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Tonight’s mix at The Last Drive-In is high octane mayhem mixed with slow, coastal zombie shenanigans with Mandy (2018) and Dead and Buried (1981). We’ve been lucky with the pairings week after week, but can Joe Bob and Darcy keep up the streak, or was tonight’s pairing just to weird to work? Let’s dive in as we cover Shudder’s The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.

Mandy (2018)

Opening: Stress relief without guns? Really?

Mandy, directed by Panos Cosmatos and written by Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn is a rock-fueled gore trip filled with 1980s prog-rock imagery and a particularly wicked-looking ax. The film stars Nicholas Cage as Red, who lives in the woods with his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) who are the targets of violence and mayhem at the behest of cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). The death of Mandy sends Red on a revenge mission with mysterious drugs, demon bikers, and perhaps the world’s longest chainsaw. It’s one hell of a ride and one of the best exclusives on Shudder. it is also quite a great fit for The Last Drive-In.

The movie doesn’t really offer much in the way of plot, but plot is overrated, especially when it comes to movies featured by Joe Bob Briggs. The narrative offers little in surprise outside of brutal, inventive set pieces. The film is slow to start and a bit mumbly, but the sense of security is necessary to establish the contrast of the remainder of the film. it is telling that we don’t get the “title card” until just before the revenge mission occurs: the past is prologue here, the core of the film is blood, guts, and vengeance.

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mandy poster
This movie is a trip. Like, a biker meth trip.

The film does have a surprising heart, however, as Cage is particularly great in tapping into a tweak on the Cage-rage formula. When Red is at his absolute bottom of despair, you really feel it. Andrea Riseborough is wonderful as Mandy, possessing a somewhat otherworldly quality that is magnetic in an almost primal way – like some forest spirit. Riseborough’s time as Mandy is unsurprisingly short, as it is a vengeance film but Cosmatos finds clever ways to have Mandy haunt every moment of the film. It is all unreliable narrator in action, of course; how much of what we see is real and how much is the drug and rage-fueled grief of Red’s mind? Linus Roache is also utterly fantastic as Jeremiah Sand, a wellspring of butthurt masculinity and a rejected artist who has managed to cobble together his strange cult.

The movie is visually stunning, taking mundane settings such as a gravel pit and the woods and layering them with a druggy sheen that turns virtually every frame into a potential metal album cover. Benjamin Loeb’s cinematography is strong, especially when playing with faces. Hubert Pouille’s production design also stuns, creating one of the grimiest dens of sleaze you can imagine for a group of demonic bikers. But the real work in the movie is done with color and filters, creating a visually dense collage of mood, light, and image in each frame.

Joe Bob’s segments during the run time were the sort of things we love and respect. Informative and sometimes surprising. For example, Panos Cosmatos isn’t exactly a well-known figure with a relatively slim filmography of Mandy and Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010). But his parents made their own impact in film and art, and Cosmatos benefited greatly from that – his father being director George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II and Tombstone). It was some interesting biography delivered by Briggs and perhaps the highlight of the first half of the evening when it came to cast and crew factoids.

But the night belonged to the Chili Bandit.

Joe Bob Briggs gave Mandy the four-star treatment, and that’s absolutely fair. Mandy is the sort of movie that hits the marks of blood, breasts, and beasts that makes a great drive-in feature. I think pretty highly of the movie myself, and despite some slight concerns, most of the cult is undercooked, and the bikers made for a fun distraction but could have been more involved. Despite this, Mandy is a movie I can watch over and over again. I give Mandy four and a half Cthulhus. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Best Line: “I’ll blow you, man! I’ll suck your fucking dick! Is that what you want? Please! Please! Please talk to me.” – Jeremiah Sand, begging for his life.

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Mandy still
Our 2020 inner thoughts.

Dead and Buried (1981)

Opening: Lying is getting easier.

Gary Sherman’s Dead and Buried (sometimes Dead & Buried) is a 1981 film that plays more like a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits story padded to movie-length. The movie infamously has Dan O’Bannon attached to the writing credits, but thanks to Joe Bob Briggs we know that he wrote some notes which were ignored by writers Jeff Millar, Alex Stern, and Ronald Shusett. So yeah, don’t expect anything as tight as Alien. The movie follows a small-town sheriff of Potter’s Bluff, Dan Gillis (James Farentino), who finds the town inundated with a series of grisly murders and hints at a supernatural conspiracy right under his nose. What secret might he learn about his wife, Janet (Melody Anderson), and the local mortician William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson in his final role)?

The film is tolerable. In truth, I had seen it before, but I ended up forgetting all about it and was shocked to realize that this had been the case. It is rare for a movie to leave little impact on me. The performances are acceptable, the story predictable, and the cinematography is fairly bland. James Farentino doesn’t inspire much interest as the lead and Jack Albertson, dying of cancer during the filming, is barely there as the secretive Dobbs. The highlights of the cast are largely small: Lisa Blount as “Lisa,” one of the townies (she’s very attractive, that’s about it) and a young Robert Englund.

dead and buried poster
There is no giant head in the movie, sorry.

The story is ultimately predictable, down to the double-twist of the final act. It’s not a bad story but it is not a story that needs to be as long as it is. Part of the predictable nature of it comes from the padding that gives the audience more time to think and consider the story and how it will play out. Scenes can sometimes give away more than intended, by nature of setting up more of the story. Now, if the film was a brisk 40 minutes, perhaps as an anthology segment, it would be more impactful. As it stands, the current cut of Dead and Buried feels like it deserved another edit – something tighter.

The film is also visually bland. The town seems quaint enough, but not exactly creepy. The instance of fog on the scene, meant to convey mystery and danger, just reminded me of a better movie, The Fog. The film works best in two inventive kills about midway through the film, involving a needle and eyeball, and another featuring the injection of acid. it’s fine special effects work by Stan Winston, but it takes forever to get to them, and nothing in the film quite lives up to those moments for the remaining run time. Cinematographer Steven Poster would go onto a career featuring highlights such as Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” Donnie Darko, and Big Top Peewee. Director Gary Sheran would do Poltergeist III (yikes) but bring us The First 48: Missing Persons, a great true crime show.

Joe Bob’s bits for the second half of the night failed to live up to the sheer power of the Chili Bandit ad, but there was some great information to be had. The sad, final days of Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) were a bit of a shock, particularly the note about him attending the film premiere with an oxygen mask. It wasn’t all sadness, though. Joe Bob geeked out about true crime a bit which is always fun to see. Despite this, you get the feeling, that the odds were always stacked against the film, especially given that it was sold three times before it was released. Somewhere, out there, is a cut of the film that wasn’t tinkered with beyond the original test screening. I’d love to see that one.

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Dead and Buried isn’t my favorite film shown on The Last Drive-In, but that is okay. I ultimately found myself coasting off the high of Mandy and it is not like Dead and Buried is a bad movie. it’s just inoffensive – how it ever found itself as a video nasty is a mystery. Joe Bob gave it three stars, and while I feel it is generous, I am not too far off myself, giving it three Cthulhus. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Best Line: “You can try to kill me, Dan. But you can’t. You can only make me dead.” – A gloating Dobbs

dead and buried still
Man, it is when the bandages are on that you really start itching.

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

As always, we share those Drive-In Totals straight from Shudder.

Our Totals can be found below.

  • One Yuki Sighting
  • One Chili Bandit
  • Three unfortunate sales before the film release
  • Slippery Slope Ranting
  • Maximum 80s
  • Woods Wandering
  • Liberal usage of the word “phantasmagoric”
  • Surprise Belgium
  • Entirely appropriate usage of Cheddar Goblin
  • Bathroom Bender
  • Shirt Quipping
  • Piano Slamming
  • Detachable Digits
  • Twilight Zone Ending
  • Two Darcy Cosplays: Nicholas Cage and Lisa Blount’s nurse outfit
  • Silver Bolo Award: Knight Light (a podcast)
the last drive-in still
I’d have gone with Jeremiah’s Spock robe, but I am not the mail girl.

Episode Score

It was another fun night at the drive-in. I do feel like Dead and Buried was buoyed by following Mandy. The highlight of the night absolutely came from the first half of the show. That Chili Bandit, man.

Man. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

See you next week, folks. We continue to live-tweet the fun at the Haunted MTL Twitter account, so why not give us a follow there?

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Kelly

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Launched in October of 2023, Suburban Screams is the latest project by acclaimed horror master John Carpenter. It’s a true crime/unsolved mystery series covering events that have terrified people living in, you guessed it, the suburbs.

The story

Our first episode, titled Kelly, is the story of two roommates named Dan and Joey. The actual Dan and Joey tell the story from their own perspective, interspersed with dramatic reenactments. This did feel very much like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

One night when Dan and Joey have their girlfriends over, they decide to play with an Ouija board. Since they don’t have one, Dan makes one on a pizza box, complete with a planchette. This is, of course, when things go terribly wrong.

Still from Suburban Screams, Kelly.

Honestly, I have never heard anyone say, “I had a great time with that Ouija board, I’m really glad we did that.”

The couples make contact with a spirit named Kelly. This is very upsetting to Dan’s girlfriend May, as she had a cousin named Kelly who went missing and is presumed dead.

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Dan then finds himself haunted by Kelly. He throws up water, finds his kitchen chairs stacked on the table, and is followed around by a haunting song. Dan feels like he won’t find peace until he helps Kelly find peace.

What worked

There was a lot to enjoy in this first episode. Specifically, I loved the horror visuals. Dan’s vision was very creepy, as an example. And I loved the shots of the body floating down the river. These images were eerie and upsetting.

The storytelling from Dan and Joey was also well done. While I have my doubts about the validity of this story, these two men believe wholeheartedly in what they’re saying. I certainly believe that they experienced something disturbing. Either that or they are some fantastic actors.

What didn’t work

That being said, some things rubbed me the wrong way in this episode.

I’d like to start with the herbs Joey burned during the Ouija session. It looked like sage, or maybe sweetgrass.

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As some of you might know, I am a practicing witch. So I do feel the need to point out that if you want to open a door and invite spirits in, you probably don’t want to be burning sage or sweetgrass as those are going to negate any spiritual activity. This was for sure the action of someone who does not know what the hell they are doing. It just irritated me.

Also, maybe don’t throw open a door indiscriminately to the spirit world. Just saying.

I also didn’t love the acting by Ben Walton-Jones, who played Dan. While it wasn’t a terrible job, the character felt overacted. I don’t know how he had room for that pizza, since he was chewing the scenery most of the episode.

Honestly, this episode felt a little underproduced. When I saw John Carpenter’s name, I was expecting something with some real production value. Great acting, great effects, great music. None of those were in effect here. I’m not sure where their budget went, because it didn’t go to any of the things it should have.

Is it true?

So that brings us to the big question. Do I think this story is true?

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Well, it is verifiable that Kelly Lynn Fitzpatrick was a young woman who unfortunately was found dead in 1999 in Quebec. The rest of the story, so far as I can find, is up to speculation.

Do I believe someone could contact the dead on an Ouija board they made out of a pizza box? Yes, I do. Because Dan made it with his own hands it might have worked better than a store-bought board. But do I think he was haunted to this extent by the spirit of Kelly?

Well, I would say that I believe this about as much as I believe the story of the Amityville house. Something certainly happened here, but I am sure that the details shared in this episode of Suburban Screams are highly overblown.

In the end, while I did have fun watching this episode, this fun was tainted. I would have enjoyed it more if it was presented as a fictional story loosely based on real-life events. Because that is almost certainly what it was.

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Beginning

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We’ve now reached the end of Fallout, season one. As I mentioned during the last review, I was heartily concerned that this show, like so many others, was going to drop the ball at the finale and ruin an entire season.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. This episode was everything it needed to be and more.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin our story with Maximus returning to the Brotherhood of Steel compound. He has a head, which he is claiming is the real head of Wilzig.

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I don’t know why he thought that was going to work.

Of course, it doesn’t. The elder cleric is about to kill Maximus until Dane says that they hurt their foot.

Because of this, the Brotherhood is sent out to get the head. Or rather, what’s inside of it. They head to the city run by Moldaver. This happens to be the same place Lucy and The Ghoul are headed.

Still from Amazon Prime's Fallout.

There, Lucy does manage to find her father. What she ends up finding is so much more than she wanted to find.

What worked

The first thing I have to discuss is how seamlessly the storylines of the series combined.

Each of our four main characters has been on their own journey. Lucy is trying to save her father. Maximus wants to become a knight. The Ghoul wants to find his family. Norm wants to know what’s going on in Vault 31.

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I sure wasn’t expecting all of these stories to come together in the way that they did. And to preserve the ending, I don’t dare say more. I will only say that yes, all four stories tie in perfectly with one another. By the end, two characters end up having the very same goal.

As I hinted before, I did not see the twist ending coming.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

Yes, we might have guessed some things from the last episode. We of course guessed that Lucy’s dad was involved in some nefarious and probably sci-fi way. But the way this story twists at the end is nothing short of serpent-like. Which is why I cannot go into too much detail here. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to experience it blind.

Finally, I can give the Fallout season finale the most important praise I can ever give a finale. It did its number one job, getting us excited for season two. We have answers, but now we have new and more exciting questions. And even better, we have a desire to see vengeance done.

What didn’t work

Now that the season is done, though, I can bring up something that bothered me through all eight episodes.

I don’t buy Lucy and Maximus’s relationship.

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Maybe because it’s rushed. Maybe because the two actors don’t have a lot of chemistry. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure even now either character could tell you a single thing about the other. There is just no spark between the two. So their love story feels tacked on. I honestly feel like their love story could have been removed from the show entirely and it would have no negative impact.

I also didn’t buy Dane’s confession. This is a minor spoiler, but it comes up early in the episode. Dane confesses that they hurt their foot so that they wouldn’t have to go into the wastelands.

And at first, I kept expecting Maximus to thank them later. I honestly thought that they were just lying to save Maximus’s life. But no, as it turns out, they were not.

But it just doesn’t make sense. The motivations don’t jive. I honestly think it would have been better for the story if they had lied to save Maximus’s life.

At least then there’d be one other Brother of Steel who had some nobility.

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In the end, this first season of Fallout was everything I could ask for. So far as I can tell, it was everything fans of the Fallout franchise could ask for. There wasn’t a bad episode in the bunch. Honestly, the only real complaint I had was that the season was so short.

I’ll be counting down the days to season two, and I hope you’ll be joining me then. Because war, war never changes.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Radio

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Episode seven of Amazon’s Fallout is the penultimate episode. This is often when a series goes off the rails and starts to mess things up. After being burned so often recently, I was apprehensive when this episode began.

Thankfully, this was a fear that did not come to pass. And so far, Fallout’s finale is doing just fine.

Lana the dog in Fallout.

The story

A lot happened in this episode, so we’re just going to skim over some of the more important storylines. We’ll start with Lucy and Maximus, in Vault 4. Lucy has discovered what she believes is a secret collection of monsters. But of course, it turns out that it’s simply people that the vault dwellers discovered and are trying to help heal. But her meddling around was enough for them to kick her out of the vault. With two weeks’ worth of food and water, of course.

But Maximus assumes they’re going to do something much worse. And so he steals their power coil to fight through the perfectly innocent people and save Lucy.

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Meanwhile, we dive further into The Ghoul’s past, when he was still Western star Cooper.

After attending a Communist meeting, he’s approached by Lee Moldaver. She suggests that Vault Tech is hiding something, something terrible. And she tells Cooper that his wife Barbara knows more about this than she’s letting on. Moldaver gets Cooper to bug Barbara’s Pip Boy, and listen in on an important meeting.

Poor Cooper hears far more than he wants to.

War, war never changes.

What worked

I would like to first point out that this was one of the funniest episodes so far. I mean, it got incredibly tragic and sad by the end. But it also had some great laugh-out-loud moments. This should be a surprise to no one, with such an array of comedians guest starring. Chris Parnell was in the last episode as well but is now joined by the incredibly funny Fred Armisen as DJ Carl. This is of course not his first foray into the funny and spooky world, as he also played Uncle Fester in Wednesday.

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Most of what makes this episode funny is the character’s understated and deadpan responses to wild situations. When Maximus returns the energy coil and is greeted by a simple thank you. When Thaddeus gets an arrow through his neck, and slowly realizes that hey, he might be a ghoul. These were hilarious because they could have been truly dark moments. But because this world is so dark, and the characters have already been through so much, they’re simply done. They take all of this in stride because of course that’s what’s happening. It’s par for the course for them.

Aaron Moten and Ella Purnell in Fallout.

On the other hand, we’ve finally seen the full extent of The Ghoul/Cooper’s past. And it’s so much worse than we could have imagined. I assumed that he’d lost his beloved wife and daughter in the atomic blasts two hundred years ago, somehow not dying with them and instead turning into a literal and figurative monster. The truth is so much worse. I’ll do my best not to spoil the ending. But I will say this. There is nothing more painful than mourning someone and hating them at the same time. And it’s easy to see how Cooper turned into The Ghoul. That sort of pain could drive anyone mad.

This balance between comedy and tragedy is one of the reasons why this episode worked so well. It’s one of the reasons why the series is working so well. It manages to combine the core tenets of theater in a way that never compromises the strengths of either. The eventual downfall of Thaddeus is a great example of this because it’s both tragic and funny. We’ve seen what happens to ghouls, and it’s a horrible end. But as he’s hardly been a sympathetic character, we can all get a good laugh at his predicament as well.

The sheer amount of good old-fashioned gore doesn’t hurt either, of course.

What didn’t work

All that being said, there was one thing that bothered me about this episode. And it was the reveal of Vault 4’s big secret.

Honestly, I was expecting the Vault 4 storyline to go way darker. I wanted it to go way darker. While I’ve never played these games myself, I know enough about the story to say that these vaults are not the bastions of safety and morality that they have so far been portrayed as. And while that has certainly been alluded to, we haven’t seen it.

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We haven’t seen the depravity in these vaults. And it’s there. But maybe we just haven’t gotten to it yet.

In the end, The Radio did exactly what it needed to do. It set us up to have most of our questions answered in the season finale. And I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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