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Welcome to Notes from the Last Drive-In. Normally these go up on Mondays, but some real-life engagements delayed my chance to view the films and write the review. This week we cover two 1980s films with 1989’s Bride of Re-Animator and 1982’s Next of Kin. Two wildly divergent films paired up, splattery pulp and an artsy slow burn, but welcome nonetheless. It’s another movie night on Shudder with the world’s greatest host. Let’s dive in, shall we?

This week’s tweets were handled by Payne and some of our other writers. Thanks for covering, gang! Give them a follow.

Bride of Re-Animator (1989)

https://twitter.com/evangeline_the/status/1388330074714214405

Opening: The character reversal of the City and the Town

With Bride of Re-Animator the luster of the original film shines brighter, but it’s not as though Bride is a dull film. It’s effective, technically sound, and features many things to love. But it is the first of what would be many lesser sequels – still fun, but incapable of quite capturing what worked so well with the 1985 original. Most of the pieces are there, and the film largely succeeds in its ambition to follow up on Herbert West and Dan Cain’s exploits. Yet something is missing. The film fell under the direction of Brian Yuzna and a script cobbled together quickly by Yuzna, Rick Fry, and Woody Keith. As a whole it is serviceable, but there is a distinct lack of the late Stewart Gordon. one wonders how things might have turned out if production wasn’t rushed to get a sequel made for a tax credit.

Despite the quibbles one may have with the fairly obvious Frankenstein-riff of a plot and the lesser writing and direction compared to the first, much of the film largely works and works well. The performances are excellent, with Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott returning as West and Cain, respectively, the comical and ridiculous return of David Gale, and the fantastic performance of Kathleen Kinmont as the titular “bride.” The film is also technically strong, with some interesting tricks behind the camera at Yuzna’s direction and masterful effects by Screaming Mad George. Yet… the compromises are one too many for the film to truly live up to the original. No Gordon, a rushed script, and a planned finale that would never be filmed. It’s frustrating, really.

Most of my enjoyment of the first half of the night came from seeing what Jeffrey Combs is up to, as he was beamed onto the set with the socially-distance mannequin. We really should see if the mannequin has a name, honestly. The interviews do feel a little flat as a whole due to social distancing – they certainly lack a certain spontaneity that we’ve enjoyed in prior seasons, but they’re still quite fun. It helps that Jeffrey Combs is a perfect Drive-In guest: a living legend with some surprises, such as his slipping in and out of his redneck roots. We also received a number of fun anecdotes about the shoot, Combs’ continued friendship with Bruce Abbott, and hints about where the series could have headed. Of course, Combs is still game to do another Re-Animator film. Who else could play Herbert West, really?

Joe Bob Briggs generously gave Bride of Re-Animator the four-star treatment. I think Joe Bob has been a bit generous as of late, perhaps slowly losing his mind from cabin fever. It’s a good movie, but is it a four-star film by Drive-In standards? I am not so sure – the original Re-Animator? Undoubtedly. Bride, not really. As for me, I’d give Bride of Re-Animator four out of five Cthulhus.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Best Line: “He’s a wife-beater, Dan, use the gun!” – Herbert West being helpful

Still from Bride of Re-Animator
Ol’ Handsome Herbert has concerns…

Next of Kin (1982)

Opening: The Dyson Airblade

Next of Kin is an obscure, slow-burn Australian horror film, and yes, despite the wishes of the director, it is horror. As Joe Bob said last week, we know horror when we see it. It is probably the slowest burn on The Last Drive-In, but as someone who enjoys when horror takes its time, I found myself enjoying it a great deal. It is not without problems, however, perhaps grasping too ferociously at prestige, the film ultimately offers short bursts of mood between needlessly labored plot revelations. It’s fine, a good effort for first-time horror director/writer Tony Williams. He wasn’t long for the movie industry, ultimately turning to the advertising industry, but Next of Kin is like a tantalizing peek at what could have been an impressive film career.

The film follows a woman, Linda, who inherits an old folk home who sees a series of deaths of the elderly residents that evokes something from her past. It is a film of family secrets and the threat of madness that muddies the waters of what is real and what isn’t, yet the film doesn’t really commit to the supernatural vs. reality angle much at all. It is a haunted house story where the haunting is all in the mind and the threat is a strange, not necessarily satisfying reveal. The performances are solid, with Jackie Kerlin selling her tormented character with much skill – only to leave the film industry altogether. A strange turn on what could have been a promising career, but one mustn’t begrudge her choices.

Ultimately, much like how Jackie Kerlin left the film industry and Tony Williams transitioned to the ad industry, the film itself feels like a strong start with a sudden stop. So much potential lays within the bones of the story, but it gets traded for plodding pace, a non-sensical revelation, and an out-of-place explosive finale. So much potential and style just sort of squandered. Joe Bob discusses this film in the context of a rediscovered gem, a limited release that was given a new lease on life after a name drop from Quentin Tarantino. Yet, I can’t help but think the value of Next of Kin is in some admittedly stylish directorial choices and the sheer curiosity of it all. It isn’t quite Ozspoitation, nor is it totally inscrutable for the art-house crowd. It’s an odd film from Australia, albeit one that causes me to ponder the question of “what if?”

Joe Bob’s assessment of the film puts it in the four-star territory. I find myself disagreeing, heavily. What works in the film works, in spite of the issues with the plot and what feels like a desperate bid for cultural excellence. I can’t see myself giving this film more than three out of five Cthulhus.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Best Line: “Sex it up, baby!” – Joe Bob Briggs on making films, the AMERICAN way.

Still from Next of Kin (1982)
Enjoy scenes of painstaking research at diaries, medical logs, and financial records for long stretches of time

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

As always, we have our own Drive-In totals to share!

  • 8 months later and 10,000 miles away
  • “30 Fucking Iguanas”
  • 4 Effects Companies
  • 2 Heads in a Bucket
  • 20 Appliances on Kathleen Kinmont
  • Dead Dog
  • Nudie Pen
  • Hitchcockery
  • Spontaneous Carpentry
  • Gratuitous G’Days
  • Cat Calling
  • Michigan J. Froggery
  • One-Act Frankensteinery
  • Lizard Stuffing
  • Gratuitous Calculation
  • Heartwarming Letter Reading
  • Super Bingo Hall Freakout
  • Superman Joking
  • Disney Joking
  • Yuki Count: 3
  • Season 4-Star Count: 5
  • Silver Bolo Award: The Losers Club
  • Darcy Cosplay: The Bride
It’s not quite on her sleeve, but she wears the heart just as well

Episode Score

Ultimately, not the finest night at the Drive-In, but still very fun. Who doesn’t love movie night? That being said, Herbert West carries the night, thanks to a game Jeffery Combs, who is as delightful now as he seems to have always been.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

See you all next week for more Drive-In fun. I’ll be live-Tweeting the show from Haunted MTL’s Twitter account again (thanks for filling in this week, Payne), so be sure to give us a follow there.

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Movies n TV

She Will, a Film Review

She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film includes Alice Krige and Kota Eberhardt.

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She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film boasts a cast that includes Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, and Malcolm McDowell. This movie is currently only available on Shudder.

Veronica (Alice Krige) is an actress recovering from a double mastectomy at a spiritual retreat in Scotland. With the help of her nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt), she slowly connects with the land and its dark legacy. However, the remake of her breakout role and the director who haunts her bring back troubling memories. But the land seeks to make her whole, no matter the cost.

Veronica staring in disguise
Alice Krige as Veronica

What I Like

This film is beautiful, giving the setting a character all its own. While not every frame delivers expert detail, the majority of She Will certainly evokes the viewer. This only adds to the horror, turning the supernatural into a force of nature itself.

The relationship between Desi and Veronica, changing throughout the film, brings a lot for the actresses to utilize. It should go without saying that Malcolm McDowell amplifies every scene he’s in.

I wouldn’t call this an arthouse film, but it centers itself on womanhood interestingly and artfully. This includes darker subjects of exploitation, specifically in the film industry, through Veronica’s personal journey.

Desi looking out a car window
Kota Eberhardt as Desi

What I Dislike, or Food for Thought

She Will deals with heavy subject matter. As alluded to earlier, Veronica’s journey implies many things that will be hard for some viewers. There is also an attempted assault.

Malcolm McDowell plays an eccentric director, but I would have liked to see him without the public persona. For the most part, the viewer hears rumors but only see the friendly facade.

While the subject matter and visuals can be intense, I wouldn’t exactly call the film frightening.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Where She Will might lack in horror, it makes up for in the stunning visuals and execution. Alice Krige plays a dynamic character who brings to life Veronica’s struggles. If one fancies a journey of self-discovery and empowerment like Midsommar, She Will might fill that niche.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

The Last of Us: Episode 3: Long, Long Time

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One of the first mentions of Bill and Frank in HBO’s The Last of Us is in episode one, when Ellie discovers that Joel and Tess communicate with men over the radio via 60’s-80’s pop songs. Rewind to the end of the episode, when Depeche Mode’s 80’s hit “Never Let Me Down Again” plays. Bill and Frank are in some sort of trouble. In the third episode of this series, “Long, Long Time,” we find out what that trouble was.

*WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILERS*

The Dead Can’t Get Infected

Let me preface by saying that however you think this episode is going to be, you’re most likely very, very wrong.

“Long, Long Time,” begins shortly after Joel and Ellie are forced to leave Tess and escape the Boston capitol building. They are in the forest, prepping for another long journey ahead of them. As they walk, we learn more backstory on the origin of the Cordyceps pandemic. “Who was the first to bite? Was it monkeys? I bet it was monkeys,” Ellie says. But Joel explains no, it wasn’t monkeys. Rather, the disease spread through basic food products, like flour or sugar. Then the cordyceps mutated as flour, sugar, biscuit and pancake batter hit the store shelves that Thursday before the outbreak, infecting everyone who purchased those products. “That makes more sense,” Ellie somberly admits.

Joel explains the origin of the burnt up dead bodies of non-infected people

Eventually, they find a picked-over abandoned grocery store, where Joel hides his assault rifle and green toolbox underneath the floorboards. While Joel is looking around the store for supplies, Ellie heads to a room in the back and finds a hidden basement. Unbeknownst to Joel, she crawls inside and comes face to face with an infected. Luckily, Ellie has the advantage; the infected is crushed by a pile of rocks and has no chance of escaping. Ellie walks over to it, cuts her knife across its face, then stabs it to death. Her first kill.

Once the two are done with the store, they continue on their journey to Bill and Frank’s, whom we finally get to meet.

Meet Bill

It’s September 30, 2003, four days after the outbreak. Bill (Nick Offerman), a burly survivalist, is hiding in his bunker, watching the cameras planted outside his house. FEDRA is taking survivors to a Quarantine Zone (QZ). Once Bill confirms he is alone, he makes the town his own.

Four years of isolation pass and we witness all the work Bill has put in to protect his home from infected and raiders alike. He is a hardened man who is afraid of nothing. He has safe-proofed his home with trip wires, high voltage electric fences and trap holes. When an uninfected man on his way to Boston suddenly falls into one of the holes, Bill’s entire world changes. The man is named Frank (Murray Bartlett), and he and Bill quickly become infatuated with one another. Before we know it, another three years have passed and Frank is still living with Bill. Their contrasting personalities compliment each other as they protect the neighborhood together. And Frank’s desire to meet knew people overcomes Bill’s tenacity for seclusion. Thus, the origin of their partnership with Joel and Tess.

PlayStation vs. HBO

“Long, Long Ride” is brutal in the most unexpected ways. In the playstation game, we meet Bill after he saves Joel and Ellie from a swarm of infected after Joel gets caught in one of Bill’s traps. He takes them back to a hideout, where Joel picks up ammo, can update his weapons at a workbench, and receives a shotgun and nail bomb recipe. Meanwhile, Bill and Ellie, being the stubborn characters that they are, are at odds with each other throughout their entire journey together.

It is in this saga with Bill that we come across a Bloater, the most aggressive infected character in the first Last of Us game. Finally, the trio make it to Bill’s home, where they find Frank’s lifeless body hanging from a ceiling. He became infected and chose to end his life before turning into an unrecognizable monster.

Bill and Frank bond over Linda Ronstadt.

None of this happens in “Long, Long Time.” While the game hints at Bill being gay through Frank’s suicide note and a male porn magazine that Ellie stole from Bill’s hideout, there is not any other mention of it. He refers to Frank as his “partner” and nothing else. While it is clear that Frank and Bill were in a relationship, it was not a very loving one judging by the hatefulness toward Bill in Frank’s suicide note.

However, in the HBO show, Bill and Frank’s relationship is healthy and loving, including their fights. “Long, Long Time” presents a refreshing depiction of healthy masculinity and sexuality that stays authentic to the characters and their stories.

Another difference from the game is that the only interaction between Bill and Joel in episode three is when they meet for the first time, almost ten years after the outbreak, at a small dinner party at Bill and Frank’s house. While it would have been fun to see more interaction between Bill and Joel in the show, their lack of shared screen-time doesn’t downplay the importance they have in each other’s lives. This is pertinent to a decision Joel makes about whether to keep traveling with Ellie, and it happens in the end of the episode, when Bill and Frank are both dead.

“I hope he never lets me down again.”

Bill is a character who means business and doesn’t care much for the people with whom he shares this world. Nick Offerman took this characterization and ran with it, transforming into the most believable performance of Bill any Last of Us fan could ask for. He is a delightful live-action version of this bitter, coldhearted character.

And yet, there is so much to Bill we don’t know about that HBO was determined to show us. Yes, Bill is an angry reclusive survivalist who was “happy when the world ended.” He is not afraid to shoot down trespassers, infected or not, and exhibits a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in his bunker that is filled floor to ceiling with an array of guns and other weaponry. But after he meets Frank, it turns out that Bill is also sensitive, sweet and filled with unwavering protective love.

Offerman and Bartlett’s chemistry with one another is beautiful. Bartlett brings Frank to life as more than just a man who hated Bill. He has a rich, cultured personality, is full of love and hope. Perhaps the most heartwarming part of the episode is when Frank surprises Bill with a garden of strawberries in their backyard. After a decade of rations and frozen meals, one can only imagine the bliss of eating freshly picked fruit for the first time since the world’s end. With the sun’s rays beaming through the trees and small bugs floating around them, Offerman and Bartlett performed this scene with such sincerity and love that it felt like we, the audience, were right there with them.

“Long, Long Time” ends with Joel and Ellie finally making it to Bill and Frank’s home. Here, all the flowers are dead, an unfinished dinner is caked with mold and a note to Joel is left on the kitchen table. Bill left all his belongings to Joel, including his beloved truck.

The Verdict

“Long, Long Time” is devastating. Offerman and Bartlett’s performances, coupled with the heartbreaking score and thoughtful film editing, create an unexpected love story in a gruesome, ruthless world. All the while, the world-building continues, the story progresses and Joel and Ellie’s bond slowly grows stronger. While there are moments of dialogue identical to the game, this episode is ultimately original. In other words: it is tv filmmaking at its finest. It asks audiences to trust the writers with any creative liberties they’ll take with the show. I would say this request for trust is justified.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

It is in this part in the game where Joel and Ellie meet Sam and Henry. Will we meet them in the next episode? We won’t find out until next week. So until then, make sure you check out the other shows and games we’re consuming at HauntedMTL.

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Movies n TV

Marionette, a Film Review

Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. This R-rated film stars Thekla Reuten and Elijah Wolf.

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Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. The film stars Thekla Reuten, Elijah Wolf, and Emun Elliott. As of this review, this R-rated film is available on Amazon Prime, Shudder, and AMC+.

Dr. Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten) moves to Scotland, having found an opening for her practice. As a therapist, she begins to meet with her clients and adjust to her new life. However, one of her clients, a troubled boy named Manny (Elijah Wolf), has the whole institution frightened. As she soon learns, the boy knows too much and has a wicked temper.

Thekla Reuten as Dr. Marianne Winter looking at Manny's drawing
Thekla Reuten as Dr. Marianne Winter

What I Like

Few films make me feel the spiraling madness of the protagonist. Marionette sits as one such example. The growing evidence facing her leaves the audience as uncertain as the protagonist. And as she becomes more extreme, we fear if she’s right or wrong.

While not too exceptional, lovely visuals throughout the film reflect the mood and situations nicely. From white rooms to stormy nights, many scenes bring life a character’s inner state. Some might find this “on the nose,” but the premise and execution highlight these moments.

Elijah Wolf as Manny, drawing a picture with a sinister glare
Elijah Wolf as Manny

What I Dislike

Taking the premise at face value, I find it strange that Dr. Marianne Winter would be the main character. Without spoiling anything, the end makes me reflect a little harder against some potential interpretations.

This leads to a somewhat ambiguous element of the film. When a film has ambiguity, all parts should be possible. However, this doesn’t feel true for Marionette.

Kraken eating a boat icon
Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Marionette is an interesting and rewarding experience. While some elements don’t tie perfectly with the conclusion, it will have you questioning what is and isn’t real. For a psychological thriller, it’s hard to ask for more. While the film won’t be ideal for everyone, those interested should certainly give it a watch.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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