We’re back at the Shudder drive-in and ooh, doesn’t that feel good to say, time to unwind with House by the Cemetery (1981) and Mother’s Day (1980). The specials between the seasons are great and really feel like events, but the weekly show is where it is at. We have a very special episode this week with a Drive-In first, a guest who hangs around for both films! Eli Roth joins Joe Bob from a remote location to school viewers regarding Troma and Italian horror.
It’s gonna be very scary, much like the tweet below from.
Mother’s Day (1980)
Opening: Ah, the Psycho Hag.
Mother’s Day, directed by Charles Kaufman, Lloyd’s brother, is what we’d consider an early slasher. However, it is also one that absolutely nails the tropes and developments of the genre early on. The film, stars Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, and Tiana Pierce as women on a trip who are kidnapped by an insane backwoods family consisting of two brutish brothers (Gary pollard and Michael McCleery) and their dear ol’ mom (Beatrice Pons). Oddly enough, the actors of the backwoods hillbilly rape family are credited with different names. One wonders why.
Mother’s Day is a pretty insane film and is a Troma production through and through. However, it can also be incredibly unsettling at times and even the bleakest Troma comedy still makes the film extremely uncomfortable for prolonged periods. The fact so much comedy can be mined out of a rape-revenge narrative is impressive and probably entirely inappropriate. So yeah, totally Troma. That being said, it’s still a good film that plays with slasher tropes which had already become a thing by the time Mother’s Day released. It’s definitely the better of the films of the night, and the fact it was shot simultaneously with the first Friday the 13th (on the opposite side of the lake) makes it an incredibly interesting part of slasher film history. The film’s direction is effective and the performances are pretty good, particularly Beatrice Pons as “Mother.” The highlight of the film, however, is the actual revenge with the brothers being killed repeatedly.
Joe Bob Briggs took a bit of a back seat to guest Eli Roth for the premiere. At first thought this may seem disappointing, but Eli Roth’s enthusiasm for the films and encyclopedic knowledge was very satisfying. Obviously due to the current pandemic, the conversations did feel a little stilted, but they still proved entertaining and incredibly informative. Roth talked quite a bit about his personal connections to Mother’s Day, and how influential it was on his own career. One of the highlights in the discussion, one that opened up the film quite a bit, was the point made about how much time the film spends with the backwoods family developing them into full characters; a rarity for many slasher films at the time.
As a whole, Mother’s Day is good; it has little to do with the actual Mother’s Day and more to do with hillbilly rape in the woods, but it’s a good, drive-in quality movie. It has the Troma attitude, production values, and it was presented by informative, talented hosts providing insights. Not a bad way to start a season at all. (4 / 5)
Best Line: “There are three rules in the film business – Distribution, distribution, distribution.” – Guy at the Pool Party
House by the Cemetery (1981)
Opening: Y’all ain’t using y’all correctly, ya hear?
House by the Cemetery is an Italian horror film. That statement alone has either pulled you in or driven you away a bit. Italian horror can be fairly divisive among horror fanatics and people tend to have strong feelings and are rarely passive in their response to seeing a Fulci, Argento, or Bava film. This exercise in dream logic is the 1981 directorial effort of Lucio Fulci. It stars Catriona MacColl, Ania pieroni, and Giovanni Frezza. The film is probably most infamous for the dubbing of the child character, Bob.
The movie is, like a great deal of Italian horror, more driven by sensation than narrative logic. The entire film is like a scattershot of horror. Giallo? Sure, why not, have a few stabbing scenes. Haunted house tropes? Of course, throw them in! Undead monsters? Fuck yes, toss one in during the last ten minutes. Oh, and we’ll throw in some ghosts at the end because people are gonna see this anyway… it doesn’t need to make sense! It may sound wildly dismissive, but that’s part of the fun of the movie, a mishmash of ideas to create mood. is the payoff worth it? Not really, but the journey can be a lot of fun. There’s fun moments of ridiculous gore, the goriest from of the night by far, and some legitimately creepy images. The film isn’t a masterpiece of story craft, but it doesn’t need to be, either.
Eli Roth is the first guess to spend the whole evening on the show. He again reveals his own connections to The House by the Cemetery and it’s all very entertaining. Joe Bob Briggs also contributes a little more in this one, having a greater tête-à-tête with Roth about the Italian film industry. The highlight of the host segments for the back half of the night was what was essentially a 3 minute crash course on Giallo by a breathless Eli Roth. We also learn a bit about the fascistic origins of the overabundance of dubbing in the Italian film industry (this article is a fascinating elaboration of this). Regarding the lack of logic in the film, Eli Roth puts it best. “it’s a fun film, don’t take it seriously.”
House by the Cemetery is far from the best film aired on The Last Drive-In, but it still provides some fun moments, genuine creeps, and enough eye closeups where you expect a shootout to begin at any moment. The downside, however, is the presence of Bob, who is maybe the most irritating child in horror film history (3 / 5)
Best Line: “Ann? Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true?” – Bob, having witnessed Ann’s murder.
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As always, Shudder comes in with the clutch Tweets for the night’s totals, with a return of the Vomit meter!
As for our totals, I am not doing as many this time around, because sometimes I’d rather just watch the movie than track instances of things. Don’t worry though, he have some fun bits.
- Two Film Guest: Eli Roth
- Three Seasons (congrats!)
- Yuki Sighting x 2
- Darcy Jailed
- Audio Log of Doom
- Golfball and G-Spot Joking
- Girlfriend Killing Joking
- Gratuitous Rape-Training Montage
- Gratuitous Slideshow
- Free Associated Party Sequence
- One Dongle
- Spaghetti Gothic
- Special Ending Fu
- Troma Tally: 1
- Silver Bolo Award: Screaming Soup
- Darcy Cosplay: 3, “Mother,” Lucy, and Camp Counselor Chic
We’re still at the cabin, at least for the foreseeable future. I find myself missing the hominess of the trailer but the cabin has grown on me a bit – I just like my movie hosts in trailers, that’s all.. The presence of Eli Roth during both films was novel and a welcome change of pace. Ideally he’ll make a return, significantly less socially distanced, in the future. The presence of laughter on set was also a nice touch, with Joe Bob vamping with Austin and the rest of the crew periodically. Also commendable as ever is Darcy, who has settled in quite nicely to the role of Joe Bob’s counterpoint. Their back and forth feels more like a chat between mutual hosts and I am quite enjoying this evolution of the mail girl that this latest run of The Last Drive-In has presented.
Thinking about the evening, both films represent something extremely relatable for horror fans everywhere. Both films are personal favorites of Eli Roth, and while they may not be incredible movies, they are significant to him. Horror fans have those movies they love, some of their first exposures to horror that maybe aren’t classics in the critical-sense, but becomes classics due to the feelings and memories associated with them. My own include Child’s Play and The Changeling. It was nice to get a extended conversation between Joe Bob Briggs and Eli Roth. It felt like an appropriate change of pace for a movie hosting show that has entered it’s third season.
All in all, a welcome start to season three. Two fun movies, so different in tone, but alike in importance to Eli Roth. (4 / 5)
Anyway, that is it for next week here at The Notes from The last Drive-In. We’ll be live tweeting and posting a review next week of episode two. What is in store? Who knows!
Movies n TV
The Beach House, a Film Review
The Beach House (2019) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown starring Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, and Jake Weber.
The Beach House (2020) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown. This film stars Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber, and Maryann Nagel. As of this review, this film is only available on Shudder.
Desperate to rekindle their strained love, Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) escape to a beach getaway. They soon learn to find that family friends of Randall’s father, Mitch (Jake Weber), and Jane (Maryann Nagel), also had a similar idea. After getting used to each other, a mysterious fog engulfs the town. Unfortunately, they realize too late the danger they find themselves in.
What I Like
Body horror gets under my skin, and The Beach House certainly lives up to the standard. There’s something magical about creatures terraforming your body to their preferred environment, turning humans into nothing more than conscious prisoners in their own flesh. While I wouldn’t consider this film the most traumatic or unsettling example, it utilizes wonderfully grotesque scenes.
Aside from the body horror, the film drops a few Cosmic Horror–or Lovecraftian–vibes that go together perfectly. Another favored genre of mine, this combination ensures the odds are overwhelmingly against our human leads.
Beyond the grotesque, visuals might not overwhelm but certainly succeed in their goal. Several scenes provide an intentionally tranquil experience that contrasts with the grotesques and improves their effectiveness.
In terms of performance, each actor hits their mark. While some roles require less effort, each contributes to the plot as intended. The standout performance goes to Liana Liberato’s Emily, who acts as co-lead. She simply has the most to work with and lives up to the part.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
As “body horror” should indicate, this film will hit hard for the more squeamish viewer. While horror by nature has some amount of grotesque, body horror brings that grotesque to the next level. While I don’t particularly find The Beach House hitting harder than its competition, it certainly respects its chosen genre.
What I Dislike or Considerations
A few scenic montages may hit or miss depending on your interpretation. While I have my own theories, that speculation goes beyond the scope of this review. Many of these scenes overlap more philosophical conversations and musings that may annoy or add layers. This strategy seems a common practice in Cosmic Horror, which forces characters to rationalize the irrational.
It’s hard for me to understand how secretive or known this event is supposed to be in the film’s world. Individuals know something outside of the town, with evidence implying governmental knowledge. This information creates a contrivance–perhaps, even a plot hole–because the characters had to reach this isolated town without any opposition.
One of the visuals didn’t exactly grab me. While I won’t go into too much detail, an effect looked too visually similar to a common animal that barely survives rain. It’s hard to be threatened by that. It also doesn’t exactly match up with some of the other visuals. Even the creatures that look similar to it still look different enough to provide a more alien assumption.
There are moments when the infected chase our main characters by crawling at them. While the context works, with injured characters helping to sell them, I can’t help but find these scenes amusing as opposed to frightening. Yes, it’s certainly visually different from the plethora of zombies out there, but it’s also less frightening than zombies that leisurely walk to their targets.
The Beach House combines cosmic and body horror to create an uncomfortable film that tests its characters. For those who enjoy these genres, it will certainly entertain you, but I doubt it will frighten you. I imagine the mood to watch it again might strike me, but I’m not entirely certain it will stand the test of time. (3 / 5)
If this movie suits your fancy and you want more, Honeymoon seems an appropriate recommendation.
Movies n TV
Every Secret Thing, a Film Review
Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, based on Laura Lippman’s novel.
Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener. This R-rated film stars Diane Lane, Danielle Macdonald, Dakota Fanning, and Elizabeth Banks. Based on Laura Lippman’s novel of the same name, the film adaptation is accessible through MAX and DirecTV.
When a little girl goes missing, Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) spirals into an all too familiar tale. As pressure mounts, Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) and Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) become the leading suspects. The strained frenemies unravel under the attention and reminders of their shared past.
What I Like
The film unravels in a non-chronological structure but makes it easy for the viewer to follow. It helps that the age difference clearly divides the younger actors, who change actors. One casting choice resembles their older counterpart, and the acting reflects a strong direction for their shared role.
Unreliable narration remains expertly communicated with scenes that change perspectives depending on whose perspective we view them from. This choice adds a reason to view the film twice, providing extra ambiguity for some of these events.
The camera gets up close and personal to an uncomfortable degree, which almost certainly presses the actors’ performances. This choice places the viewer in the character’s perspective and limits us from others’ perspectives to add extra credence to these biases.
Every Secret Thing provides a spiraling mystery that unravels with several twists and turns. Assuming the novel provided the outline, this film executes these points and keeps a consistently engaging experience throughout the runtime.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Child abuse and neglect remain the central plot points of Every Secret Thing. Little of this abuse appears in scenes, but there is no escaping the danger children are in throughout the film.
Self-harm and suicide are shown throughout the film (once in the case of suicide) through one specific character. It isn’t glorified or romanticized nor addressed with particular sensitivity. For those sensitive to these subjects, it might be triggering.
Racism, the assumed motive for the bi-racial victims, plays a small role in the film’s narrative. However, character motives remain more complex, but going further spoils some elements. This film decision does create the reality that bi-racial children are the victims of child neglect and abuse in the film with little additional context. It does invite uncomfortable speculation, but speculation it would be.
Sexual assault is another concern for viewers, specifically statutory rape. This issue seems particularly mismanaged, considering the survivor remains an antagonist. One can be both survivor of assault and an antagonist of a film without needing to discredit the assault. While little appears of this issue, and the manipulation angle can indicate a perspective shift, it’s hard to refute how the film wants to represent this attack.
What I Dislike
Loosely tied to the above point, one character seems mentally off and purposely so. This point doesn’t inherently create an issue, but there seems to be a choice to make this character a mastermind. Perhaps this is better addressed in the book, but the execution is far from perfect here.
A newspaper montage reveals essential information which feels oddly misplaced. Practically the entire setup for the film appears through this montage, which creates the necessity to read these headlines in the minimal time given.
As a horror, nothing but the events are haunting. Children being abused or kidnapped always haunts, but the terror of this remains secondary to the mystery. While the mystery is nice, this film won’t particularly scare the seasoned horror fan.
Every Secret Thing unravels a mystery of opportunism, selfishness, and deception. While the movie won’t haunt the viewer, it certainly unravels a mystery that shocks them. The nuanced and deceptive characters add a layer of engagement that creates a unique experience, but I doubt this movie will linger in my mind.
(2.5 / 5)
Movies n TV
Quid Pro Woe
We’ve now reached episode six of Tim Burton’s Wednesday. And after the last episode, this one did not disappoint.
We start with Wednesday attempting to contact Goody Addams. Last episode, if you’ll recall, Morticia explained the difference between a psychic dove and a raven. Since Goody Addams was the last raven psychic in the family line, it’s got to be her that trains Wednesday.
But her seance is a failure, and Wednesday is interrupted by a magazine note shoved under the door. It says to meet someone at a crypt for answers.
When she gets there, it turns out that her friends have put together a surprise birthday party for her. Before she can cut the cake, however, she has a vision.
Goody Addams tells her that she must find a specific gate. After some investigation, Wednesday discovers it’s the gate to the old Gates house.
Wednesday goes to investigate, but she isn’t the only one. She is nearly discovered by Mayor Walker. He is also investigating the Gates family, even though they’re all reported to be dead. He leaves a message for Sheriff Galpin and is almost immediately run over by a car.
This incident is enough to get Wednesday’s town villages revoked. Though this seems like an empty punishment since the whole school is on lockdown. Someone burned Fire Will Rain on their front lawn.
Wednesday isn’t one for believing the rules apply to her. She has it in her head that she’s meant to save Nevermore Academy, probably from whatever descendent of Crackstone who’s still around. So she has no problem lying to Enid and Tyler and convincing them to help her sneak off campus and explore the Gates house further.
This, of course, is an incredibly informative trip. The kids find a hidden altar to Crackstone, as well as the missing body parts from the monster’s victims. They also find evidence that someone’s been staying in the house. Someone who’s staying in what looks like a little girl’s room.
Before they can find anything more, the monster finds them. They barely escape, and go to the sheriff with what they find.
Of course, the house has been cleared out by the time Sheriff Galpin arrives. Furious that his son was almost killed, he tells Wednesday to stay away from him.
Because that always works, right?
Galpin isn’t the only one angry. Enid is fed up with the way Wednesday has been treating her. And so she leaves their room to bunk with someone else, leaving Wednesday alone.
This episode was well done. The discoveries at the house were exciting, and I’m almost sure I know who’s behind the murders at this point. Overall, this was a good ramp-up to the season finale.
Finally, this episode did something I was worried just wasn’t going to happen. And for that alone, it deserves praise.
Wednesday has been incredibly selfish and inconsiderate since the first episode. She’s been rude and demanding towards Thing. She’s ignored her friends’ needs and emotions while insisting they put themselves in danger for her investigation. She has respected no one’s boundaries, even while other people have at least tried to respect hers.
And now, it’s finally come back to bite her. All of the people who have been doing their best to show her kindness and support are finally done with her bullshit.
Yes, this is a good thing! Characters are best when they’re allowed to learn and grow. When they don’t come to us flawless. When they mess up and learn from it. Especially for a show aimed at kids, this is essential.
If you’d asked me at the beginning of the season if this character was going to experience honest character growth, I’d have assured you it would never happen. Much to my surprise, it’s happening. I hope that Wednesday is going to come out of this a better person. With two episodes left in the season, there’s plenty of time for that. (4 / 5)