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The seventh episode of the third season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs brings us the modern classic Train to Busan (2016) and the cult classic, Spookies (1986). It is another one of those bizarre pairings that we’re growing used to, though that is not a bad thing at all. It keeps the double features fresh, week to week. You never know what you are going to get on Shudder on Friday night.

Train to Busan (2016)

Opening: Indecisiveness with a menu.

There isn’t much I can add to the discourse surrounding Train to Busan. it is one of the greatest zombie films ever made, let alone within the last decade. It is a film that manages to be scary, packed with action, and carries a strong heartfelt message. It is a movie you could honestly argue to be a perfect example of the craft of filmmaking. If you haven’t seen the film then you absolutely should. Yeon Sang-ho’s zombie thriller stars Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok, and Kim Su-an. The premise is deceptively simple: passengers aboard a train deal with a zombie outbreak as the train makes its way to safety. The simplicity of the plot makes it a perfect vehicle for tense performances, a series of claustrophobic set-pieces, and a delightfully satirical exploration of class difference. It is also, incredibly, incredibly sad. I cannot stress that enough.

I’ve written about class-conscious horror before, and Train to Busan is one of those movies that does a lot to establish a kind of canon for that sort of horror. The movie absolutely runs with the themes of wealth and status and how it renders people with too much of both as inhuman monsters – which is a fair assessment. It just happens to position that argument against frequently crushing tides of zombies. The zombies themselves are fantastic. Their contortionist movements are creepy and are contrasted by the almost fluid nature of zombie bodies in a horde. They become a gnashing, scratching wave that breaks and crashes against surfaces in satisfying ways. World War Z, a far worse film, had a similar scrambling zombie, but they do not really have the same effect like those on Train to Busan.


The film’s heart, however, is the rebuilding of the relationship between Gong Yoo’s Seo Seok-woo, a distant father, and his daughter Seo Su-an (Kim Su-an), one of the only acceptable child characters in horror films. However, their relationship is just one of several in the film which prove affecting. Tough guy Yoo Sang-hwa, played by the magnetic Ma Dong-Seok, has a touching plot with his pregnant wife with a sad, but ultimately beautiful ending. Even the film’s human villian, the greedy COO of a bus company, Yon-suk, gets a humanizing moment before his death – desperate to return to his mother. No character is wasted and no interaction feels possible to cut out of the film, every set of relationships, from the two eldery women to the rapidly diminishing baseball team, carry great emotional weight.

Train To Busan movie poster
One of the five greatest films on TLDI, but what are the other four?

Joe Bob Briggs seemed particularly effusive with his praise of the film. His pronunciations of Korean names may be a bit rough, but his sentiment was clear. It seemed as though each break came with Joe Bob praising a preceding segment of the film, specifically some of the more technical set-pieces, such as the train depot or the fight through the train cars. He also shared some history regarding Yeon Sang-ho and his background in animation. Yeon Sang-ho’s background in animation certainly informed many of the scenes and as Joe Bob pointed out, seemed as though they could only have come from the mind of an animator. With any luck, Joe Bob mentioning adult animation is a sign that perhaps Seoul Station, the Busan prequel, might be shown one day. Hopefully the first in what might be many future horror-adjacent animated films.

Joe Bob Briggs handed out another four-star rating this week, but it feels entirely appropriate for Train to Busan. The movie is just that damn good. I may also be a bit biased because the film is in my top five zombie films ever made. For me, I would give Train to Busan five out of five Cthulhus. It is one of the best films ever shown on The Last Drive-In, and one which was long overdue to be shown. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “Dad, you only care about yourself. That’s why mommy left.” – Su-an laying the emotional smackdown on her dad

Train to Busan movie still depicting three men in a bathroom
I’m not saying someone should conceivably spin this moment off into a slash fic, but I am not saying that someone can’t.

Spookies (1986)

Opening: Alpacas and Llamas

Ooof – where to begin with Spookies? This independent horror film is, to put as fine a point on it as possible, a mess. The movie is incoherent, cheesy, and poorly acted. It is just barely on the verge of “so bad it’s good” territory as well. I missed the showing when it was airing on Friday, but when watching it on Sunday I started to drift off – that never happens to me when watching something on Shudder.


The movie, or perhaps, movies, given the troubled production, was directed by Brendan Faulkner and Thomas Doran, with later footage added by director Eugenie Joseph. The film was originally supposed to be a “dark house” style of a horror film, dubbed Twisted Souls, carved up and edited together with an entirely different concept, resulting in a movie where two plot lines run adjacent to one another and nothing makes sense. Thus, Spookies, named as such for who knows what reason. The film follows an inextricably mixed group of teens and adults exploring a mansion owned by a warlock who wants their lives to preserve his bride, as he has been doing for seventy years. The film stars Felix Ward, Maria Pechukas, Peter Dain, Nick Gionta, and Charlotte Alexandra.

Spookies is a cult film these days, and while I can understand how it can be, I can’t say I really enjoyed my time with it. The monster effects are pretty fun. Well, most of them. The Grim Reaper was comical, like a fancy costume from Spirit of Halloween. Also, the sheer variety of creatures, while kind of neat, ultimately feels unnecessary. Only a couple of them really have any presence and they are gone nearly as soon as they are introduced – and that is pretty specific to the 45 minutes from what was originally going to be Twisted Souls. The zombie horde at the end is fun, but again, smacks more of excess than anything else. The film also feels cheap, particularly the material that was added later, such as the basement set. Also strange was the fact that Felix Ward’s Kreon sounded like he was speaking into a cardboard tube throughout the runtime of the film. Just a confusing mess, honestly.

Also… why the fart noises?

Spookies movie poster by Richard Corben
The Richard Corben poster is the best part of the movie.

I think Joe Bob said it best during the night when he said “Man alive, this thing is just a mess.” Joe Bob’s background on the film was welcome, of course. particularly the odd connection the movie has to John Jay, co-author of the Federalist Papers and first Chief Justice of the United States. Ultimately Spookies, shot in his historical home, helped preserve the historical site in a few ways. It’s just an odd little note, best explained by Joe Bob Briggs. Perhaps most amusing was the revelation that Spookies was the first and last acting job for a number of the crew – it is not hard to understand why. The best part of the second half of the night was the Spookies rap, put together by John Brennan and the folks at the Drive-In. it was a lot of fun and a nice follow-up to the Maniac Cop 2 discussion about rap songs for horror films.

Joe Bob Briggs gave Spookies two stars. Even he admits he was generous there. As for me, Spookies is less of a movie and instead more of something I would have on in the background at a Halloween party while some music was being played. Just some visual interest and not a whole lot else. I give Spookies two out of five Cthulhus. 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Best Line: “Boo, look at me, I’m Duke the horny ghost.” – Duke, being a horny ghost.

A still from the movie spookies
How nice of these teens to take their pastor with them to the party.

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

As always, thanks, Shudder, for those official totals.

As for our own totals?

  • 3 Levels Deeper
  • 15 careers starting and stopping with one movie
  • 1000 Zombies
  • Zombie Double Feature
  • Class Warfare
  • Farting Monsters
  • Exploding Reaper
  • Skull Splitting
  • Yuki sighting
  • Runaway Train (never going back)
  • Fanfiction Fu
  • American History Fu
  • Gratuitous Monsters
  • Gratuitous Llama and Alpaca discourse
  • Gratuitous 90s Rap Sequence
  • Darcy Cosplay: Isabelle, the bride from Spookies
  • Silver Bolo Award: Ghastly Grinning

Episode Score

Another fun night at the drive-in. it would take more than Spookies to ruin the show for me, personally. So far this season seems to be bringing in movies that you would think would have been on the show earlier. It’s cool that we’ve not really dipped into the well of the obvious films you would expect on the show. While Spookies was a miss for me, the rap was great. Of course, I can’t praise Train to Busan highly enough either. Overall, I think it averages out to a strong episode. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

See y’all on Friday for another night of fun at the drive-in. I’ll return to live-tweeting the show as I missed this week. Thanks to Doctor Payne for taking over.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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  1. Frank Farel

    June 5, 2021 at 10:35 am

    “Thus, Spookies, named as such for who knows what reason.”

    “Also… why the fart noises?”

    A word of advise in doing any comprehensive movie review:


    • David Davis

      June 5, 2021 at 5:00 pm

      Joe Bob explains these during the episode, of course. This is more of an existential “why?”

      Just poking fun at the choices, honestly.

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps, The Haunted Mask



Episode two of Goosebumps was honestly more fun than the first. It was dark, funny, infuriating and wonderful. Best of all, it has a killer twist ending.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Based loosely on the 1993 story of the same name, The Haunted Mask begins sort of partway through the first episode.

Cover of R.L. Stine's The Haunted Mask.

We’re introduced to a character we haven’t seen much of so far, named Isabella.

Isabella’s life doesn’t seem great. She’s all but invisible at school. She is responsible for taking care of her little brother. It seems like her only real joy is bullying people online. She was the person who tried to get Allison’s party canceled by sending the invite to her parents. Why? Because she is a very unhappy person.

Despite trying to get the party canceled, she decides to go anyway. At the Biddle house, a voice calls her down to the basement. There, she finds a mask.

The mask inspires her to do wild things. She wanders around the party, flirting with everyone. And she has a great time.

Several days later, after Isaiah breaks his arm, Isabella brings an expensive drone to school to get shots of the football team’s practice. Unfortunately, Lucas breaks it fooling around. And Isabella, tired of being ignored, says some awful things to him.

When her mother grounds her because she took the drone without asking, the mask compels her to do some awful things.


What worked

I would first like to talk about the storytelling structure in this season. It appears that we’re going to be getting the events of Halloween night multiple times, from multiple points of view.

Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps.

I love this structure. It’s unique, and it allows for more mystery in a shorter period. It’s also more complex, showing just how much madness was happening, while just showing one part of the story at a time.

Another thing I appreciated was the evolution of the character Lucas.

On one hand, it’s easy to be angry at Lucas. Even if he thought the drone belonged to the school, it’s still kind of a selfish move to break it.

But Lucas just lost his father. We don’t know how yet, but we know from Nora that his death caused Lucas to start doing things like jumping on drones and skateboarding off the roof from his bedroom window.


We all mourn differently. Losing a parent as a teen is awful. So while we can all agree that he’s being a problem, he’s also being a sad kid working through something hard.

And the same can be said for Isabella.

Look, we still don’t know what the adults of this town did to make Harold Biddle haunt them. But we do know that these parents are messing up in all sorts of other ways. And Isabella is suffering from parentification. She’s being forced to play mom at home while being ignored by her classmates at school. Even without the mask, I could see her lashing out and trashing the house.

Finally, I love Justin Long in this series. His visual comedy was fantastic here, as he falls through the hallways. But he also manages to be scary as hell. His creepy smile and jerky movements are enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. I honestly can’t think of a living actor who could have played this better.

What didn’t work


If I have one complaint about this episode, it’s the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Every song seems like it’s just screaming what the characters are thinking. Which isn’t really what I’d consider the point of a soundtrack.

Maybe it’s just a curse on RL Stine. None of his projects can ever have good soundtracks aside from the theme song.

Unlike the original Goosebumps series, there were moments in this episode that did startle me and unnerve me. Which is wonderful. And while it’s still clearly for kids, it’s something anyone can sit down and enjoy. I’m very excited for the rest of the season. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps Say Cheese and Die



Released in 2023, Goosebumps is the latest in a line of content based on the insanely popular children’s book series with the same name. And if you’re here, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you a lot about Goosebumps. Most horror fans are at least passingly aware of the colorful covers, dark plotlines, and surprise twist endings. Some of us even have a few of the original books lying around.

For nostalgia.

Cover for Say Cheese and Die, Goosebumps number 4.

With so many good and bad versions of the original stories floating around, I was unsure how to feel about this brand-new series. I was sure, however, that I had to watch all of it. Especially with the infamous Slappy appearing so prominently in the advertising.

So, how was the first episode?

The story


We start this episode with a flashback to 1993, and a young man named Harold Biddle. We don’t spend a lot of time with him. He comes home from school and goes right to the basement. There he starts writing some concerning notes in his journal. This is interrupted when a fire consumes the basement, killing him.

We then flash forward thirty years to the real start of our story. The Biddle house has just been inherited by a man named Nathan Bratt, played by the delightful Justin Long. He adores the place but is less than thrilled when a bunch of teens crash it for a Halloween party.

The teens end up not being thrilled either.

Now we come to our real main characters, Isaiah, Margot, Allison, and James. It is the four of them that planned the ill-fated party.

Zack Morris in Goosebumps

While in the house, Isaiah finds a Polaroid camera. He starts taking pictures of his friends, only to find that they don’t come out right. One of them, Allison, shows her on the ground in the woods, terrified for her life. Another shows Margot in a panic next to a snack machine.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he eventually sees both of the girls in those exact situations. The real trouble comes when Lucas takes a picture of him, and it shows him on the football field, horribly injured.


All of these near-death experiences seem to be caused by the flaming spirit of Harold Biddle. And it soon becomes clear that the adults of the town likely know more than they’re willing to tell about what went down at the Biddle house thirty years ago.

What worked

For someone who grew up with the series, and is therefore of a certain age, the first scene of the episode was a lot of fun. It oozed 90’s vibe in a way that’s immediately recognizable to most, and familiar to my generation. Well, insomuch as wearing flannel and coming home to an empty house is the pinnacle of being a 90s kid.

It was also fun for the constant references to books in the original series. Blink and you missed them, but I saw the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Haunted Mask, and Go Eat Worms. These make sense, as they each have their episode this season. But I’m sure I missed a few. Please let me know in the comments.

That was a lot of fun for someone who grew up with the series. But it wasn’t so constant and all-consuming as to distract from the story. Someone could have never read a Goosebumps book in their lives and just enjoy this episode of television.


More importantly, younger viewers can watch this and feel like it’s for them. The main characters aren’t the parents, they’re the kids. And it’s clear even in this first episode that, even if it was the grownups who caused this horror, it’s going to be the kids that fix it.

This is a series that is for kids. And that’s great. It’s introducing a whole new generation to a series in a way that feels like it can be theirs just as much as it was ours when we were kids.

What didn’t work

All that being said, the story also felt a little dumbed down. A little too predictable. There was one line that particularly irritated me in this regard. When Nora goes to see Isiah’s dad in the hospital, she just flat-out says, “The children will suffer for the sins of the fathers.”

Not only is that just a bad line, it’s also a lazy one. It’s awkward and unrealistic. People simply do not talk that way. And we frankly didn’t need this information dropped on us. It was pretty clear during the football game that at least some of the grownups in town were going to be involved with this when we saw Nora recognize what was happening to Isaiah and try to stop the game. Kids are smart. They would have figured this out by themselves.


It’s also a really tired trope. Freddy and Jason after all, are both killing young people for the sins of their parents. It was a big part of the storyline in Hide. And while I get that this might feel relevant to the next generation who are all paying for the mistakes of Boomers that Gen X and Millennials have not done enough to solve, it’s also a bit lazy. I just feel like, if this is going to be our main story, it could have been a better one.

But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this episode. Overall, it was a fun start that left me with lots of questions. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


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Book Reviews

The Dead Take the A Train Review: Queer Magic and Monster Mayhem



“Julie crawled onto the table, straddling her intern, both hands around the knife. She torqued it downward, cursing. Brad shrieked harder.” -pg 57, The Dead Take the A Train by Cassandra Khaw & Richard Kadrey

The Dead Take the A Train is the first book in a duology by authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey. It was published in 2023 by Tor Nightfire (like the Scourge Between Stars, which I reviewed here). I was not previously familiar with Kadrey’s work, which most notably includes the Sandman Slim series. However, I was introduced to Khaw through The Salt Grows Heavy (review here), which I absolutely adored in all its twisted, gory glory. Therefore, I was thrilled to pick-up The Dead Take the A Train, which promised similar heart in a modern cosmic horror package.

In The Dead Take the A Train, a magical fixer named Julie must hunt down eldritch monstrosities threatening the lives of those around her. To do this, she has to go up against her shitty ex, a questionable angel, finance executives, and her own sobriety. When an old friend shows up, Julie is terrified to find herself making a retirement plan that doesn’t involve getting murdered by a demon.

The Dead Take the A Train is reminiscent of N.K. Jeminsin’s The City We Became, with both featuring queer characters tackling eldritch horror plots in New York City. In the same way, the novel was reminiscent of a gorier version of Dimension 20’s Unsleeping City actual play series. However, it clearly carves out a space for itself among the droves of cosmic-horror inspired love letters to New York City. For one, it is mostly unconcerned with borough beef, which (not to sound like a curmudgeonly Midwesterner), is so refreshing. The book also has a relatively novel way the world works, which helps it stay memorable.


Overall, I really liked The Dead Take the A Train. First off, the characters are fun and easy to root for. Julie is a mess in pretty much every aspect, but her bad decisions are understandable and she is charismatic. Her romance with her friend, Sarah, also serves to make Julie more likable. It helps that the villains are so easy to hate too. What’s not to hate about rich Wall Street assholes engaging in human sacrifice? Speaking of which, I liked the juxtaposition of corporate Wall Street and cosmic cultists. The actions taken were evil, but more importantly, they were just business.

The prose was flowery, but not quite as much as in The Salt Grows Heavy. So, if you struggled with Khaw’s other works for that reason this may be a much easier read. Personally, I enjoyed the prose in both. There is quite a bit of gore in The Dead Take the A Train, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming. I think you could still enjoy the book if you don’t love gore, though maybe not if you have a weak stomach.

One of the largest issues I have with The Dead Take the A Train, is the lack of clarity in power levels of the various characters. Especially since all their forms of magic work in different ways, it is sometimes unclear the level of danger present. This can also sometimes create room for plot holes. For example, Julie has a friend who is tapped into anything and everything happening online. This is an absurdly powerful ability (and is used as such). But there were moments where the main conflict probably could have been avoided or solved using that power. It also felt odd that no one else in this thriving magic community felt strongly about stopping a world-ending catastrophe. Because of this, the magic underground of NYC could feel smaller than I think was intended.

Having been familiar with Khaw’s work previously, The Dead Take the A Train clearly feels like a mix of Khaw’s style with someone else’s. This could be a boon or a hindrance, depending on your view of Khaw’s distinct prose and storytelling. Either way, if you are interested in learning more about the process or the authors, check out the interview they did for SFF Addicts Podcast!

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey on the SFF Addicts Podcast

I recommend The Dead Take the A Train, especially for those who are fans of modern urban eldritch horror. The book is an even bigger steal if you are looking for danger, gore, and queer characters. Check it out! And keep your eyes peeled for the next book in this duology. 


[USR 4.2]

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