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!
Elevator Game, a Film Review
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks.
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks. It adapts the supernatural myth and creepypasta of the same name while providing an original plot. This unrated Shudder exclusive stars Gino Anania, Samantha Halas, and Verity Marks. In full disclosure, I had the opportunity to interview Gino Anania and Stefan Brunner about the film.
Ryan seeks to find answers to his sister’s mysterious disappearance. To do this, he infiltrates a myth-busting web series that seems to have some ties to her final confirmed moments. Desperate to force a confrontation, he encourages them to play the elevator game. Unfortunately, there seems to be more truth to the myth than expected.
What I Like about Elevator Game & as an Adaptation
I am lucky to have additional insight into the development hell this movie overcame due to COVID. It’s commendable that the film manages to make it of that, even if it requires a lengthy delay of the film.
Usually, I provide a separate section for adaptation quality. However, the source material remains the ritual, which Elevator Game performs accurately. While the myth inspires many creepypastas, Elevator Game doesn’t directly take or adapt any of these works from what I’ve seen. Instead, it makes its own film based on the legend.
As the Fifth Floor Woman, Samantha Halas creates an eerie and disturbing character. While I won’t go so far as to say terrifying, she certainly makes an impression. The revelation that the stunts and performance are all her, as an actual contortionist, I give her more credit.
Gino Anania, given a more complex role than most of his cast members, really does bring a strong performance that creates either friction or synergy with his cast members. I suppose I wanted more of these interactions as some cut sooner than appreciated.
Another amusing element is that the entire motivation for the plot to follow is a forced advertisement from an investor. Something about the chaos being a product of appeasing some investors feels uncomfortably real.
The alternate reality remains surprisingly effective. To be clear, it’s not impressively realistic but stylistic. It genuinely seems like an alternate world with a skewered impression.
Tired Tropes or Trigger Warning
I feel weird mentioning this, but endangering a sister’s life to push the brother’s story forward seems a common trend beyond one form of media.
No discredit to the actors, but the romance feels rushed and unnecessary. Without going into too much detail, to avoid spoilers, there is synergy between the actors but little chemistry in the plot.
What I Dislike or Considerations
Elevator Game remains set in providing a B-movie experience. Its tight budget leaves little room to surprise the viewer visually. While I am surprised at what it accomplishes, it’s far from overwhelming. This film also remains the first production of Fearworks, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m interested in the future, but Elevator Game leaves much to grow from.
Rebekah McKendry may have a directorial style that influences dialogue, but the line delivery evokes an overexpression that’s common in Lovecraftian films. I say this not as a direct negative, but it remains a required taste best known before viewing. As this isn’t Lovecraftian, I fear it removes some of the reality and tension of those haunting elements.
Many of the characters feel underdeveloped, making me wonder if cutting these roles might lead to more invested characters. While the performances hit their marks, a tighter cast might give each role more to work toward. As this is a tight cast already, it seems an odd issue to rectify.
Elevator Game provides an interesting B-movie experience for those who know the legend. For those expecting something different, this film may not work for you. This film overcame a lot to exist but doesn’t break the mold. While I am excited to see Fearworks pursue further ventures toward its ambitious mission statement, I find Elevator Game falling short of its goal.
(2 / 5)
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a Film Review
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a R-rated horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas, available on Amazon Prime.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas. Based on Grady Hendrix’s novel of the same name, this R-rated film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathay Ang, and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. As of this review, the film is available to Amazon Prime subscribers.
Abby Rivers (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen Lang (Amiah Miller) seek to escape the monotony of high school drama with their friends. However, in their efforts to have fun, Gretchen Lang encounters a troubling otherworldly demon bent on controlling her body. It’s up to Abby to help her overcome this demonic threat.
What I Like in My Best Friend’s Exorcism
The effects are surprisingly good. While not overwhelming, these effects never take me out of the film. Even the less realistic scenes fit the overall tone while looking better than expected or required. The 80’s aesthetic strengthens that believability.
Continuing that thought, My Best Friend’s Exorcism oozes the 80’s. Perhaps this comment should set an expectation for the viewer. I can’t exactly comment on the accuracy of the era, but it certainly fits the era of film. If 80’s films don’t interest you, consider looking somewhere else.
While I don’t meet the target audience, the jokes land and provide an enjoyable horror comedy feel. My Best Friend’s Exorcism focuses more on comedy than horror, but this remains a common trend in horror comedies.
The performances remain strong throughout, with leads Elsie Fisher and Amiah Miller pulling off that best-friend chemistry. The cast purposely captures that 80’s nostalgia. Added to the campy nature of the film, one might grow irritated with the acting choices. For me, it certainly fits with the tone and setting.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Drug use might deserve a mention on this list. While I don’t find this egregious, I imagine this point, or some other technicality, earns the film its undeserved R-rating.
The possession lends itself as a rape allegory, with some characters even believing this to be the trauma Gretchen Lang suffers from. While this isn’t the case, the conversation remains for those who want to avoid such material.
Body horror describes a few scenes of the film, though sparingly. However, one scene convinces me to bring this up for those who get squeamish at the cracking of bones or slimies in the body.
A character is tricked into outing themselves and faces some homophobia because of it. This homophobia is rightfully taken as cruel, not condoned in the slightest, but it remains potentially triggering and deserves mention here.
What I Dislike, or Food for Thought on My Best Friend’s Exorcism
This film seems to earn its R-rating off some technicality. It is neither raunchy nor gruesome for those expecting that from their R-rated horror films. For me, it’s more an issue of setting expectations. I expect my R-rated horrors to hit hard. My Best Friend’s Exorcism doesn’t.
It would be unfair to expect something like Jennifer’s Body, as this is a lighter and zanier film. There are elements of sisterhood and bodily autonomy that echo the cult classic, but My Best Friend’s Exorcism remains an entirely campier affair.
In terms of performances that lack the intended impact, three over-the-top anti-drug spokesmen outstay their welcome. It’s clearly a jab at D.A.R.E., which certainly works in increments, but then one character becomes an important part of the plot and still keeps his caricature.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism fits the taste of an 80’s horror comedy fan. Don’t expect to be frightened at any point, but the comedy lands well enough. The film knows its niche and hits most of its targets. It’s hard to say if the film will stand the test of time, but it certainly earns its runtime.
(3.5 / 5)
American Horror Story Delicate, Rockabye
There’s a lot to unpack from this episode of American Horror Story Delicate, Killer Queens, so I don’t want to waste any time. I just want to take a moment and issue a trigger warning. This episode, and therefore this review, talks about several topics that might be upsetting. These include abuse, pregnancy trauma and miscarriage. It’s heavy. If you’re not up for that, here’s a link to my review of Tucker and Dale, which is considerably lighter and funnier.
Our episode starts with Anna trying to get the police to take her seriously about the break-in. There’s just one problem. No one was seen coming in or out of the apartment except Dex. No one shows up on any of the security footage. The police are convinced it’s just Anna’s IFV medication making her see things.
But Anna doesn’t have time to think about the break-in. She’s just been nominated for a Gotham award, and she needs to get into full Awards Show mode. Siobhan gives her something she calls B12 and tells her that her life now revolves around awards prep.
But Anna’s whole life can’t revolve around that, because she’s pregnant now. Even though she seems to be losing time. Like, weeks at a time without even realizing it.
Things just get stranger when she’s at the Gotham Awards and accosted by an overzealous fan in the bathroom. After the woman puts her hands on Anna’s stomach, she knocks her over and the woman hits her head on the sink.
Rather than aiding the woman, Anna goes out to accept her award.
Or does she? After throwing up blood on stage, she finds herself back in the bathroom, being helped up by paramedics.
Everyone agrees that Anna needs some rest and space to heal. So she and Dex go to Talia’s house in the country. There, of course, everything gets much worse. Anna starts to bleed after a yoga session and is taken to the hospital. There, she gets an ultrasound by Nurse Ivy. A nurse that no one else knows at the hospital.
Sadly, the bleeding doesn’t stop. And as we end the episode, it appears that Anna has lost her baby.
Emma Roberts is doing a fantastic job playing Anna. Proving as always that American Horror Story actors are nothing if not flexible. I find myself wanting to compare Anna to Madison Montgomery from AHS Coven. They’re both actresses who experience abuse from men that one might, sadly, expect for women in their station and age range. Madison is gang-abused by frat boys, and Anna has her autonomy taken away from her as soon as a baby is in question.
That’s where the similarities stop. Can you ever imagine Madison saying, “You’re right, I’m sorry,” to literally anyone? She’d have snapped a man’s neck first. Anna’s body language, voice modulation, and the overall way she carries herself in the world is so different.
This is also part of what makes her relatable. I imagine many of the female-presenting people reading this can remember a time when we’ve said, you’re right, I’m sorry when they were wrong and we weren’t sorry at all.
I also really loved the amount of blood in this episode. There is so much blood involved in being a cisgender woman. It’s something we take for granted, but shy away from when in polite company. There was no shying away here. We’re made to see all of it. I don’t think the amount of blood in the miscarriage scene was overkill at all. If anything, it wasn’t enough.
Finally, it’s a small point but one that I appreciated. I bet you already know the one I’m talking about. When Anna is overjoyed to get to wear the same dress once worn by Madonna, Siobhan reminds her in a stern voice not to rip it.
If you didn’t get the joke, look up Kim K and an incident with the iconic Marilyn Monroe dress. I do appreciate anyone who can poke fun at themselves.
The reference to ‘don’t rip it’ with the dress was fun. I hate Kim K and her whole family, but that was funny.
What didn’t work
I’m honestly struggling to find anything in this episode that didn’t work. If I had to pick out something I didn’t like, it was probably that we got the barest cameo from Zachary Quinto. I really hope we get to see more of him as the season progresses.
Another thing I don’t like overall is the character Siobhan. I mentioned this last week, and I’ll try not to mention it again because I don’t see it changing. But the character in the show is a bare reflection of the one in the book.
Siobhan in the book was a loving, selfless friend. Which made the ending, well, let’s say impactful to avoid spoilers for both AHS and Delicate Condition. This version, if she continues as she is, is not going to have the same effect.
I’m also quite done hearing the internet swoon over what a great job Kim K is doing. She’s been acting her entire life, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t good at it. And she’s doing no better or worse than many other guest stars have done in the past seasons of American Horror Story. She’s not bad. But she wouldn’t be getting the credit she is if she wasn’t who she is.
Overall, this was a great episode. It was equal parts funny, gory and infuriating. At this point, my only real complaint is that there are only three episodes left until a season break. But now that the writing strike is over, hopefully the break won’t be too long.(4 / 5)