Welcome back to the Drive-In. It’s been a great run of episodes for the show so far, but The Last Drive-In might have delivered an absolute all-time-best episode with the double-feature of Troma’s War (1988) and One Cut of the Dead (2017).

This week’s tweet commentary is handled by a friend to Haunted MTL, Isaac Thorne. Good stuff, Isaac. Read his story “Dead Rights” here on the site.

So, let’s dive in, shall we?

Troma’s War (1988)

Opening Rant: BoBo Rodriguez’s Cold Rememedy.

When I put together my season two wishlist for The Last Drive-In one of the items was a wish for Troma movies. Troma, that delightful independent studio of bad taste, has enough material to fill entire seasons of The Last Drive-In, and we’ve been fortunate as fans to have two films this season alone.

Tonight’s selection of Troma’s War is not one of the most iconic of Troma’s films, with it actually being quite divisive among fans of the studio, but it’s still bonkers and just right for the Joe Bob Briggs treatment. The film is a hasty, low-budget terrorist movie that reminded me of an unholy child of Lost, Rambo, Die Hard, and Red Dawn. Directed by the legendary Lloyd Kaufman, the film has all those hallmarks of Troma, the blood, the jokes, the boobs, but it also feels simultaneously more subdued and yet more pointed. It is an odd sensation.

The film follows a group of people whose Tromaville Air flight crash lands onto an island being used by a sinister cabal of nations and terrorist. These average Americans must then band together to basically kill all the terrorists in ridiculous ways.

It all sounds good, but the film is curiously tame for a Troma production, mostly due to the continual influence of the MPAA. The satire of the film, while still present, ends up feeling a little toothless. It seems that in working with the MPAA Kaufman and Troma ended up diluting the goal of lampooning the military-industrial complex. Ultimately, Joe Bob would give the film two and a half stars. It’s a fair assessment.

While the movie was ultimately not the best movie of the night or the season, the guest appearances of Lloyd Kaufman and Pat Swinney Kaufman offer perhaps the greatest guest appearances on the show, even factoring in Tom Savini. We know Joe Bob Briggs loves to talk and can keep other people on their toes, but Lloyd Kaufman is such a huckster that he kept Joe Bob on his toes. Lloyd’s film insights, when not completely hilarious, we absolutely fascinating. Lloyd’s discussion of the build of Troma across several of the breaks would establish a theme for the night that ran through the second feature of just… making films.

Lloyd wasn’t alone, however. Pat Swinney Kaufman is another guest that seems just right for The Last Drive-In. So many great movies are shot, in-part, in New York and Pat’s role as the executive director of the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development and deputy commissioner of Empire State Development has helped to ensure smooth productions in New York. Even completely ignoring the fact she’s married to Lloyd Kaufman, Pat is a Hell of guest with some pretty significant contributions to the types of films we mutants love. That being said, her being there with Lloyd was amazing.

This is a situation where what surrounds the feature outshines the feature itself. Troma’s War is not one of Troma’s best, but contextualized by the commentary of Joe Bob Briggs, and Lloyd and Pat Kaufman it becomes something else entirely. Unfortunately though, as a feature, I cannot give Troma’s War more than three Cthulhus.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Best Line: “You try chopping Siamese twins apart with a machete and not change.” – Nancy

Literal warpig.

One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Opening Rant: Joe Bob drops some knowledge about the lengthy history of the deep fake.

I am honestly surprised that I have not reviewed One Cut of the Dead for Haunted MTL, which is odd because it is still one of the best films offered on Shudder and was available just shortly after I started writing on the site. Perhaps it is fitting that I am reviewing it now, attached to my passion project of reviewing The Last Drive-In.

A quirky Japanese horror-comedy is, at first blush, a strange film to pair with a Troma film, but it makes a lot of sense given the themes of One Cut of the Dead. The film is quite inventive and revolves less around zombies and rather the challenges and joys of filmmaking. The film is one that catches a lot of people off guard when they see it, as evidenced by the #MutantFam reaction to the film’s twist, which I will not spoil. Going in blind, you’re confronted with what seems to be a technically impressive, but narratively unimpressive one-take zombie film. But that is only the first part of the movie.

One Cut of the Dead is probably one of the oddest films we’ve seen on The Last Drive-In due to how heartwarming it is. The film is extremely cute and has a great many feel-good moments. It’s just a damn pleasure to watch. Joe Bob Briggs gave it the four-star treatment and that is pretty great considering the movie is just so far outside of the normal Drive-In experience. Maybe Joe Bob is getting soft. Who knows?

One Cut of the Dead continued a through-line established in the discussion surrounding Troma’s War regarding filmmaking at its most fundamental level with independent filmmakers. It all culminates with this wonderful closer, “Keep Rolling.”

It is probably one of the best sequences since Joe Bob started up on Shudder and is just damn inspiring.

Getting back to One Cut of the Dead, however, the film earns every single one of the 5 Cthulhus I am giving it. I’ll probably need to write a longer, more in-depth review of the movie because it is just that good. It needs to be discussed further than a couple of paragraphs I set aside in a Last Drive-In recap.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “Furrrk!” – Nao

Picture taken seconds from disaster.

HMTL Drive-In Totals

So, what were the official Drive-In totals this week?

How about our count?

  • 368 Acting Credits for Lloyd Kaufman
  • 1 Instance of Darcy Jail
  • 1 Yuki Sighting
  • 13 instances of POM!
  • 2 badass Ax flips
  • Troma Diploma Bestowing
  • Critic Quoting
  • Commando Darcy with Kung-Fu Grip (Cosplay)
  • Day/Night Switching in the Same Scene
  • Human Flotsam
  • Tank Top Brigade
  • Gratuitous German
  • Battling Sexes
  • Guerilla Garroting
  • Yale Referencing
  • Engineer Joking
  • Stormtrooper Marksmanship
  • Tactical Farting
  • Extended Countdown Fu
  • Infomercial Fu
  • Airboat Fu
  • Clipboard Fu
  • Pom Fu
  • Method Fu, Improv Fu
  • Non-linear Narrative Fu
  • Jib Fu
  • Silver Bolo Award: Monster Kid Radio
Can we get a two-hour special of these three just talking?

Episode Score

This is probably the best episode of The Last Drive-In we’ve had. It is an odd pairing and for me, personally, it’s like Shudder took a core sample of my brain to figure out what my favorite sort of episode would be like. The whole night was pretty much near perfect. A five Cthulhu sort of experience.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

See you next Friday, and remember, folks… POM!

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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