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)
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 / 5)
Best Line: “He’s a wife-beater, Dan, use the gun!” – Herbert West being helpful
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 / 5)
Best Line: “Sex it up, baby!” – Joe Bob Briggs on making films, the AMERICAN way.
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
- 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
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 / 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.
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)