movie, as always, Joe Bob Briggs delivers. In particular, as we’d learned a great deal about Larry Cohen during the airing on Q, Joe Bob spent time on Cohen’s TV writing career. However, the most interesting contributions provided by our host were outside of Larry Cohen in particular. For example, the discussing of the career of Garrett Morris, who plays “Chocolate Chip” Charlie in a great, hilarious performance. There was also a fond recollection of Robert Osborne at the Turner Studios. What was most important was Joe Bob’s introduction of the “body melt” genre of horror, which would be continued later with the second feature of the night.
Larry Cohen is a legend, of course, but we here at Haunted MTL can’t help but agree with Joe Bob in this case, awarding the film two stars. Though the very loose nature of the plot is a huge detriment to the film overall, what is in the movie can be very memorable. In particular, the goo effects are quite technically excellent for the time. What stands out most, however, is the sudden third act appearance of Paul Sorvino playing an Alex Jones-type militia leader. Paul Sorvino absolutely chews the scenery with aplomb that, frankly, overshadows the normally magnetic Michael Moriarty and the hilarious Garrett Morris.
Best Line: “Everybody has to eat shaving cream once in a while.”
Street Trash (1987)
Opening Rant: The Joe Bob Wellness Regimen!
Based on a 10 minute short film, 1987’s Street Trash is a black body horror comedy and probably one of the grimiest movies ever made. The film was directed by J. Michael Muro, written by Roy Frumkes, and features a cast of near-literal unknowns. The film revolves around a community of New York homeless who live in a Greenpoint, Brooklyn junkyard, including a pair of brothers and a crazed Vietnam veteran who establishes a “kingdom” in the yard. Complications ensue, naturally, when an 60 year old box of “Tenafly Viper” liquor finds its way into the hands of the local vagrants and begins to melt them into brightly colored goo.
The film stars Mike Lackey, R. L. Ryan, and Vic Noto. But the real star of the show is a severed penis in the infamous “penis football” scene.
There is a lot to say about Street Trash, but Joe Bob only gave the film two stars. That being said, there are two major takeaways about the behind-the-scenes talent of the film. First, the director of the film, J. Michael Muro is best known as one of the premiere Steadicam operators in the film industry. Indeed, one of the better host segments of the night features Joe Bob’s discussion of the Steadicam work in the film which in many ways was ahead of it’s time.
A second major area of interest was Roy Frumkes’ connection to an all-time horror legend. Frumkes formerly taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York, but is best known for Document of the Dead, a documentary feature that traces the filming of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. He is also the screenwriter of all four of The Substitute films. Lastly, there was the revelation that Bryan Singer was production assistant on the film.
Plus, we can’t forget the addition of Mangled-Dick Expert Felissa Rose on the other end of the red phone line. As always, her conversations with Joe Bob are a treat.
Street Trash is not a great movie. It has a lot of the same issues that The Stuff did and Haunted MTL can only award the film two and a half stars. The film plays more like a series of shock sketches and there are some very strange choices in the narrative, such as the ending involving the mafia guys. That being said, the movie is memorable as hell with some hilarious effects and what is likely the least flattering depiction of 1980s New York ever put to film. The scene with the severed penis alone needs to be experienced for the sheer insanity of it being committed to film. The amazing effects work, particularly the toilet scene and the exploding scene are also extremely iconic.
Best Line: “Oh shit, he’s drippin’!”
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
- 1 Clipboard Check
- 2 Joe Bob Musical Interludes
- 2 Michael Moriarty Movies this Season
- 3 Smacks of the Drive-In Sign
- 4 Credit-Sequence Wise Guys
- 9 Twitter Bans for Darcy (twice in one night?!)
- 128 “Fucks” in Street Trash (waiting for someone on Twitter to verify)
- Dog Vomiting
- Child Endangering
- Head Splitting
- Pope Joking
- Real-life Stuff Eating
- Goo Leaking
- Toe Popping
- Grocery Store Raging (in both movies)
- Decorative Corpse Arrangement
- Lady Chucking
- Corpse Pissing
- Vietnam Flashbacking
- Horse, Elephant, Kangaroo, and Lion Joking
- Street Punk Fu
- Gloryhole Fu
- Door Opening Fu
- Ice Cream Truck Fu
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.
Movies n TV
The Beach House, a Film Review
The Beach House (2019) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown starring Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, and Jake Weber.
The Beach House (2020) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown. This film stars Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber, and Maryann Nagel. As of this review, this film is only available on Shudder.
Desperate to rekindle their strained love, Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) escape to a beach getaway. They soon learn to find that family friends of Randall’s father, Mitch (Jake Weber), and Jane (Maryann Nagel), also had a similar idea. After getting used to each other, a mysterious fog engulfs the town. Unfortunately, they realize too late the danger they find themselves in.
What I Like
Body horror gets under my skin, and The Beach House certainly lives up to the standard. There’s something magical about creatures terraforming your body to their preferred environment, turning humans into nothing more than conscious prisoners in their own flesh. While I wouldn’t consider this film the most traumatic or unsettling example, it utilizes wonderfully grotesque scenes.
Aside from the body horror, the film drops a few Cosmic Horror–or Lovecraftian–vibes that go together perfectly. Another favored genre of mine, this combination ensures the odds are overwhelmingly against our human leads.
Beyond the grotesque, visuals might not overwhelm but certainly succeed in their goal. Several scenes provide an intentionally tranquil experience that contrasts with the grotesques and improves their effectiveness.
In terms of performance, each actor hits their mark. While some roles require less effort, each contributes to the plot as intended. The standout performance goes to Liana Liberato’s Emily, who acts as co-lead. She simply has the most to work with and lives up to the part.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
As “body horror” should indicate, this film will hit hard for the more squeamish viewer. While horror by nature has some amount of grotesque, body horror brings that grotesque to the next level. While I don’t particularly find The Beach House hitting harder than its competition, it certainly respects its chosen genre.
What I Dislike or Considerations
A few scenic montages may hit or miss depending on your interpretation. While I have my own theories, that speculation goes beyond the scope of this review. Many of these scenes overlap more philosophical conversations and musings that may annoy or add layers. This strategy seems a common practice in Cosmic Horror, which forces characters to rationalize the irrational.
It’s hard for me to understand how secretive or known this event is supposed to be in the film’s world. Individuals know something outside of the town, with evidence implying governmental knowledge. This information creates a contrivance–perhaps, even a plot hole–because the characters had to reach this isolated town without any opposition.
One of the visuals didn’t exactly grab me. While I won’t go into too much detail, an effect looked too visually similar to a common animal that barely survives rain. It’s hard to be threatened by that. It also doesn’t exactly match up with some of the other visuals. Even the creatures that look similar to it still look different enough to provide a more alien assumption.
There are moments when the infected chase our main characters by crawling at them. While the context works, with injured characters helping to sell them, I can’t help but find these scenes amusing as opposed to frightening. Yes, it’s certainly visually different from the plethora of zombies out there, but it’s also less frightening than zombies that leisurely walk to their targets.
The Beach House combines cosmic and body horror to create an uncomfortable film that tests its characters. For those who enjoy these genres, it will certainly entertain you, but I doubt it will frighten you. I imagine the mood to watch it again might strike me, but I’m not entirely certain it will stand the test of time. (3 / 5)
If this movie suits your fancy and you want more, Honeymoon seems an appropriate recommendation.
Movies n TV
Every Secret Thing, a Film Review
Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, based on Laura Lippman’s novel.
Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener. This R-rated film stars Diane Lane, Danielle Macdonald, Dakota Fanning, and Elizabeth Banks. Based on Laura Lippman’s novel of the same name, the film adaptation is accessible through MAX and DirecTV.
When a little girl goes missing, Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) spirals into an all too familiar tale. As pressure mounts, Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) and Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) become the leading suspects. The strained frenemies unravel under the attention and reminders of their shared past.
What I Like
The film unravels in a non-chronological structure but makes it easy for the viewer to follow. It helps that the age difference clearly divides the younger actors, who change actors. One casting choice resembles their older counterpart, and the acting reflects a strong direction for their shared role.
Unreliable narration remains expertly communicated with scenes that change perspectives depending on whose perspective we view them from. This choice adds a reason to view the film twice, providing extra ambiguity for some of these events.
The camera gets up close and personal to an uncomfortable degree, which almost certainly presses the actors’ performances. This choice places the viewer in the character’s perspective and limits us from others’ perspectives to add extra credence to these biases.
Every Secret Thing provides a spiraling mystery that unravels with several twists and turns. Assuming the novel provided the outline, this film executes these points and keeps a consistently engaging experience throughout the runtime.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Child abuse and neglect remain the central plot points of Every Secret Thing. Little of this abuse appears in scenes, but there is no escaping the danger children are in throughout the film.
Self-harm and suicide are shown throughout the film (once in the case of suicide) through one specific character. It isn’t glorified or romanticized nor addressed with particular sensitivity. For those sensitive to these subjects, it might be triggering.
Racism, the assumed motive for the bi-racial victims, plays a small role in the film’s narrative. However, character motives remain more complex, but going further spoils some elements. This film decision does create the reality that bi-racial children are the victims of child neglect and abuse in the film with little additional context. It does invite uncomfortable speculation, but speculation it would be.
Sexual assault is another concern for viewers, specifically statutory rape. This issue seems particularly mismanaged, considering the survivor remains an antagonist. One can be both survivor of assault and an antagonist of a film without needing to discredit the assault. While little appears of this issue, and the manipulation angle can indicate a perspective shift, it’s hard to refute how the film wants to represent this attack.
What I Dislike
Loosely tied to the above point, one character seems mentally off and purposely so. This point doesn’t inherently create an issue, but there seems to be a choice to make this character a mastermind. Perhaps this is better addressed in the book, but the execution is far from perfect here.
A newspaper montage reveals essential information which feels oddly misplaced. Practically the entire setup for the film appears through this montage, which creates the necessity to read these headlines in the minimal time given.
As a horror, nothing but the events are haunting. Children being abused or kidnapped always haunts, but the terror of this remains secondary to the mystery. While the mystery is nice, this film won’t particularly scare the seasoned horror fan.
Every Secret Thing unravels a mystery of opportunism, selfishness, and deception. While the movie won’t haunt the viewer, it certainly unravels a mystery that shocks them. The nuanced and deceptive characters add a layer of engagement that creates a unique experience, but I doubt this movie will linger in my mind.
(2.5 / 5)
Movies n TV
Quid Pro Woe
We’ve now reached episode six of Tim Burton’s Wednesday. And after the last episode, this one did not disappoint.
We start with Wednesday attempting to contact Goody Addams. Last episode, if you’ll recall, Morticia explained the difference between a psychic dove and a raven. Since Goody Addams was the last raven psychic in the family line, it’s got to be her that trains Wednesday.
But her seance is a failure, and Wednesday is interrupted by a magazine note shoved under the door. It says to meet someone at a crypt for answers.
When she gets there, it turns out that her friends have put together a surprise birthday party for her. Before she can cut the cake, however, she has a vision.
Goody Addams tells her that she must find a specific gate. After some investigation, Wednesday discovers it’s the gate to the old Gates house.
Wednesday goes to investigate, but she isn’t the only one. She is nearly discovered by Mayor Walker. He is also investigating the Gates family, even though they’re all reported to be dead. He leaves a message for Sheriff Galpin and is almost immediately run over by a car.
This incident is enough to get Wednesday’s town villages revoked. Though this seems like an empty punishment since the whole school is on lockdown. Someone burned Fire Will Rain on their front lawn.
Wednesday isn’t one for believing the rules apply to her. She has it in her head that she’s meant to save Nevermore Academy, probably from whatever descendent of Crackstone who’s still around. So she has no problem lying to Enid and Tyler and convincing them to help her sneak off campus and explore the Gates house further.
This, of course, is an incredibly informative trip. The kids find a hidden altar to Crackstone, as well as the missing body parts from the monster’s victims. They also find evidence that someone’s been staying in the house. Someone who’s staying in what looks like a little girl’s room.
Before they can find anything more, the monster finds them. They barely escape, and go to the sheriff with what they find.
Of course, the house has been cleared out by the time Sheriff Galpin arrives. Furious that his son was almost killed, he tells Wednesday to stay away from him.
Because that always works, right?
Galpin isn’t the only one angry. Enid is fed up with the way Wednesday has been treating her. And so she leaves their room to bunk with someone else, leaving Wednesday alone.
This episode was well done. The discoveries at the house were exciting, and I’m almost sure I know who’s behind the murders at this point. Overall, this was a good ramp-up to the season finale.
Finally, this episode did something I was worried just wasn’t going to happen. And for that alone, it deserves praise.
Wednesday has been incredibly selfish and inconsiderate since the first episode. She’s been rude and demanding towards Thing. She’s ignored her friends’ needs and emotions while insisting they put themselves in danger for her investigation. She has respected no one’s boundaries, even while other people have at least tried to respect hers.
And now, it’s finally come back to bite her. All of the people who have been doing their best to show her kindness and support are finally done with her bullshit.
Yes, this is a good thing! Characters are best when they’re allowed to learn and grow. When they don’t come to us flawless. When they mess up and learn from it. Especially for a show aimed at kids, this is essential.
If you’d asked me at the beginning of the season if this character was going to experience honest character growth, I’d have assured you it would never happen. Much to my surprise, it’s happening. I hope that Wednesday is going to come out of this a better person. With two episodes left in the season, there’s plenty of time for that. (4 / 5)