Welcome back, boys and ghouls, to Haunted MTL’s Notes from The Last Drive-In. This week Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl get a little German with a pair of horror classics. Jawhol! We have been treated to 1922’s Nosferatu and 1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre.
But how was the show this week? Did the episode’s theme click a bit better than the previous two episodes? Let’s find out with this review and recap of Shudder’s The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, season 4, episode 4.
Nosferatu is F.W. Murnau’s 1922 vampire horror film that loosely adapts Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel Dracula. The film is a silent German expressionist horror film that stars Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, and Gustav von Wangenheim. The film, set in 1838, follows estate agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), who travels to Transylvania to secure the final documents allowing for client Count Orlock (Max Schreck). Orlock seeks to move to Wisborg into a house across the street from Hutter’s, where his wife Ellen (Greta Schröder) awaits his return.
In many ways, the idea of reviewing Nosferatu is pointless because the film has been dissected and evaluated to undeath for over a century now. Thanks to copyright law, the film is widely distributed and can even be found, fully embedded, in its own Wikipedia entry. I am not sure how much I could add to the discourse surrounding the film beyond what has already been said for a hundred years.
I do not think Nosferatu is a perfect film. It can be pretty close at times, but the film we see these days reconstructs something we’ll never be able to truly experience again, cobbled together from salvaged prints. Florence Stoker’s irreparable harm to the preservation of the art is well documented. As a result, we’ll never quite capture the fundamental, ethereal experience of what Nosferatu was. Nosferatu isn’t quite a Dracula adaptation, and yet it is, occupying a strange and uncanny space between adaptation and parody that does not entirely succeed in either direction. However, the middleness of the film allows it to work as well as it does. The story may not be as complex as Stoker’s own, but neither is it as messy. This is the Laconic Dracula, boiled down to the essentials, warts and all.
The character of Thomas Hutter is useless in the film beyond being a plot device. The real struggle is between Ellen and Orlock, but even that goes a metaphysical route that is somewhat sloppily handled. With that said, Schröder and Shreck are excellent in their respective roles. While the story has many weaknesses, it is the elements in telling the story where the film makes its mark.
F.W. Murnau’s direction is terrific. His work with his cinematographers Fritz Arno Wagner and Günther Krampf resulted in a film that, despite its antiquity, feels modern in so many regards, codifying cinematography and staging we still see centuries later. Cross-cutting alone in this film is impressive in what it does for the pacing.
Of course, the film still occupies that rough, transitionary period between the film as its form and the film as a form of recorded play; some performances are overly broad. Some shots are treated flat, stage-like, such as the finale in Ellen’s bedroom. But these are the last vestiges of a bygone era.
I could talk about many aspects of Nosferatu, but it’s all been done before to such a degree that I can probably link this NY Times article that would cover a lot of what I would say.
Joe Bob-servations on Nosferatu (1922)
Joe Bob’s approach to the night was more of a history crash course than usual. This was even down to the fashion choices of Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl, decked out for a time in Neidermyer clothing, only for Joe Bob to slider progressively further into “pimp” as the night progressed.
If the night had a phrase representing the tone, it would have been “Fuck Florence Stoker,” given her role in nearly wiping away a cinema classic from history. The host segments revolved around the history of German film, a heady topic for most nights. We also dove into Joe Bob’s views on German Expressionism and the film’s legacy. With that said, Joe Bob’s thoughts on whether Nosferatu is a German Expressionist film seem counter to the established view. I wonder if he may be going against the grain to ruffle the feathers of film nerds.
The skit involving a silent film-style seance to contact the cast of the film goes predictably off the rails with the addition of John Brennan and concludes with Darcy biting the neck of Joe Bob. So it was what you would expect for the Drive-In‘s take on a silent film, goofy and affectionate. It wasn’t the best skit of the night, either, which was most impressive about the night as a whole. The best skit belonged to the second film of the night: Nosferatu the Vampyre.
Final Thoughts on Nosferatu (1922)
A cinema classic that is more than a movie, Nosferatu is a captivating work by F.W. Murnau that, despite some issues, still stands as a beautiful and creepy film 100 years after release. The fact we can even enjoy an approximation of the original experience today is not something one should take for granted.
Joe Bob gave the film four stars, which is well deserved. The film is every bit as praiseworthy as it gets. I feel some elements of the film, holdovers from earlier conceptions of what film was, that make Nosferatu a transitionary piece, and some of those legacy elements left in place run counter to the innovation of the film overall. I would give Nosferatu four-and-a-half out of five Cthulhus. (4.5 / 5)
Best Line: “Nosferatu. Does this word not sound like the midnight call of the Bird of Death? Do not utter it, or the images of life will fade – into pale shadows and ghostly dreams will rise from your heart and feed your Blood.” – Title Card
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Werner Herzog did something that many would consider unthinkable in 1979, and no, it was not remaking 1922’s Nosferatu; it was making a better version. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night), known as Nosferatu the Vampyre today, is one of those rarified films where the remake outshines the original. Written and directed by Werner Herzog, this German horror film is a stylized remake of F.W. Murnau’s original and seemingly amalgamated the texts of Nosferatu and Dracula into something arguably different. The film stars Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz, and Roland Topor.
The plot is similar to that of the 1922 film but expanded upon with a new ending and extended sequences of travel.
And yes, while there is a German version and an English version, I suggest the German version. Subtitles will not hurt you.
So, this may be a controversial statement. I prefer this remake of Nosferatu to the original, and I think what Werner Herzog achieved in the film is faithful to the spirit and structure of the 1922 film and filled it in, adding and embellishing in the right spots to make the movie feel more whole. I am sure this will get me in trouble, but Nosferatu (1922) is the outline, whereas Nosferatu the Vampyre is the final draft. The film takes more directly from Dracula than the original, using the actual names of characters from the novel. Instead of Count Orlock, we have Count Dracula and our Jonathan Harker. Not everything is one-to-one; we get a combination of the characters of Lucy and Mina from the novel as a way to condense the film.
Frequent Herzog collaborator Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein’s cinematography is outstanding. The interplay of light and darkness within the film unsurprisingly reflects the struggle of the humans against the demonic vampire. It gives the film the shadowy appearance as a throwback to the high contrast of the 1922 prints. The film also has a strong eye toward places, with the natural landscapes of the Balkans serving as a stunning and creepy indication of how out of his depth Harker is. The city of Wismar in the film is often torn between being a lovely sight of civilization and one of utter menace; all it takes is a change of angle and lighting. The castle, an external ruin but an internal maze, becomes a character itself.
The score, handled by musical collective Popol Vuh is eerie and fitting and plays wonderfully set to the intercutting journeys between Harker and Dracula. The usage of the Georgian folk song “Tsintskaro” may not make sense at first, but when heard in the film becomes clear.
The performances across the board are excellent; in the time since Nosferatu, acting in the film had become more naturalistic. Klaus Kinski is fantastic as Count Dracula. His moments of conflict with Isabelle Adjani’s Lucy, a carryover from the original film, are some of the most compelling aspects of the film. Even the third wheel, Harker, in this version, has a somewhat more active role in the movie but never quite steps in the way of the focus: Dracula and Lucy. Hell, even the ESP-type connection between them makes a little more sense.
Joe Bob-servations on Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
There were a great many anecdotes and jokes about the wacky world of Werner Herzog during the host segments. All of them were very much appreciated by me, as someone who has a great deal of fascination with the filmmaker. This inevitably culminated with a rather epic and long skit full of Herzogisms about the nature of beer, the drive-in, and the universe itself. Austin Jennings did a fantastic job with his Herzog impression and the direction of the associated imagery. It was an incredible moment and possibly my favorite skit on the show ever.
The anecdotes on Herzog and the making of the film were, of course, fantastic. The “frenemy” relationship between Herzog and Klaus Kinski resulted in several hilarious and strange stories shared during the night, including the possible desecration of real mummies. In truth, Herzog should be a guest on the show. It doesn’t even need to be one of his movies. A conversation between Herzog and Briggs would be legendary.
Final Thoughts on Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre is a richer film than Nosferatu. It fills the gaps within the original and uses the evolving language of film to do what I think F.W. Murnau would have done had the technology and understanding of cinema of 1979 been available to him in 1922. This might best be exemplified by the film’s opening credits, depicting mummies. They have little to do with the film itself, but if we’re aiming for Expressionism, the howling expressions of the desiccated dead do a lot to set the movie’s tone as a whole.
I’ve not even mentioned that this film has recorded dialogue as opposed to the silent nature of the 1922 version because I believe a silent-film edit of Herzog’s version would be on par with or better than Murnau’s.
Joe Bob Briggs gave the film four stars. I agree. I would give Nosferatu the Vampyre five out of five Cthulhus. (5 / 5)
Best Line: “The absence of love is the most abject pain.” – Count Dracula
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
We have our official totals from Shudder, as usual.
As for our totals, we have:
- 1 Joe Bob Cosplay
- 2 Darcy Cosplay
- 7 Crash landings by Murnau
- 4 utterances of “thee-ate-er”
- 11,000 Rats
- $896 Thousand Budget
- Giggling Madmen
- Crew Butchery
- Actor Blinding
- Rat Die Fu
- Seance Fu
- Pimp Joe Bob
- Gratuitous Herzogisms
- Pimp Shoes
- Vampire Joking
- Turtle Joking
Episode Score for The Last Drive-In: S4E4 – Nosferatu and Nosferatu the Vampyre
This is one of the best nights we’ve had on the show. Easily in the top five for me. I know I have been a bit critical of the theming of the past two episodes, but the show bounced back excellently this week. It was almost as though this pairing was tailored specifically for me and my style of vampire story. Overall it was an amazing night, and Joe Bob, Darcy, John, and Austin assembled something special.
It was a fitting tribute to one of cinema’s earliest and most distinct monsters, and he is still as scary as he was a century ago. I would give this episode five out of five Cthulhus. (5 / 5)
With that, we are done until next time. Please join us again next week for another review and recap. What did you think, though? Why not share your thoughts in the comments about the show and the two films shown. Did you have a favorite?
Want more of the Vampyre?
Please do yourself a favor and use our sponsored link to pick up a copy of Shadow of the Vampire (2001), an excellent companion piece to the films covered in this article.
Goosebumps, Cuckoo Clock of Doom
Named for the 28th installment of the original book series, The Cuckoo Clock of Doom has the least in common so far with its source material.
Thankfully, the story isn’t negatively impacted by this. I can honestly say so far that these episodes just keep getting better.
After the last episode’s explosive ending, I’m sure we were all more than a little worried about James. I for one was worried we were going to have an example of the Bury Your Gays trope on a kid’s show.
Thankfully, that’s not the case.
We go back in time again to Halloween night, and this time we see what James was up to.
Mostly he was up to trying to flirt with his crush. Everything seems to be going well until James lies about being interested in football.
He tries to leave the house, but instead finds himself back at the basement door when Isaiah is trapped and the cuckoo clock is going off. James then shows a remarkable amount of genre savvy and tries his best to escape the house. Each time he does, we see another version of him walking away.
Eventually, he devises a plan to break the clock at just the right moment, but not before he gets some intel on his crush’s favorite team so he can score a date.
Back in the real world free of the time loop though, James finds that he has far more worries. Every time he tried to escape the house, a duplicate version of him was created. And all of those duplicates are waiting for him.
Back at the Biddle house, though, there’s a surprise waiting. One of the James duplicates has brought Harold Biddle a box. A ventriloquist dummy-sized box.
An empty box.
The effects of this show so far have been wonderful. When the other characters hit a James duplicate, it doesn’t just die. It explodes in a Nickelodeon-style wave of slime. This is just fun, and I’m kind of sad there doesn’t appear to be more of the duplicates around.
I mean, I wouldn’t rule it out.
Did I mention that these duplicates appeared to smell like watermelon Jolly Ranchers when they exploded? That was a visceral detail that was both alarming and terrific. They could have smelled bad. They could have smelled like rotting plants or people. But no, they smell like candy.
Of course, the characters continue to steal the show. Margot and Isaiah could be said to be the main characters, but everyone comes into this with main character energy. They are all funny, all capable, all smart. And they all seem to care about each other.
I loved that James and Isaiah talked about how they were feeling. I think it’s important that we’re modeling that for young men. They talked about what was bothering them, and they made up.
Finally, though, we have to talk about Justin Long again. His acting in this just keeps stealing the show. He dances like a cartoon and jumps from joyful to violently furious at a moment’s notice. The character doesn’t know how to act, and watching him fail to act right in front of people never fails to make me laugh.
What didn’t work
I honestly can’t say that anything didn’t work in this episode. But there is something about the show that I, at least, don’t like.
There’s no real blood or gore. There’s more blood when I eat an actual jolly rancher because I always cut my tongue on them.
Now, this show is pretty clearly not for kids and young adults so there’s probably not a lot of need for too much gore and violence. But if the bloody stuff is more your style, like me, the lack of it might disappoint you.
Fans of the Goosebumps books will know that everyone ended with a twist. And the show so far has been no different. And the ending of this episode has been the best so far. The tension of Margot’s mom’s impassioned reaction, blended with the revelation that Slappy is somewhere in town is just too much. I can’t believe we’re only three episodes in and I am this invested. I hope you are too.
Viewer beware, I suspect things are going to get a lot worse for our characters before they get better.(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.
Goosebumps, The Haunted Mask
Based loosely on the 1993 story of the same name, The Haunted Mask begins sort of partway through the first episode.
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.
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.
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 / 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 / 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.