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.
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.
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 / 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.
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.
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.
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 / 5)
Best Line: “You can try to kill me, Dan. But you can’t. You can only make me dead.” – A gloating Dobbs
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)
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 / 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?