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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?

https://twitter.com/hpkomic/status/1129572715784839168

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.

Review

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.

Hey… where’s the cream filling?!

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.

Review

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.

Not the oddest thing you’ll see in the movie.

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
  • #junkyaardvarking
  • 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.

I’ll take twenty cartons.

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

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Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”

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Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Dahmer, Silenced

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Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Mandrake, a Film Review

Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey, starring Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty.

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Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey. This film boasts a cast that includes Deirdre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, and Paul Kennedy. It is currently available for subscribers in DirectTV, Shudder, Amazon Prime, or AMC+.

Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins) is a probation officer tasked with the most vilified case in her town, Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty). When a child goes missing, all eyes turn to the infamous Bloody Mary. Cathy, always believing in the best of people, tries to protect Mary. But evidence begins to mount, and Cathy finds herself in increasing danger.

Derbhle Crotty as Mary Laidlaw
In the forest
Derbhle Crotty as Mary Laidlaw

What I Like

Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty add weight to the film in their performances. Cathy proves resilient against the challenges she faces, while Mary can make any actions intimidating.
To not spoil anything, the ending is bittersweet in the best of ways, showing Cathy grow and mend relationships.

The atmosphere around Mary Laidlaw brings about the intimidation that earns the nickname Bloody Mary. It becomes easier to see why a town would fear this woman as we find her motives sinister.

Mandrake Cover Art: A mandrake behind Deirdre Mullins' Cathy Madden
Deirdre Mullins as Cathy Madden

What I Dislike

While there may be external magical elements, I found people obeyed Mary Laidlaw a little too easily for a vilified woman. There wasn’t enough for me to be convinced she intimidated them to action or magically charmed them. Or perhaps the performances felt underwhelmingly passive?

There was an irritating moment where a stalker helped save the day. The assistance is minor, but it still irritates me.

The daytime scenes of the film are bland. Perhaps it’s intentional, but the night scenes are stunning, making the contrast greater. While this film focuses on its night scenes, I couldn’t understand why it looked so bland, and sometimes poor quality, in the day.

Kraken eating a boat icon for Zeth M. Martinez
Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Mandrake can be a frightful enjoyment, especially when set at night where the details work. However, many elements left me wanting more or better. If you’re looking for a witchy tale, I’d say there are better options, but Mandrake can keep you entertained.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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