We’re back for another round of Haunted MTL’s Notes from the Last Drive-In with S4E6, featuring The Monster Club (1981) and Hellbender (2021). I’ve been somewhat critical of the stated themes over the season. Still, I am happy to report that isn’t an issue this week as the show delivers on the stated theme of “musical horror,” which is fantastic. Plus, we get a horror anthology to boot!
The film quality is undoubtedly a step up from last week’s Slaughterhouse, that’s for sure. So, what was the night like for Shudder‘s premiere movie hosting show? Can Joe Bob embrace a horror anthology for a change? Let’s dive in.
The Monster Club (1981)
The Monster Club (1981) is a British horror anthology directed by Roy Ward Baker, which also was his final film. The film was written by Edward and Valeria Abraham and adapted from the works of horror author R. Chetwynd-Hayes. The Monster Club is also notable for being the last film of producer Milton Subotsky, best known for his association with Amicus Productions.
The horror anthology movie is a cult film owing to the cast and the soundtrack. Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasance, and Stuart Whitman headline the film, with Price and Carradine featuring heavily in the framing narrative about the club. The film’s soundtrack is pretty iconic, featuring B. A. Robertson, The Viewers, and The Pretty Things. NFilms’lso appears in one of the most iconic sequences of the film.
The Monster Club follows a vampire named Eramus (Vincent Price), who is helped to some blood by a writer, R. Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine). Eramus thanks the writer by inviting him to a secret monster club, where he learns the genealogy of monsters and takes in the sights and sounds of the club.
What will catch most first-time viewers of The Monster Club off guard is the movie’s tone. The horror anthology framing narrative of Eramus and Chetwynd-Hayes is pretty goofy and upbeat. These scenes almost make the film a musical comedy and are filled with sight gags and nods to the Amicus Films’ history (though this was not a production of Amicus Films). However, this is contrasted by the serious and frightening nature of the horror anthology stories within the film, of which there are three.
The first tale of the horror anthology, “The Shadmock,” is a deathly severe story about a couple who attempt to take advantage of a reclusive estate owner, Raven (James Laurenson), who is one of the hybrid monsters called a Shadmock. The second tale, “The Vampires,” features a boy (Warren Saire) who has a vampire father. The story follows the boy accidentally leading a vampire hunter (Donald Pleasance) to the home, but the tone varies widely within the story. Lastly, “The Ghouls” is the most frightening of the stories. The final segment follows a movie director (Stuart Whitman), who discovered a village of ghouls while scouting for a filming location. He befriends a ghoul named Luna (Lesley Dunlop), but the tale is bleak.
The changes in tone may be challenging for some viewers to swallow, but the format evokes some of the classic comic anthologies such as Creepy and Tales from The Crypt. The mixture of horror and comedy is pretty standard, such as in the Creepshow, which would come out a year later, and is even seen in The Last Drive-In week to week. What helps ease casual viewers in is the glee by which Vincent Price and John Carradine play their roles and embrace the scenes among goofy monsters in plastic masks as ska-infused music plays in the background. The Monster Club is ultimately a lit”le goofy but might b” He’seat film to introduce people to horror and monster media. However, fans of horror, you’re likely to be left wanting.
The film is relatively average from a technical and aesthetic standpoint. Peter Jessop’s cinematography is fine, but visually the film shares many Hammer Horror hallmarks. The editing by Peter Tanner is effective but does not do anything particularly innovative either. The costuming and set design is probably a highlight because it is relentlessly silly for the club scenes. The horror anthology itself is pretty rote, but the wrapping is quite adorable.
Joe-Bobservations on The Monster Club
Joe Bob perhaps summarized the movie’s tone the best during the closing break for the first half of the evening, saying that the film is “so fucking charming.” He’s not wrong. It was a nice, joyous night’s first half with a cute movie. We don’t get many of those on The Last Drive-In, but when we do, they stand out. For example, I’d consider The Legend of Boggy Creek, Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama, and Deathgasm among the cuter films shown on the show. Your mileage may vary, of course.
The lecture elements of the show here were solid, as usual. But British horror is also one of those topics that has been covered so much that insights and discoveries were few to be had. I do consider that the typical member of the Mutant Family has a great deal of awareness of horror films, so many revelations about the British horror scene were somewhat familiar. The background on Amicus Films was great, however. Also fun was Joe Bob being happy with an anthology film as he usually disparages them.
Also, one can’t help and smile at the monster dance party across two of the host segments. Much like The Monster Club, they were “so fucking charming.”
Final Thoughts on The Monster Club
Intensely silly and ultimately harmless, The Monster Club feels like an all-ages answer to horror anthology films such as Creepshow. The film is quite charming, and though the tone varies wildly, it is entertaining throughout. The film doesn’t aim too high and appears quite aware of what it is. While the anthology stories are hit or miss, with “The Ghouls” packing the most robust punch, they come off stronger when framed by scenes of John Carradine and Vincent Price being the icons they are. Their sense of glee elevates even the roughest aspects of the movie.
In his Drive-In Totals, Joe Bob Briggs gave the film 4 out of 4 stars. I think that is fair; The Monster Club is a classic at this point, warts and all. Had the stories been stronger, this movie would have fared a bit better. I give it 4 out of 5 Cthulhus. (4 / 5)
Best Line: “Can we truly call this a monster club if we do not boast amongst our membership a single member of the human race?” – Eramus
Hellbender is a 2021 horror film from the creative family behind 2019’s The Deeper You Dig. The film was written and directed by John Adams, Zelda, Adams, and Toby Poser. It also stars Zelda Adams, Toby Poser, John Adams, and Lulu Adams. This independent production is an exciting example of a family working together, and they are pretty prolific, with many films under their belt already. Truly a fascinating and unique example of independent cinema.
The film follows a teenager and her mother who lives in an isolated cabin. The teen, Izzy (Zelda Adams), is told she has an illness by her mother (Toby Poser) that prevents her from being around other people. In time, Izzy meets some locals, such as Amber (Lulu Adams) and a hitchhiker (John Adams), and learns that she may be isolated for the protection of other people due to her witchy heritage.
Hellbender is a solid film with a lot going for it but is not without its problems. The film’s highlights are the visuals and soundtrack. The movie makes the most out of consumer-grade digital video cameras and shows that fantastic cinematography is achievable with a practiced eye and affordable technology. Drone shots are also used frequently in the film to provide some distance and ethereal glimpses of the eerie woods of the Catskills as well. If that wasn’t enough, the film’s special effects are pretty impressive as well, between gore and trippy, dreamlike imagery. One particular shot with a key and a hand is genuinely remarkable.
The score, composed and performed by the band Hellbender, comprised of the same family involved with every stage of the film’s production, features an original score of atmospheric dread punctuated with performances of the witchy band and their original compositions. It’s pretty fun, and in many ways, the film could also be a series of music videos for an eventual album as the songs and the narrative seem to work in tandem.
The performances are solid. Zelda Adams handles her role as an increasingly bold and independence-seeking teen quite admirably. She also plays well against Toby Poser’s mother character, which is a necessity since most of the runtime comprises scenes between the two. If I had to give one of the actresses the advantage, I’d say that Poser has the more demanding challenge and the more complex performance. Her unnamed character has to deal with a complex series of fears and anxieties, and she does a fantastic job conveying them.
The most significant concern I have with the movie is that the middle section drags quite a bit as Izzy begins to explore her heritage. There is some beautiful imagery, and I feel the journey is important, but overall the pacing slows to a crawl. I had a similar issue with one of the family’s earlier films, The Deeper You Dig. The limited cast stretches the narrative too thin. I think the movie could have lost an easy 15 to 20 minutes and still worked quite well. On the other hand, if the film’s length was necessary, an additional narrative hook is needed to help introduce some more tension into the middle section. There is too much brilliantly shot narrative padding, which puts a damper on the film.
Though I also think the film’s plot is a bit barebones, and the ending makes sense, it feels abrupt and with minimal setup. The relationship between Izzy and her mother is never quite shown to be as bad as the ending would indicate it was, rendering the inversion of their roles seemingly arbitrary. The film would have benefited more from the introduction of more tension in the central relationship because, as it stands, it is relatively idyllic. The dramatic weight isn’t there.
Joe-Bobservations on Hellbender
For the second half of the evening, Joe Bob’s host segments mostly comprised a series of questions and answers with Zelda, John, and Toby. These sequences were a lot of fun, especially as they came out in greasepaint, evoking the musical sequences in the movie. Of the interviews, I feel the segment where it was Joe Bob and John Adams discussed the techniques and John’s surprising past as a model was most enjoyable. This is mainly due to the focus, as the couch filled, the conversation felt less specific. Then again, this happens with most multi-person interviews on the show.
Outside of the interview element, Joe Bob opened the second half of the night with a fun discussion about music in horror but found himself somewhat outclassed by Darcy, who raised several influential horror music composers. However, he did bring up a salient point about the usage of noise in horror films, suggesting a “best achievement in noise” Oscar. I can get behind that.
Final Thoughts on Hellbender
Hellbender is an impressive independent film project that evokes the steady hand of experience. The fact it is the work of a family that has built up this library of independent film is very admirable. The movie looks great and has a strong concept and soundtrack; however it suffers from a significant pacing issue. The film could also benefit from an additional plotline or further complications to pay off its exciting ending.
Joe Bob gave Hellbender 3 out of 4 stars in his Drive-In Totals. I think he’s spot on with it, as there are some admirable elements to the movie. I found the runtime bloat a bit too insurmountable myself, however. I give Hellbender 3 out of 5 Cthuhlus.(3 / 5)
Best Line: “You opened a door that once it’s opened can be hard to shut.” – Mother
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As always, here are the official totals, straight from Shudder.
As for our totals, we have…
- 3 instances of “thee-ate-er”
- 3 dance parties
- 12 monster lineages
- $1.7 million dollar budget
- 200 short stories by R. Chetwynd-Haze
- Opening rant with 4 points and 3 digressions
- Familial vomit bonding
- Gratuitous Drive-In Academy Awards
- Gratuitous ghoulery
- Darcy birthday shenanigans
- Horror host verbosity syndrome
- Safe robbing
- Stripper Jokes
- Irish Jokes
- Clipboard Fu
- Whistle Fu
- Kung Fu Review Fu
- Darcy Cosplay: Skeleton Stripper
Episode Score for the Last Drive-In: S4E6 – The Monster Club and Hellbender
For me, this week’s episode would fall in line with an average episode of The Last Drive-In. The movies were entertaining, and the host segments were good. It’s not a bad way to spend five hours on a Friday night. I also appreciated the night’s stated them, “musical horror,” actually playing out across both films. Sweet, sweet unity.
I’ve been a bit critical of the themes this season because, in at least a few episodes, they’ve been weak and unsupported by the chosen film pairings. That’s not the case here at all. Everything is copacetic. We’ll see how next week goes.
I give The Last Drive-In season 4, episode 6, 4 out of 5 Cthulhus. (4 / 5)
What did you think of the films? Were you already a big fan of The Monster Club? Did you enjoy Hellbender? What about the music? Let us know in the comments.
Can’t get enough of The Monster Club?
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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.