Welcome back to Notes from the Last Drive-In, where we take in the message of the dark lord Satan in a double feature on our penultimate week. The first of the films is the 1981 Clint Howard classic Evilspeak, while the night rounds out with the Spanish film The Day of the Beast (1995). So how was this early Summer devil’s night on Shudder? Let’s find out together.
Opening: There are really only five college movies. Every other one is a variation on a theme.
What happens when you send Clint Howard to a military academy, bully the hell out of him, and connect with Satan using an Apple II? You get 1981’s Evilspeak. This charming, incredibly goofy film is an average film for the drive-in but definitely delivers on all three Bs: blood, breasts, and beasts. The film, directed by Eric Weston and co-written by Weston and Joseph Garofalo, stars Clint Howard as Stanley Coopersmith, a downtrodden cadent who uncovers an ancient book used in a black mass ritual. Naturally, He ends up using a computer to tap into the spells within and summon Satan himself to get his revenge on those who wronged him. The film also features R. G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Lenny Montana, and Don Stark.
The film is every bit as goofy as you’d expect a 1981 Satanic horror film involving computers to be. It has plenty of blood, s surprising but welcome shower scene (the other one features Clint Howard, so your mileage may vary), and a group of feral hogs, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Hogzilla. The plot is ridiculous, but that’s not necessarily a strike against the movie. Creating a ritual site of rogue former Catholics on the California coast before the Spanish missions is ridiculous but at least plausible enough to work. The strange quasi-Christian-military academy is just as odd and yet consistent a choice with the film. The film is like that the whole way through, making what might seem like strange choices in narrative, yet they just kind of work because that is the sort of film it is.
There isn’t an actor in the film that doesn’t pull their weight – there’s no bad performance in the bunch. Clint Howard sells the abused and tormented outcast well with enough hints at the menace beneath that is unveiled fully in the film’s apocalyptic climax. His transformation from prey to predator is satisfying in the scope of the narrative and performance. Meanwhile, veteran western actor R. G. Armstrong chews the scenes as Sarge, a menacing groundkeeper. Perhaps most surprising for most audiences would be Lenny Montana, best known as Luca Brasi in The Godfather, playing the cook. It is a surprising and fun turn for an actor who filled in a role of such menace in the mafia classic.
Visually speaking, for a movie with a pretty low budget, it’s quite good-looking at times, thanks to the cinematographic eye of Irv Goodnoff. There is also some fun editing by Charles Tetoni with an incredible cut between a severed head and a soccer ball. The whole movie comes together with the only loose gear coming in the form of the sometimes strange sitcom-style score by Roger Kellaway. The oddity of the music does add its own charm, of course.
Joe Bob’s segments mostly revolved around the night’s guest, Clint Howard. Clint’s stint as a guest was fantastic, and he is certainly among the top three special appearances of the show’s history. He was affable, charming, and had some fascinating stories about his experiences in Hollywood, from Star Trek to The Andy Griffith Show, and of course, Evilspeak. One particularly fascinating factoid was the few brushes with a disaster that Clint Howard narrowly avoided, such as the usage of fuller’s earth on the set and the usage of rubber cement smoke – both hazardous substances in hindsight. That’s not even getting into the giant live pigs on set.
The host segments for the first half of the night reached their absolute peak, with a new musical number, “Clint Howard (Thank You)” by John Brennan. It was adorable and charming and even featured a surprise visit from Ron Howard.
Evilspeak is a solid drive-in film. While I disagree with Joe Bob Briggs’ four-start assessment of the movie, I think it is worth the ride. The story is pretty entertaining with enough of that 1980s style goofiness to add some unintentional laughs. It also has one Hell of a finale, pun intended. During the show, Clint Howard mentioned an interest in a follow-up or remake: I could see that happening with some significant changes, such as losing the computer used in summoning. Overall, Evilspeak is one I would watch again, so I am giving it four out of five Cthulhus. (4 / 5)
Best Line: “There’s my fucking crowbar!” – Sarge, upon having located his crowbar.
The Day of the Beast (1995)
Opening: Subs vs. Dubs: No longer a fight just for anime nerds.
The Day of the Beast (in Spanish, El día de la Bestia) was my favorite of the night’s films and one of the best of the season. The movie is also one of the funniest ever aired on The Last Drive-In. Directed by Álex de la Iglesia and co-written by Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría the film stars Álex Angulo, Armando De Razza, and Santiago Segura. The Day of the Beast follows a priest, Ángel, and he commits as much evil as he can to find his way into a Satanic cult, believing that the AntiChrist will be born on Christmas Eve. He is aided by heavy metal fan José and TV occultist Cavan who quickly find themselves in the center of a Satanic storm.
I cannot stress enough how funny this movie is. Humor can be extremely subjective, and this can be especially true with the language and cultural barriers. What is hilarious in one context can be puzzling in another, such as wordplay in the form of idioms. A line may be hilarious in its original language, but translating it may kill it. The Day of the Beast doesn’t seem to have these issues because the gags are seemingly universal. At one point, Joe Bob mentioned Álex Angulo has an almost Buster Keaton type physicality, and that is a perfect description. A lot of the humor is physical, broad comedy. People being hit, shot, stabbed, chasing one another through rooms, being tied up. It sounds ridiculous, but it works. The central performances are also fantastic, with the three leads forming a trio that reminded me of The Three Amigos and evoked The Three Stooges at times. The film also serves as winning satire, an incredible feat given the potential language barrier and the stick issue of religion, but it absolutely sticks the landing.
All of the story-driven humor is accomplished through great storytelling. Another insight Joe Bob Briggs brought to his read of the film, one that blew my mind when he mentioned it, is that the film is essentially a retelling of Don Quixote, that Spanish literary classic. Ángel is Quixote with José as Sancho, and the journey reflects the themes and structure of the book. It is an awe-inspiring feat. The film has so much depth I am certain I have missed many details in my initial viewing, between note-taking and live-tweeting. It is one I am going to need to watch again.
The film is also gorgeous at times, with cinematographer Flavio Martínez Labiano really making Madrid look like a dirty, sinful place, but with special effects that most definitely show their age. One particularly comical rear-projected fall evokes feelings of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The bestial, demonic Satan depiction is entertaining, but again, a bit dated now, at least given the effects. For the time, though? Impressive. The gore is a bit limited as well, but it works, such as an incident involving a shotgun and an ear.
Joe Bob’s insights were great and layered in some solid social commentary and a little history – such as how the movie would fit into the history of the Spanish missionary wave in California. One of the more fun moments was him talking about his own time in Spain in his youth. College Joe Bob seemed super fun. What the heck happened? Hearing about the works of a director that I had not seen before was very fun and part of why I enjoy having Joe Bob pop up during the movies. I came out of The Day of the Beast with another five movies to watch.
The back half of the night had what I would argue to be the superior film. I’ve been poking fun at Joe Bob throughout the season for being a bit generous with his ratings, but I found it unfortunate that the superior of the two films, The Day of the Beast, only took three stars. I’m not in agreement, I think The Day of the Beast is a tremendously funny horror film, and I give it four and a half out of five Cthulhus. It’s just so damn good. (4.5 / 5)
Best Line: “You must help me contact the devil.” – Father Ángel, spoken like a true man of God.
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As always, here are the official totals provided by the show.
As for our own totals…
- 10 dead dogs this season
- 2 Yuki Sightings
- 250 Clint Howard movies
- 24-hour shoot for floating Coopersmith
- A Dozen Hogs
- John Brennan Musical Number
- Gratuitous Public Access Occultism
- Surprise Opie
- Buddhist Joking
- Farmer Joking
- Foot Crosses
- Burning Crosses
- Falling Crosses
- Digital Devilry
- Swine Fu
- Tron Fu
- E S T E B A N
- Darcy Cosplays: Ms. Heavy Artillery and Devil’s Night Darcy
- Silver Bolo Award: Bloodbath and Beyond
It was another fine night at the drive-in. I appreciate the show because I end up having a great time from week to week, even if the movies were awful. Such is the case with last week’s offerings, yet the whole night ended up being a blast. Sometimes I worry the reviews sound the same week to week because of this. It’s all Joe Bob’s fault for having such a remarkably consistent show.
It’s gonna be a bummer of a couple of months until we get our next, inevitable mini-marathon. (4 / 5)
Join us this Friday on Twitter as we live-tweet the season finale. Will we finally get Halloween III? Probably not! I bet that one of the movies will be Another WolfCop. Will it be fun? Most certainly!
American Horror Story Delicate, Multiply Thy Pain
American Horror Story Delicate began last night, Killer Queens. And it was, well, a complicated episode. This makes sense because this season is about a complicated topic.
Just in case you didn’t know, this whole season is based on the novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
Anna Victoria Alcott is an actress who just got her big break. She was in a horror movie that no one can stop talking about.
Except Anna herself. Because this career success couldn’t have come at a worse time. She and her husband Dex are in the middle of the difficult IVF process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and painful. Ironically, so is trying to win an Oscar.
But Anna has other things to worry about. Someone is messing with her. Several women are watching her in public. Worse, someone appears to be getting into her home, slashing notes she leaves for Dex, and removing her vital IVF medication from the fridge so it spoils. Her calendar is hacked to move her doctor appointments around so she misses them. Worst of all, someone broke into her home and crawled into bed with her.
Of course, no one takes any of these concerns seriously. Her agent, Siobhan, is focusing on getting her an Oscar. Her husband, Dex, doesn’t seem to give a shit about her except for when it comes to having a baby. He’s frequently dismissive of her concerns and only seems to want her around when it’s convenient for him. He goes so far as to kick her out of his show opening because she’s on edge.
You know, maybe because she’s clearly being stalked by someone who is trying to keep her from having a baby.
AHS Asylum had a lot of dark and important things to say about mental health care in America. AHS Coven had a lot of dark and important things to say about race and gender relationships.
Last season, AHS NYC wasn’t so subtle. Yes, there was a killer. But the real historical horror of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s was the focus of the season. And that worked very well.
This season, the story is clearly about female body autonomy. Anna is a woman struggling with so many issues that modern women face. The balance between our careers and our families. Feeling like growing old is the most unforgivable thing a woman can do. And of course, the fact that our bodies often feel like they don’t belong to us.
I was also pleased to see some AHS alumni. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Hill was delightful. Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd will be involved soon, and they never bring anything less than their A-game.
This episode also did something I never thought could happen. It managed to scare me with a calendar notification. That was a special moment for me as a horror fan and calendar-obsessed person.
What didn’t work
Here are some things I didn’t love. First off, the main character Anna is a pushover. She can’t say no to Dex, Talia, Dr. Hill, or Siobhan. No one gets a no from this woman!
Anna didn’t act like that in the book. She stood up to everyone all the time, it was great. She wasn’t getting any support, but she was advocating for herself! That was such an important part of her character, and I’m sad to see that she’s lost that here.
I also hate the changes made to Siobhan and Talia. Now, please understand that this isn’t me complaining that the book was different. That’s not my point. Siobhan was a kind, loving woman who supported her best friend even while dying of cancer. Talia was a smart, business-oriented woman who was still kind. She was trying to start a family with her transgender husband, and bonded with Anna over their IVF journeys. These were vital characters in the story.
I feel like they’ve been railroaded.
All that being said, this was a decent start to AHS Delicate. It’s not the best start of a season we’ve had. But it’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season is going to bring. (4 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Strangers and Friends
Episode two of Wheel of Time, widened the divide between the show and the books. Things are happening out of order, people are acting out of character. Whether this is to the detriment of the show, however, has yet to be determined.
One character missing from episode one was Rand. You know, our main character. But we finally catch up with him now.
He’s living in a city with a woman named Selene. They don’t have what I’d call a super healthy relationship. She spends a bit too much time talking about her ex.
Yes, for those of you who didn’t read the books, this is going to be important.
Rand is also working at an insane asylum. He’s kind and patent with his charges, but not all of his fellow caregivers are.
Meanwhile, Lan and Moiraine are recovering form their Fade attack from last episode. Rather than taking the time to actually heal, Moiraine decides to head out to find Rand. Her team comes with her, which seems to really bother her.
While that little hissy fit is taking place, Nynaeve is causing issues. Not by anything she’s doing, but by what she’s not doing. As none of the regular novice teacher have been able to get her to use the One Power, Liandrin offers to try. No one, including me, is thrilled with this. But, the Aes Sedai are desperate. They know that The Dark One is around, and they need Nynaeve to be ready. So, they let the person who’s driven other students to their deaths and actively committed multiple hate crimes take over.
What could go wrong?
The special effects in this episode were really well done. I especially liked the dead fade nailed to the wall.
I was also pleased with the introduction of Elayne. Ceara Coveney is playing her, and doing a fine job. She’s warm, kind and sweet. I am thrilled that she’s around.
One of the greatest things about Wheel of Time is the friendships between the characters. Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve and Egwene legitimately care about each other. Elayne seems to care for Egwene right away. I really love that.
What didn’t work
One thing that bothered me in this episode, and frankly the last episode, was Liandrin keeping Mat in prison. I feel like this wasn’t adequately explained. Why does she have him? How did she trap him? What in the hell is she trying to get from him? Perhaps I simply missed something, and please let me know in the comments if this is the case. But it feels like some poor writing to me.
I also don’t love how Moiraine is portrayed in this episode. Really, in this season so far.
I get that she’s never exactly been a warm person. She’s not personable, open, or kind. Some (most) fans of the book would likely agree that she’s kind of a bitch.
But she’s not a bitch for no reason. She certainly isn’t the sort to lash out at the people who love her because she’s in pain. And that’s what she’s doing through this episode. She’s taking her pain out on Lan. And that’s just out of character for her.
It feels very much like a lot is being skipped over from the Wheel of Time books. But, so far at least, I don’t feel like anything vital has been missed. It feels more like the story is being streamlined.
Yes, I understand how this might go horribly wrong. I think we’ve all seen that. But as of right now, the changes make sense for the switch in mediums.
Now, let’s see if it stays that way.
(3 / 5)
Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre: Francois and The Unicorn Review
Gringo Fantastico is a troubled luchador presenting Troma films from the safety of a derelict recreation center nestled in chaotic Tromaville. He is tortured by the French-Canadian Demon Piñata Francois who trash talks and hurls abuse throughout the episodes. This week’s special guest is Jonah Ray Rodrigues. New episodes release on the first of each month on Troma NOW.
Roll the Tape!
Welcome back to Tromaville for Chapter Dos of Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre! Gringo Fantastico (Nate Turnpaugh) returns to the screen with guest Jonah Ray (current host of Mystery Science Theater 3000) to proudly host Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). Turnpaugh espouses his love for the movie in our most recent interview and credits his friends with helping him to discover it. “They kept trying to get me to watch it, and one day I finally did.”
On a totally unrelated note, the Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines libel as “a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression.” For no reason at all, I choose to immediately correct the record and inform you that Fantastico actually hosts Herb Freed’s Graduation Day (1981).
We once again begin with grainy VHS footage of an interview from the luchador’s past. Much like the previous episode, Fantastico becomes upset at the prodding questions being asked of him. As this ongoing narrative continues to build, it is becoming obvious Fantastico is coming close to a breaking point.
These segments, while short, work to highlight Turnpaugh’s screenwriting ability. They feel authentic and demonstrate a solid understanding of wrestling culture. Crafting a compelling story can be difficult when it is broken into parts and spread across significant time. However, he creates bite-sized pieces of lore that manage to both satisfy and leave the audience craving more.
A Piñata by Any Other Name
Before the movie can start, Fantastico has to deal with the usual shenanigans from Francois. When it is time to bring out Jonah Ray for his interview from the Satellite of Love, Francois outright refuses. The interview must come at the cost of Fantastico’s soul. Fearing for the worst but desperate to continue the episode, Fantastico agrees to a one-day-only loan of his soul.
Enter Francine. She’s a sassy yet loving unicorn who only wants the best for Fantastico. She is complimentary and eager to help, offering her kind words in a sugary sweet voice. For all intents and purposes, she is the opposite of Francois. And yet, she is Francois. At least, she is Francois after consuming Fantastico’s soul.
Turnpaugh continues the ongoing theme of addressing his PTSD within the episode. He explains it as, “the whole concept of self-worth with the PTSD and things like that because that is a problem that I’ve experienced. When people are constantly negative towards you and you constantly have to defend yourself and you constantly be on edge and finally something happens and you don’t have to do that anymore. But you’re so guarded when that happens that you don’t know how to act.”
Throughout the episode, Fantastico chafes against Francine’s presence. He is unsure of what to do when someone speaks affectionately to him after suffering Francois for so long. The only punishments she doles out are rainbows that make you laugh. It’s unsettling and a little uncomfortable and is exactly what working to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk feels like.
The Satellite of Love
The interview segments with Jonah Ray feel like listening to old friends banter. Turnpaugh tells me he first met Ray at the Malco Drive-In Theater last year where they both attended Joe Bob’s Jamboree. He admits to being caught off guard when Ray knew who he was and was familiar with his work.
Fame and the mental games it causes one to play ends up becoming a large part of the interview. When asked by Fantastico when he felt like he had made it, Jonah Ray responds “I don’t think there is a there, there.” He likens the fame game to climbing a ladder. “You’re […] looking up […] but you rarely look back down.”
One of the best portions of the interview is when Jonah Ray goes full meta and begins roasting the ego necessary to take on the role of a media host. It’s hard not to laugh when you remember this is coming from the mouth of one host straight into the ear of another. It is important to note that both men are playing characters as hosts, which according to Ray changes the dynamic.
New Place, Same Thing
Jonah Ray also spends time talking about the difference in production having moved away from Netflix and onto Gizmoplex. He says it has been a lifelong dream to host MST3K and the move has allowed him space to better bring his vision of hosting to the screen. Netflix, while important in bringing MST3K back, seems to have sucked some of the soul out of the show. He believes moving to Gizmoplex helps with delivering the level of quality fans expect.
Turnpaugh is familiar with format shifts, having moved his show from YouTube onto Troma Now. I ask how this has changed things in terms of production and he says while he has never felt more supported, he has started placing more pressure on himself. “The pressure is never from Troma.” Lloyd Kaufman clearly believes in the show, as he’s recently started giving it top-billing on the site.
Back to Basics
The end of the episode brings back an extremely confused Francois. It seems consuming Fantastico’s soul didn’t go exactly as planned. Turnpaugh promises that audiences have not seen the last of Francine and that some answers may be coming sooner rather than later. You’ll just have to tune in next month to see what insanity happens next in Tromaville.
My rating for the episode: (4.6 / 5)
Follow @realfantastico on the platform formerly known as Twitter to join in with the rest of the Fantasticats as they live-tweet each episode the Friday after release. Episode three features special guests Toby Poser, John Adams and Lulu Adams.