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We’re past the halfway point for season two of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs and I am already feeling sad. Let’s not dwell on what is coming to an end, however. We already have confirmation of a summer special, after all. For now, let’s dive into two movies that cannot be more different.

Tonight’s double feature consisted of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III (1990) and Jim Van Bebber’s Deadbeat at Dawn (1988). I was back to live-tweeting the double-feature for the night, so apologies now for any awful puns and jokes you see embedded into this review and recap.

The Exorcist III (1990)

Opening Rant: Toxic masculinity and a poorly thought out razor ad.

The sequel to the sequel to one of the most culturally important horror films of all time had a lot that could have gone wrong. What is amazing is that The Exorcist III is actually damn good despite the awful The Exorcist II: The Heretic. A lot of that is the result of the tenacity of the strange and passionate William Peter Blatty, author of the original Exorcist novel. That’s not to say that The Exorcist III is without flaws, however. The film has a number of issues, but ultimately these problems are not enough to derail what turns out to be a strange follow-up to the alarming possession of Regan MacNeil.

The film is, foremost, a masterclass of acting. The acting here is so good that it sets George C. Scott opposite Brad Dourif and Scott is the one who comes off as subdued compared to Dourif. It is a very “talky” sort of film which seems unusual for a Drive-In feature, but it works. Most of the deaths occur off-screen, but it works. Like last season’s The Changeling, also featuring George C. Scott, The Last Drive-In makes room for something a little more measured and, I dare say, classier in its approach to horror. It is the film’s restraint in the visual excess of horror that allows what it does engage in to mostly succeed. Namely an amazing transition from Jason Miller to Brad Dourif via an editing trick and perhaps one of the finest jumpscares ever committed to film.

Yet, the film also has substantial problems. The murdering off of one key character sacrifices a fascinating homosocial relationship for cheap motivation. A strange dream sequence comes off as a budget Twin Peaks scene and is goofier than insightful. Lastly, a hasty attempt to include an exorcism into a story that didn’t need it ruins the ending to what was an overall creepily effective film.

So while The Exorcist III mostly does what is necessary of a good sequel, specifically for The Exorcist, too many issues mar it. As brilliant as some of Blatty’s choices were as the mind behind the film it is necessary to have a seasoned veteran to bounce off of when it comes to film.

Joe Bob’s assessment of the film is perfectly fine. Three stars is a fair score for the movie. He ultimately had a lot to say about it. There is a trend where the more mixed he is on a film the more in-depth Joe Bob’s analysis and discussion of the film usually come off. It makes sense because things we love sometimes are harder to discuss than things we can be critical of. The Exorcist III is just one of those films where it was a perfect storm of issues narratively and behind the camera while also navigating the legacy of the original film.

While the second feature of the night is definitely more fun and a better Drive-In movie overall, The Exorcist III provides viewers with the sort of material that drives them to watch the redneck horror host in the first place; an honest assessment of the film, both good and bad, with observations about the craft of film itself. It sounds dismissive to just say it is “typical Joe Bob,” but that is a good thing. This is a perfect example of the appeal of The Last Drive-In.

I like The Exorcist III. I think people who claim to like it more than the original are probably being contrarians. It’s not a bad movie and it is probably the best sort of sequel to The Exorcist that a fan can ask for, but the fact remains that it is a deeply flawed film. Ultimately, I couldn’t rate it higher than three and a half Cthulhus.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Best Line: “This I believe in… I believe in death. I believe in disease. I believe in injustice and inhumanity, torture and anger and hate… I believe in murder. I believe in pain. I believe in cruelty and infidelity. I believe in slime and stink and every crawling, putrid thing… every possible ugliness and corruption, you son of a bitch. I believe… in you.” – Kinderman to what is clearly Pazuzu.

Pictures taken seconds before disaster.

Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

Opening Rant: Poop coffee.

I think I first saw Deadbeat at Dawn at the end of my junior-high years. I recall it was a shitty VHS bootleg and it came from a kid named Eli who was super into Insane Clown Posse and bootlegged VHS copies of the hentai Dragon Pink and Golden Boy for all of the weird kids at my junior-high which turned out to be a lot of us.

I mention this because this sounds sketchy and grimy and is sort of the perfect way to experience the sketchy and grimy film that is Deadbeat at Dawn. The film is juvenile and punk in a fundamental way of just not giving a shit and indulging in such bizarre anarchistic impulses on and off camera that it becomes this sort of outsider art. I say this with love: Deadbeat at Dawn is an absolutely insane 81 minutes that probably should never have been released.

Deadbeat at Dawn is independent film-making at its most impulsive and punk. Cobbled together over four years by a director (Jim Van Bebber) who also plays the lead, the film was often shot without permits and resulted in a series of Jackass-style moments witnessed by unsuspecting people in the local community. It’s all dumb film students recording dumb, dangerous stuff and eventually managing to pull a movie out of it. Basically what every aspiring film-school student secretly desires to do.

It’s not a good movie but it is also a good movie. Deadbeat at Dawn is not well-written, the performances are amateur, and the story is just kind of non-existent. It features a sequence of the director/lead practicing his nunchucks and screaming in a Dayton, Ohio graveyard dealing with feelings about his budget-Satanist girlfriend. It’s an example of one of those films that know not to take itself too seriously and have fun with itself.

Yet, the film also is a gritty Kung Fu vengeance film, punctuated with moments of true despair with a simultaneously repulsive and sympathetic protagonist with one of the most insane last 20 minutes put to film. So much of this movie shouldn’t work but does. The film is just so grimy and textured. In another universe this would have been paired with Street Trash.

Joe Bob’s assessment of Deadbeat at Dawn is a full four stars punctuated by him saying “I loved it.” The film is pretty much perfect Drive-In fare and an example of something so beloved the conversation around it, while always insightful on the show, is also kind of dialed back. Perhaps this is in awe of the audacity of what Jim Van Bebber achieved. Regardless, several Sam Raimi references, including his own thoughts on the “punk action film” pop up in addition to referencing Joseph Campbell.

Perhaps the best part of all of this, however, is how Joe Bob Briggs highlights Van Bebber’s own philosophy: “Pain is temporary. Film is forever.” Our horror host points out just how crazy and punishing the assembly of this feature was. I know Joe Bob Briggs has written a lot of books, but I don’t know if he’s written one about Deadbeat at Dawn. If not, he should.

What impressed me most about Deadbeat at Dawn is how well it holds up. I’ve seen it maybe twice since junior-high, but goddamn does it still hold up. As a punk music fan, I think one of my livetweet riffs summarize my feelings on this film pretty well.

Deadbeat at Dawn is totally worth four and a half Cthulhus. It’s too audacious not to be.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Best Line: “I hate people, man. I don’t care. I don’t give a shit. I don’t give a shit about nothin’. Man, all my life people have fucked with me. Don’t you fuck with me, man. I just fuckin’ hate people. I hate people and I don’t care. I just don’t fuckin’ care. I don’t care. I’m the baddest motherfucker you ever saw, man.” – Bone Crusher

Never let anyone tell you that your way of processing your feelings is invalid.

HMTL Drive-In Totals

So, here are the official totals, courtesy of Shudder. It was a good night.

As for our totals?

  • 4 Helicopters
  • $9-million in Reshoots
  • 20 Dense Minutes
  • 57 Weeks on the NYT’s Best Seller List
  • $10,000 Scholarship
  • Carp Monologing
  • Inexplicable Fabio
  • Spontaneous Dourif
  • Down n’ Dirty Catholicism
  • Awkward Crash Zoom
  • Joe Bob Confusing
  • Bible Versing
  • Actor Slapping
  • Hillbilly Joking
  • Graveyard Fighting
  • Graveyard Nunchucking
  • Raimi Referencing
  • Campbell Referencing
  • Snake Slapping
  • Dual Jocking
  • But Punching
  • South Carolina Joking
  • Ouija Fu
  • Creepy Confession Fu
  • New York The-ate-er Fu
  • Biblical Research Fu
  • Powerwalk Fu
  • Map Fu
  • Burp Fu
  • Sloppy Bar Pass Fu
  • Sommelier Fu
  • Car Fu
  • Poorly Dubbed Cat Fu
  • Darcy Cosplay: The Angel of Death
  • Silver Bolo Award: The Horror Movie Podcast
Pew pew.

Episode Score

Man, what a good night. These films could not be more different than one another. One is more literary and the other is more punk. It’s a strange combination that results in yet another great episode of The Last Drive-In.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

And remember, folks…

The Drive-In will never die.

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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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