It was an evening of chills, spills, and colonial ills for the sixth episode of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. What a night. We had two divisive features: Dead Heat and Cannibal Holocaust. I think we can all agree that maybe there was a little too much Piscopo. That and filmed animal deaths are pretty terrible.
So, lets dive in, shall we?
Dead Heat (1988)
Opening Rant: Can one loiter in a Starbucks?
We all know how this goes, two cops are investigating a conspiracy, one cop dies in the line for fire, and then is revived as a zombie to continue his work with his smart-aleck partner. Welcome to Dead Heat: It’s like Lethal Weapon meets My Boyfriend’s Back. The first movie tonight was kind of a light, airy aperitif to Cannibal Holocaust‘s main course. Dead Heat was goofy, overproduced, but still pretty fun.
The movie is an interesting product of late 1980s Hollywood trying to ape the spirit of the kind of trash coming from low-budget indie projects. The elements are all there but not handled appropriately. The film feels like a Troma release with too much money and lazy execution. There is stuff in this movie to love, though, and even a more scaled-down one or two films buried in this overly-plotted mess of the movie.
It’s strange that what should be a momentous occasion, the presence of Darren McGavin and Vincent Price in the same movie, does not really wow as it should. That’s kind of the movie as a whole: it should be way better than it is. Less time spent on Joe Piscopo one-liners and an amusing but ultimately pointless reanimated Chinese butcher shop inventory and Dead Heat could have been really good.
That being said, Treat Williams hurling himself off a motorcycle through a glass door, guns-blazing was certainly worth the watch. The film is fun, but that is about it.
Joe Bob’s assessment of Dead Heat is pretty middle of the road for a film on The Last Drive-In, coming in at two and a half stars. Of course, our host had a lot to say about the film and a lot of it was interesting, but it also felt like Joe Bob just wasn’t feeling it. This might be the most ambivalent he has ever been on a movie since his debut on Shudder. Perhaps it is a recognition of squandered potential in concept and execution?
Then again, Dead Heat was definitely not the draw for the evening. Cannibal Holocaust stole the show even before the episode aired.
Dead Heat could have been a better movie. I can only give it two and a half Cthulhus out of five. If the film hadn’t been as crazy as it ended up by the end I would have rated it lower. (2.5 / 5)
Best Line: “God wants us to live forever. And even if he doesn’t, you could always buy him off.” – Loudermilk
Opening Rant: Vegan Meat
The buzz around this week was already huge in the MutantFam as this was the rare time that Joe Bob revealed a movie early on. Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is a lightning rod of controversy and emotions in the horror community. I won’t say it is a “love it or hate it” film as my own feelings are fairly ambivalent, but it is most assuredly polarizing.
So, the thing about Cannibal Holocaust is, in my estimation, that any weight we attach to the film in the form of messages is in spite of director Ruggero Deodato’s efforts. The film is an exploitation piece, through and through, and it’s pretty good at that. It is a cannibal mondo and delivers some pretty gruesome stuff. Yet, the anti-colonial reading of the film is definitely more attributable to critics and viewers. Deodato has said a lot about the film since and has said the “right” things about intent, but the production of the film feels otherwise. I won’t relay the long, convoluted history of Cannibal Holocaust, but others have.
The film is largely ham-handed in messaging. Violence is swift, exploitative, and animal cruelty is a real issue. Joe Bob did verify that the animals slaughtered on camera were used to feed local indigenous actors, which doesn’t quite make it acceptable by any means but eases the sting of it a bit. Yet there are moments of brilliance.
The score is one of the haunting and iconic audio accompaniments to grotesque violence and exploitation shown on the screen. The score is downright beautiful and the juxtaposition of a romantic melody set against the slaughter of human beings works incredibly well in promoting unease in the whole on-screen enterprise.
This paragraph will have spoilers, so please skip it if you intend to watch the movie. I do not want to ruin two particular scenes. With that out of the way, it feels strange to say, but the best moment of the film could go to two scenes: In the first, the manipulative filmmakers burn down a hut full of trapped indigenous people and in the aftermath, the lead producer and his co-producer have sex near the smoking ruins in a scene of excess cruelty. So much interpretive work can be done based around this scene. It’s masterfully executed in establishing the Green Inferno-crew as the” real cannibals,” a sentiment delivered at the end of the film. The second scene is equally cruel: the three men of the camera crew rape and indigenous woman and the sole woman member of the crew protests, not about the rape, but the waste of film; after all, they can’t show this to the public.
These scenes of cruelty are intended as set up for why the events of the film play out, but they come off as so much more because of the cultural cachet of the film. Cannibal Holocaust is just one of those movies that carries a certain weight. Few people would straight up say itis their all-time favorite among certain company, though it certainly is an all-time favorite for some.
The problem is that, ultimately, Cannibal Holocaust just isn’t that good as a movie. It’s not exactly “fun,” though fun is not necessarily the be-all measure of quality. It’s not exactly deep, either, as it is a blunt metaphor that was sharpened by viewers after the fact. Most of the horror of the film stems from animal slaughter and barring a couple of moments, most of the gore is passable at best. The film’s most iconic shock is often displayed right on the cover of the DVD or on the theatrical poster. The film offers little besides novelty and is an interesting footnote in the debate of films and obscenity.
Yet, I firmly believe that any serious advocate for film should see this film. It is a strange contrast I must deal with; it’s not good, but it is also something to be seen.
Joe Bob’s assessment of the film, to me, seemed a bit mixed. There was a fair and justified amount of criticism regarding elements of the film, but what was interesting was the way he had handled the aspect of animal cruelty. Yes, animals were harmed in the making of the film and committed to celluloid, but those animals were also used as food. It’s an ugly bit of filmmaking but it is also something that has been overblown, to a degree.
The majority of the criticism revolved around the direction, and I definitely found myself in agreement in that regard. In my own estimation, Ruggero Deodato is an inconsistent center to such a touchstone in the horror community, and his on-set choices and antics are equally as problematic as the animal abuse. I cracked this joke during the live-tweet, but I think it summed up my feelings pretty succinctly.
Joe Bob has talked at length about the (hard “I”) Italian film industry of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It was nuts. Imagine how crazy a person is to be considered too crazy for the Italian film industry.
The real highlight of the evening, however, was the sense of care for viewers that the crew of The Last Drive-In places into their show. The disclaimers were frequent, one at the end of the break between films, Shudder’s own disclaimer, the film’s disclaimer, the social media disclaimers in the lead up to the film, and Darcy’s own trigger-warning tweets as the film aired. It reflects well on Joe Bob Briggs and those with whom he has surrounded himself in this stage of his career.
Given the film, it is ironic that I can use the word heartwarming to describe the night as beyond the many warnings meant to protect those who may be unable to handle the content of the film there was something new. Something fans have wanted for a while: Host segments with timestamps, detached from the film. More are on the way for previous movies that have long slipped the grasp of Shudder, but rolling them out starting with Cannibal Holocaust is incredibly fitting. The ongoing BBQ gag throughout the host segments in the latter half of the night was incredibly cute as well.
Ultimately, Joe Bob’s score for Cannibal Holocaust is a reflection of polarization. It’s either four stars or one star. It just depends on how you approach it. As for me, the film scores three Cthulhus. It’s important but it’s not necessarily good. (3 / 5)
Best Line: “Ah, yes, that’s typical Western thought. Civilized, isn’t it? That’s what Alan thought and that’s why he’s dead. The Yacumo Indian is a primitive, and he has to be respected as such. You know, did you ever think of the Yacumo point of view, that we might be the ones who are savages?” – Monroe
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As always, Shudder shares those wonderful recaps. Cannibal Holocaust‘s are, as expected, pretty wild.
As for the Haunted MTL tally?
- 2 Bolos
- 2 Ineffectual Zombie Gimp Robbers
- 2 Dead Monkeys
- 3 Tribes
- 3 BBQ Styles
- 6 Yuki Sightings
- 700 Cop Cliches
- Trailer Opening
- Twin Peaks Connecting
- Darcy Jailing
- Lincoln/Kennedy Joking
- Nun Joking
- Woman Melting
- Tactical Vincent Price
- Mangled Dick Expert Felissa Rose
- Course-Correcting Gunfights
- Gratuitous One-Liners from Joe Piscopo
- Gratuitous Character Actors
- Disclaimer Fu
- Lipstick Fu
- Deli Fu
- Launching Off Motorcycle Fu
- Silver Bolo Award Winner: The Homicidal Homemaker
- Darcy Cosplay: The Turtle’s Revenge
While the energy felt a little lacking surrounding Dead Heat, the crew more than made up for it with the shenanigans surrounding the airing of Cannibal Holocaust. Had the discussion and host segments not delivered I very likely could have dipped below a four here. (4 / 5)
As always, join us for live-tweets for the remainder of the season.
Wheel of Time, What Might Be
Episode three of Wheel of Time was easily my favorite so far. It’s dramatic, dark, and speaks to the growing concerns about evil invading the world.
Let’s begin with Nynaeve. After showing little to no progress, Liandrin thinks she’s ready to go through the Trial of The Arches. This is an initiation that all Aes Sedai have to go through to become a sister. It’s dangerous, not totally understood, and doesn’t have a great survival rate.
One would think some cooler heads would prevail and not let the very new person do this so early. Especially since Nynaeve seems to have some issues with impulse control.
But she goes into the trial, seeing first a scene from her childhood where her parents are attacked.
The point is to walk back through the arches, leaving her family behind. This she does, but doesn’t look very happy about it. Her second trial involves finding herself back in Two Rivers, where a horrible plague has ripped through the people. Again, she has to walk away from the people that she cares about and come back to reality.
The third test is a little more tricky. It appears that Nynaeve comes back covered in blood, with no memories of what happened.
Terrified, she runs from the castle only to find Lan waiting for her.
In the real world, where Liandrin and the others are waiting for her, she simply never returns.
This shakes Liandrin. She decides she’s done holding Mat against his will, and lets him leave. Excited, but also smelling a trap, he takes Min with him.
Still not sure why she had him to start with, but I guess it’s cool that she let him go.
Meanwhile, Rand is working with a familiar face at his hospital. It’s Logain, who we might remember as the false dragon from season one.
Rand would love some advice about channeling as a man. But it appears that Logain might really have lost his mind.
My favorite scene in the episode was the one involving Perrin and Lady Suroth. This scene was perfect.
First off, the character design for Lady Suroth was just perfect. Without moving more than a hand and the crook of her mouth, she manages to be terrifying.
The massively scary nails help, as does the headdress that is both beautiful and reminiscent of an insect. The sort of insect that seems likely to bite and lay eggs under the skin of a victim.
Her absolute authority was terrifying. Uno certainly learned that.
What was more scary, of course, was who was standing next to her. Does she think she’s the one in charge? Or is she perfectly clear on where stands?
What didn’t work
One thing that I don’t love about this season is, unfortunately, not likely to change. It’s true in the books, and it’s true in the show.
The ensemble cast structure doesn’t work for me.
It fractures the story in too many directions. It’s too busy, there’s too much going on. At the same time, there isn’t enough going on with individual characters for me to establish an interest in all of them.
I care what’s happening with Egwene and Nynaeve. I care what’s happening with Perrin.
I don’t care as much about Rand right now. And she wasn’t as involved in this episode, but I don’t care about what Moiraine is going through either.
That could be because the world is coming to an end and they’re refusing to be team players. But maybe that’s just me.
Overall, this was a fun episode. It feels like pieces are being put into place. The characters are getting ready for something big. Something that we can only see the beginnings of.
Something that they clearly don’t think they’re ready for.(3.5 / 5)
American Horror Story Delicate, Multiply Thy Pain
American Horror Story Delicate began last night, Killer Queens. And it was, well, a complicated episode. This makes sense because this season is about a complicated topic.
Just in case you didn’t know, this whole season is based on the novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
Anna Victoria Alcott is an actress who just got her big break. She was in a horror movie that no one can stop talking about.
Except Anna herself. Because this career success couldn’t have come at a worse time. She and her husband Dex are in the middle of the difficult IVF process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and painful. Ironically, so is trying to win an Oscar.
But Anna has other things to worry about. Someone is messing with her. Several women are watching her in public. Worse, someone appears to be getting into her home, slashing notes she leaves for Dex, and removing her vital IVF medication from the fridge so it spoils. Her calendar is hacked to move her doctor appointments around so she misses them. Worst of all, someone broke into her home and crawled into bed with her.
Of course, no one takes any of these concerns seriously. Her agent, Siobhan, is focusing on getting her an Oscar. Her husband, Dex, doesn’t seem to give a shit about her except for when it comes to having a baby. He’s frequently dismissive of her concerns and only seems to want her around when it’s convenient for him. He goes so far as to kick her out of his show opening because she’s on edge.
You know, maybe because she’s clearly being stalked by someone who is trying to keep her from having a baby.
AHS Asylum had a lot of dark and important things to say about mental health care in America. AHS Coven had a lot of dark and important things to say about race and gender relationships.
Last season, AHS NYC wasn’t so subtle. Yes, there was a killer. But the real historical horror of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s was the focus of the season. And that worked very well.
This season, the story is clearly about female body autonomy. Anna is a woman struggling with so many issues that modern women face. The balance between our careers and our families. Feeling like growing old is the most unforgivable thing a woman can do. And of course, the fact that our bodies often feel like they don’t belong to us.
I was also pleased to see some AHS alumni. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Hill was delightful. Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd will be involved soon, and they never bring anything less than their A-game.
This episode also did something I never thought could happen. It managed to scare me with a calendar notification. That was a special moment for me as a horror fan and calendar-obsessed person.
What didn’t work
Here are some things I didn’t love. First off, the main character Anna is a pushover. She can’t say no to Dex, Talia, Dr. Hill, or Siobhan. No one gets a no from this woman!
Anna didn’t act like that in the book. She stood up to everyone all the time, it was great. She wasn’t getting any support, but she was advocating for herself! That was such an important part of her character, and I’m sad to see that she’s lost that here.
I also hate the changes made to Siobhan and Talia. Now, please understand that this isn’t me complaining that the book was different. That’s not my point. Siobhan was a kind, loving woman who supported her best friend even while dying of cancer. Talia was a smart, business-oriented woman who was still kind. She was trying to start a family with her transgender husband, and bonded with Anna over their IVF journeys. These were vital characters in the story.
I feel like they’ve been railroaded.
All that being said, this was a decent start to AHS Delicate. It’s not the best start of a season we’ve had. But it’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season is going to bring. (4 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Strangers and Friends
Episode two of Wheel of Time, widened the divide between the show and the books. Things are happening out of order, people are acting out of character. Whether this is to the detriment of the show, however, has yet to be determined.
One character missing from episode one was Rand. You know, our main character. But we finally catch up with him now.
He’s living in a city with a woman named Selene. They don’t have what I’d call a super healthy relationship. She spends a bit too much time talking about her ex.
Yes, for those of you who didn’t read the books, this is going to be important.
Rand is also working at an insane asylum. He’s kind and patent with his charges, but not all of his fellow caregivers are.
Meanwhile, Lan and Moiraine are recovering form their Fade attack from last episode. Rather than taking the time to actually heal, Moiraine decides to head out to find Rand. Her team comes with her, which seems to really bother her.
While that little hissy fit is taking place, Nynaeve is causing issues. Not by anything she’s doing, but by what she’s not doing. As none of the regular novice teacher have been able to get her to use the One Power, Liandrin offers to try. No one, including me, is thrilled with this. But, the Aes Sedai are desperate. They know that The Dark One is around, and they need Nynaeve to be ready. So, they let the person who’s driven other students to their deaths and actively committed multiple hate crimes take over.
What could go wrong?
The special effects in this episode were really well done. I especially liked the dead fade nailed to the wall.
I was also pleased with the introduction of Elayne. Ceara Coveney is playing her, and doing a fine job. She’s warm, kind and sweet. I am thrilled that she’s around.
One of the greatest things about Wheel of Time is the friendships between the characters. Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve and Egwene legitimately care about each other. Elayne seems to care for Egwene right away. I really love that.
What didn’t work
One thing that bothered me in this episode, and frankly the last episode, was Liandrin keeping Mat in prison. I feel like this wasn’t adequately explained. Why does she have him? How did she trap him? What in the hell is she trying to get from him? Perhaps I simply missed something, and please let me know in the comments if this is the case. But it feels like some poor writing to me.
I also don’t love how Moiraine is portrayed in this episode. Really, in this season so far.
I get that she’s never exactly been a warm person. She’s not personable, open, or kind. Some (most) fans of the book would likely agree that she’s kind of a bitch.
But she’s not a bitch for no reason. She certainly isn’t the sort to lash out at the people who love her because she’s in pain. And that’s what she’s doing through this episode. She’s taking her pain out on Lan. And that’s just out of character for her.
It feels very much like a lot is being skipped over from the Wheel of Time books. But, so far at least, I don’t feel like anything vital has been missed. It feels more like the story is being streamlined.
Yes, I understand how this might go horribly wrong. I think we’ve all seen that. But as of right now, the changes make sense for the switch in mediums.
Now, let’s see if it stays that way.
(3 / 5)