Notes from the Last Drive-In: S4E3 – ‘The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane’ and ‘Housebound’
We head back to the drive-in with Joe Bob and Darcy this week to watch The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) and Housebound (2014). Lock your doors and stay inside with Shudder, because this Friday the 13th double-feature is agoraphobic-approved.
We pick up from last week’s Walpurgisnacht fun to another creepy day for horror nerds, and along the way, we learn some cool history about superstition. But does the theme land, or does this week’s double-feature premise feel a little thin?
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a 1972 “cross-genre” film with elements of a teen drama, thriller, horror, and character study. It is certainly no feel-good film, either. It is a dark satire of the worst fears of parents subverted by a protagonist who has lived more than most adults. Directed by Nicolas Gessner, the film stars Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, and Scott Jacoby. The film is a Canada/French-produced adaptation of Laird Koenig’s novel of the same name. The film would be written by Koenig.
The plot is simple; a thirteen-year-old girl named Rynn (Jodie Foster) lives in apparent isolation in the town of Wells Harbor, Maine. Her apparent isolation draws the curiosity of the community, including that of a local pedophile, Frank (Martin Sheen), the son of Rynn’s landlord, Cora (Alexis Smith). Rynn’s privacy is repeatedly under assault by the larger community and the obsession of Frank as her father, a poet, is never seen by locals. A chance encounter with a young man, Mario (Scott Jacoby), nephew of local cop Ron (Mort Shuman), unravels the complicated and tragic circumstances behind Rynn’s apparent isolation.
This is not a pleasant film, not in the sense that it is not a good film, but in the sense the mood is oppressive and the world depicted is cruel and unfair. The film frustrated me several times because of what liberties adults take against a child in her own home, against her wishes. The writing in this regard is excellent, with several great moments of conversation. This is one of the “talkiest” films shown on The Last Drive-In, perhaps akin to The Changeling. The film itself is limited in scope as well, mostly playing out within Rynn’s house. The story’s limitations reveal the intent of Koenig, the writer, who originally sought to adapt his novel into a play. I would love to live in a world where The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane was a theater staple.
The film is tightly written with a fairly efficient run time, though two montages cause the film to drag a bit. This is also compounded by the use of Chopin’s piano concerto No. 1 in E Minor, as performed by pianist Claudio Arrau and The London Philharmonic Orchestra. Chopin’s composition overpowers the film score by Mort Shuman and Christian Gaubert. It feels odd to say, but the use of Chopin seems a little much and is used so frequently that having repeated through montages makes them feel longer due to simple aural repetition.
The film’s cinematography is fine, but René Verzier’s work does not do much to sell the film as needing a film adaptation. The quality and the cinematography are fairly rote. Most of the tension comes from performances with little added effect from Verzier’s camera.
The performances are largely excellent, and the critical praise of Jodie Foster, who was twelve as the production began and then turned thirteen during, is well deserved. Foster is one of the finest actresses to ever work in film and seeing her command the screen so readily is impressive. You feel anxiety for her and can’t help but feel broken at the end of the movie because of how wonderful she is.
Sheen is a revelation as well, only three years away from the role that would cement him as Hollywood royalty in Apocalypse Now. Frank as a character is so manic and aggressive in such a weirdly charismatic way. Imagine the worst person in the world with leading man looks and charm, and you get a sense of just how insidious and dangerous the character of Frank is. The truth is, we are lucky to see such a top-tier actor play such a horrific character.
Now, singing the praises of Foster and Sheen is not to say the rest of the cast does not deliver. Alexis Smith’s Core Hallet is an icy busybody who takes her sparring with a child personally, and her brief time in the film results in wonderful dialogue with Foster’s Rynn. Scott Jacoby plays the handsome and charismatic weirdo, Mario, who creates a bright spot in the overall dark life of Rynn. And not least, Mort Shuman’s Officer Ron Migliorti represents a gentle, good man who tries to help but is kept at arm’s length.
Joe Bob-servations on The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
Joe Bob’s host segments were a lot of fun this week, especially with the recurring discussion on superstition. Perhaps the best of the night came early when he discussed the origins of The Thirteen Club. The whole history was quite fascinating, but also gave way to one of the best laughs of the night: when he cracked a joke about everyone in the club dying, catching Darcy off-guard. The whole night was filled with interesting little asides into the superstitious mind.
Regarding the film, Joe Bob was quite effusive with his praise, as the film deserves. Of the various aspects, he discussed, however, he was particularly vocal about how this film was very much lucky to cast who it had and the time it was made. You get the sense that maybe The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane couldn’t be made today and have quite the impact it did with the one-two punch of Foster and Sheen. Regarding Foster, Joe Bob made a very important point: by the time she was twelve she had already had a strong career as a child actress, so her professionalism in the film isn’t overly surprising as some make it out to be.
Final Thoughts on The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a largely excellent film, among some of the best of the ‘serious’ films that have been shown on the show. The nature of the film as being like that of a play may limit the audience a bit, given how dialogue-heavy it is, but for those who can manage there is a lot to love.
The film does drag at times given the overly artsy montages set to classic Chopin compositions, and the internal logic does frustrate at times given the number of privacy and property violations that seem to occur over the duration of the film. It gives one the impression that maybe the oppressiveness is a more heightened element than was necessarily true. It does certainly inspire a reaction, however. As I was not alive in the 1970s I would love to know the accuracy of how the characters would have behaved from someone who was.
Joe Bob gave the film 3 and 1/2 stars, which seems about right. I feel that perhaps the half-a-star deduction was due to the arthouse quality, as this is a drive-in show. Mutants can only go sophisticate for so long a stretch. As for me, I’d about where Joe Bob is regarding my assessment, giving the film 4 and 1/2 Cthulhus out of 5.(4.5 / 5)
Best Line: “School is having people tell you what life is and never finding out by yourself.” – Rynn
Housebound was the night’s second feature. This 2014 New Zealand horror comedy was written, edited, and directed by Gerard Johnstone. The film made its debut at SXSW where it quickly became an indie darling. The film was a New Zealand accelerator project where government funding was granted in order to assist in the production. The film stars Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, and Cameron Rhodes.
Housebound follows a troubled young woman, Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly), who botches an ATM robbery and is sentenced to house arrest for eight months under the care of her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata). Stuck at home with an ankle monitor, Kylie and her mother discuss past instances of hauntings that seem to trigger an awareness of strange things going on within the house. However, Kylie uncovers more about the strange circumstances of the home with the aid of her parole officer, an amateur paranormal investigator, Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), and the guidance of her psychologist, Dennis (Cameron Rhodes).
The film is quite funny but is fairly light on the scares and gore, despite a particularly explosive death that results in a shower of blood. The film was quite critically appraised at the time of release and made waves in the American film industry, but today you do not hear much about it, nor do you hear much about the man behind it, Gerard Johnstone. Indeed, the film seems largely forgotten, which is a bit of a shame given the fresh approach it takes, but also a bit expected in that it doesn’t quite land the punches it throws.
The film’s approach to subverting the haunted house theme is clever at first until contrivances and dialogue dumps begin to drag down what started as a rather tight little haunted house project. The foundation that was so strong progressively begins to look like a tower of Jenga blocks the further on the film goes and the revelation within are clever, but I struggle to say they’re necessarily worth the ride. For example, the Teddy Ruxpin knock-off makes absolutely no sense in the context of the film when all is revealed. Having seen the film twice I am still failing to understand why the bear was able to do what it did, even if it had a “helping hand.” This may be one of the most glaring issues with the logic of the film, in my opinion. That being said, the film has a number of them.
My other big criticism of the film is that the protagonist is unlikeable. A protagonist does not need to be likable to be compelling, but there needs to be some reason to want to follow their journey. I think Morgana O’Reilly is fine as Kylie, but Kylie is such a shit that it is largely hard to root for her. Nor does there seem to be a real sense of growth in her character either as most of the decisions in the final act are largely driven by survival impulses and leave little room for a sense of growth. Rather, the film’s most appealing characters are Amos and Miriam. Amos because he is a weird, earnest dude, and Miriam because Rima Te Wiata does a fantastic job playing a mother abused by her child.
Simon Riera’s cinematography is effective, but nothing particularly outstanding. It is serviceable for the type of film this is. There is a fun moment where Dennis is menaced by the ‘spirit’ of the house and the sequence set across an entirely blacked screen flashes to a chilling reveal of the spirit hovering over the psychologist. A scene involving dentures is also suitably framed to be as uncomfortable as possible, which I appreciate as someone who has a particular fascination with teeth as a vehicle for horror. As for Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper’s score, I found it to be effective, but nothing that really pulled me in, either.
Ultimately, I think the description of “effective but did not pull me in” is an encapsulation of my overall attitude regarding this film. It was, for lack of a better word, fine.
Joe Bob-servations on Housebound
The survey of superstitious carried on into the second film of the night with digressions into rabbits’ feet and the potential origins of the term “knock on wood.” What felt lacking was a real example of the connection of either film to superstition. The connective tissue was the idea of refusing to leave the house, but neither film presented the shut-in nature of their leads as being tied to superstitious anxieties.
Of course, with any New Zealand-sourced film on the show, Joe Bob returns to beating his drum on the misappropriation of the terminology “Kiwi horror” as it relates to the film in question, just as he did back with Deathgasm. In case you missed it with previous horror films out of New Zealand on the show… “Kiwi horror” does not exist – it is not a distinct genre, it is just a label attached to films made out of New Zealand with incubator money during a period of time and there is nothing particularly of New Zealand about them.
Expect to hear that same point again the next time a movie from New Zealand is shown.
Final Thoughts on Housebound
Housebound is a fun mid-2010s horror film out of New Zealand with a clever play on the haunted house trope, but cleverness isn’t enough to win me over completely. Between a thoroughly unsympathetic protagonist, an overly convoluted series of backstory reveals, and the fairly limited amount of horror, I would be hard-pressed to claim this among my favorite on The Last Drive-In. I didn’t really feel a sense of shock or dread. Granted, I was entertained, but the film didn’t blow my mind. The same can’t be said for one of the characters, that’s for sure.
Joe Bob gave the film the 2 and 1/2 stars treatment. I think that is entirely reasonable. It’s worth a watch, but it doesn’t seem like one that will stick with me and other Mutants of my ilk. As for my assessment, I would give it 3 Cthulhus out of 5. (3 / 5)
Best Line: “You cannot punch ectoplasm.” – Amos
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As for the official drive-in totals, we have the following.
We also have the Haunted MTL Drive-In totals…
- 1 Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Achievement in Non-Fiction
- 1 Dead Hamster
- 2 Moody Montages
- 3 instances of “Thee-ate-er”
- Clipboard Fumbling
- Superstition Tempting
- Heaven Joking
- Cocktail Joking
- Gratuitous Plot
- Gratuitous “Hello Moto”
- Child Rights Advocating
- Water Moccasin Anxiety
- Suprise Italian Racism
- John Brennan Musical Number
Episode Score for The Last Drive-In: S4E3 – The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane and Housebound
I had expressed some doubt about the theme of last week’s double feature, but I am happy to say this double feature’s theme was much more coherent, although admittedly a bit of a stretch. Friday the 13th is a day about superstition, and while that thread was woven in quite well through the host segments, the film selections were tangential – built around the idea of a “shut-in night” for the ultra-paranoid and superstitious.
The only problem was that neither film really dealt with being shut-in due to superstition. One was a girl living by herself trying to do her own thing as the world pushed back at her and the other is about someone under house arrest. The host segments were fun, but I am wondering if stating a theme outright is the right route to go down with these episodes. Perhaps if the themes were stated as being more open-ended the double features would gel a bit better through juxtaposition. However, setting an expectation of a theme and not really delivering on it feels like a misstep.
I am probably taking this sort of thing a bit too seriously, but I also think the past two weeks represent a stretch that could lead to misfires in the future. I vastly prefer the themes of the double features being more subtle or interpretative outside of the holiday sets. Soon we’ll find ourselves seeing an environmental awareness pairing where one film is set in the woods and one film has a beach… and that is about it.
The episode as a whole is still great, of course, and the host segments are as fun as ever. Yet, something about the loose associations between the last four films is rubbing me the wrong way. (4 / 5)
And that is it for Notes from the Last Drive-In this week. This has certainly been a little bit more critical than most of the reviews I’ve done, owing largely to the fact that the show is usually firing on all cylinders the majority of the time. Four seasons and multiple holiday marathons in, however, it would make sense that maybe there are some performance issues to be aware of.
What did you think, though? Why not share your thoughts in the comments with us about the show and the two films shown. Did you have a favorite?
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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.