So, in the span of four hours, I watched Maniac and Heathers and I absolutely loved it. This week’s films come from that Last Drive-In impulse of pairing tonally different movies together. This is similar to the premiere and I hope it is a sign to come for the rest of the season: The Last Drive-In is at its best when it is offbeat.

As I did last week, I encourage you to follow the Haunted MTL Twitter feed and join in on the fun during the live stream. We’d love to have you.

Maniac (1980)

Opening Rant: Joe Bob talked a lot about similarities between Maniac and Joker, but transition more toward the panic around the clown.

We get more sleazy seventies this week with Maniac. Yes, the movie came out in 1980, but the work of making it and the whole aesthetic is pure 1970s. The movie is incredibly fun and grimy and has an absolutely legendary performance from Actor’s Actor Joe Spinell. Spinell is absolutely magnetic as Frank Zito, one of the great slasher characters who is also incredibly charming. The fact this absolute, well, maniac, is at all sympathetic is an incredible feat, especially given some of those really creepy elements of the character. You’ll see.

William Lustig’s direction is strong and the film and the film absolutely soars during the sequence where Frank is stalking a woman in the subway. This scene is where the movie absolutely clicks and the paranoia and anxiety of this chase is fantastic. The scene is only second to a great photography scene where viewers have the pleasure of watching Spinell morph from charming-Frank to monster-Frank. It’s masterful. Too bad the ending (not the art-house death-scene, but rather the final shot) kind of cheapens the overall quality of the movie.

Joe Bob has a lot of praise for the film, but I am less enamored of it. Joe Bob awarded the film the full 4-star treatment. The film is good, do not get me wrong. It can be creepy, the effects are fun, and the killer is fascinating. Hell, the movie has the big daddy of gore effects, Tom Savini. Speaking of whom, having Savini on The Last Drive-In is an all-time-great get for the show. Savini was affable, charming, and had many great stories. He was like the world’s coolest uncle and it was fun to hear he and Joe Bob swap insider knowledge of film. The conversation surrounding Maniac’s infamous “exploding head” is definitely going to be posted on YouTube in the coming week.

Ultimately, though, I found Maniac kind of tame. Yet, something about the film just doesn’t work for me. For as much as Maniac gets for being controversial, I don’t find it all that intense. It’s fine. The film works, very well even, yet it’s something that I feel I could just pop on for fun than anything that would necessarily creep me out. It just does not have the same effect on me as it does others, but that’s okay. It’d be a while since I saw it, but compared to Blood Sucking Freaks it was just kind of… cozy. And even then, Blood Sucking Freaks didn’t really cross any lines for me, either.

Basically, what I am trying to say is… don’t hang out with me.

I thought about it a lot, but when it comes down to it I could only give Maniac 3 and 1/2 Cthulhus. It’s a fun movie, but the eye-rolling ending just burns away so much goodwill I have for it. Had the ending not made me roll my eyes I’d have given it an extra half Cthulhu.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Best Line: “I know, but to me things change. People die. But in a picture or painting, they’re yours forever.” – Frank Zito

You don’t want to see his “oh”-face.

Heathers (1989)

Opening Rant: Joe Bob takes on San Francisco.

We get to the best movie of the night after a brief break. Heathers is a pitch-black high school comedy, with the ultimate irony being that it’s not really the kind of Drive-In movie that one expects from a Joe Bob Briggs selection. But that’s okay. One of my favorite moments of season one was the artsy The Changeling, and it’s nice to have something a little outside the norm of the show. A couple of these films a season are welcomed.

As for Heathers, its not really a horror film, though it makes several horrific statements about teenagers, society, and high school. The situations presented are awful and there is no way in hell to make Heathers today given America’s continuous trauma of mass-gun violence in schools. Yet, as screwed up a world as Heathers presents, we have to laugh because it also feels just so true to life.

Heathers made Winona Ryder a star, despite claims to the contrary by Beetlejuice fans. Sure, perhaps Beetlejuice was a mainstream hit, but Heathers was a bold choice of role that put her on the radar of darker film fans. Of course, this is all opinion, but it’s hard not to see how iconic Winona Ryder comes across in the film in so many scenes. She obviously was not alone, however, and her work was balanced by the absolutely manic energy of Christian Slater who seems to be channeling the spirit of Jack Nicholson. Slater’s JD might be one of the best Holden Caufieldesque shitheads committed to film and to watch the “bad boy” facade wash away into the pathetic, ineffectual dweeb he ends up at the end of the film is so, so satisfying. It’s explosive, even.

Really, though, Heathers is one of those writerly movies. It’s oft-quoted, it’s marveled at for its structure, and it is a tight movie. Its incredible work by a first-time screenwriter in Daniel Waters. He absolutely nails the teenage voice that would continue to thrive in future teen films. A lot is said about John Hughes having influenced film regarding teenage characters. Waters is right up there with him, full stop. If the film has a weak spot, it might be Michael Lehman’s direction; it’s not bad, but barring a couple of scenes it doesn’t really stand out either. Lehman would go on to direct a lot of television.

Joe Bob’s assessment of the film comes off as perhaps the biggest surprise of the night. Of course, it’s not odd that Joe Bob would like Heathers. It’s a good movie. But the fact Joe Bob gave Heathers the full 4-star treatment is very interesting, especially given his usual half-star deduction for a lack of breast. The overall exuberance of the film carried throughout the host segments, however, and his insights into the cast were particularly welcome. This was especially interesting when he was discussing Shannen Doherty and her experience on the set, but his bit on the insanity that was Christian Slater was also quite fun.

I really don’t throw the word “perfect” out there a whole lot, and usually, when I do it is usually irony. I can safely say that, without irony, Heathers is a perfect teen-centric movie. It’s not at all flawless and in today’s climate elements of it are fairly antiquated. But none of that matters because it is darkly funny, well-plotted, and probably is one of the better representations of high school out there. With that said, it only makes sense that I’d give Heathers the Five Cthulhus treatment.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “My son’s a homosexual, and I love him. I love my dead gay son.” – Kurt’s Father, at the Funeral.

#Queen

HMTL Drive-In Totals

As usual, we start with the official Drive-In Totals in handy tweet form!

Here are our totals for this week!

  • $30,000 porn dollars
  • 6 Scathing Review Excerpts
  • 7 Beer Cans
  • 2 Darcy Cosplays (Frank Zito and
  • 1 Darcy Imprisonment
  • 1 Yuki Sighting
  • 250 Page First Draft
  • Stalking Fu
  • Dwarf Porn Discussion Fu
  • Vomit Fu
  • Croquet Fu
  • Gratuitous Flopsweat
  • Gratuitous Cliffsnotes
  • Gratuitous Disco
  • Joe Bob Cosplaying
  • Texas Joking
  • Chinese Joking
  • “That Guy Award” for Glenn Shadix
  • “Silver Bolo Award” for Cousin Barnabas of the Collinsport Historical Society
Darcy’s bulge could have been bigger.

Episode Score

The best Drive-In pairings tend to be the most bonkers. Nobody in a sound state of mind would pair Maniac and Heathers, but here we are, and we’re all the better for it. Again, another solid episode, but that’s pretty much the standard. The minute the show has a bad episode then we’re all in trouble. That begs the question though, what would a bad episode be?

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

One a final note, we’re trying to get Joe Bob and Darcy verified on Twitter. Join us, won’t you?

About the Author

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

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