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Welcome to Notes from the Last Drive-In, Haunted MTL’s review and recap series, tackling a “bad Daddy” night with Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl. This week we cover The Last Drive-In S4E8 featuring The Stepfather (1987) and The Freakmaker (1974). So how does Daddy’s night fare compare to Mommy’s night last week?

What delights and horrors were to be found on Shudder this past Friday, June 16th?

The Stepfather (1987)

The Stepfather is a 1987 psychological horror film that best matches the “Bad Daddy” vibe of the evening. Directed by Joseph Rubin, the film was written by Carolyn Lefcourt, Brian Farfield, and Donald E. Westlake, with Westlake taking screenplay duties. Patrick Moraz handles the film’s music, while John W. Lindley and George Bowers tackle cinematography and editing duties, respectively. The movie stars Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, and Stephen Shellen.

The Stepfather follows a serial killer, Henry Morrison (Terry O’Quinn), who takes on a new identity and family periodically, murdering them when he feels they have failed to live up to his ideals of a family. He ends up meeting with a widow, Susan Maine (Shelley Hack), and taking in her daughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). Meanwhile, interested parties, including Henry’s brother-in-law from a previous victim, Jim (Stephen Shellen), threaten to unravel Henry’s whole scheme.


So, how does this “Bad Daddy” movie fare? As a whole, the movie is competent but doesn’t exactly stand out. The film has become a cult classic, but that is mainly on the back of Terry O’Quinn, the only actor in the film given a compelling character. O’Quinn is fantastic as Henry, tapping into menace, rage, and Conservative-Christian geniality within an instant, sometimes within the same scene. Though he is not officially the lead of the movie, O’Quinn is pretty much the lead by having a real presence. Though many talented people are involved at all production levels here, it seems like the only person who came out of The Stepfather with something to be genuinely proud of is the future John Locke from Lost.

Poster for 'The Stepfather" for The Last Drive-In "bad Daddy" night
Pretty cool poster, honestly.

Jill Schoelen is a picture-perfect scream queen, equally beautiful and strong, but she has little to do in the film, nor do we even find a reason to root for her. Her early anxiety surrounding the new father figure makes sense, only to be seemingly abandoned partially into the third act, where it comes out again. I don’t get a real depth from her performance. Nor do I get that from Shelley Hack, either. It’s unusual how two strong actresses offer little in this movie. Jim Ogilvie’s manic performance is interesting but feels out of sync with O’Quinn’s “Bad Daddy” and ends up puzzling by the film’s end.

The writing isn’t great. The film itself doesn’t sell the sense of menace all that well, and any tension we may feel is because of the acting choices instead of story beats and scenes meant to create depth. Only two moments struck me as surprising. One was a murder with a wooden beam sold mainly by an explosively violent performance. The other was the hilarious frankness by which one plotline, woven through the entire film, is resolved in seconds. The latter was an unintended result, but I think it is indicative of some of the storytelling problems within the story. A lengthy sequence illustrates the process of preparing for murder and skipping out for a new town, but it just takes up so much of the runtime that could have helped develop other characters.

Technically speaking, this film isn’t overly impressive. I think the cinematography is suitable but only does something special in the third act featuring a long-held shot where a character gets uncomfortably close to breaking the fourth wall. The editing is serviceable as well. I have no real complaints, but I did not feel particularly wowed by any directorial choices. The music was a downside to the film; however, often grating and inconsistent with the film’s tone, the juxtaposition rarely worked. There were some rare instances when it did, but not nearly enough.

Joe-Bobservations on The Stepfather

One of the more entertaining host segments of the night was Joe Bob dipping back into the injustices of childhood, discussing the cynical world of the newspaper delivery boy. Inspired by the idyllic streets shown in the film, Joe Bob spoke at length about the scam that was the paperboy job, and we even learn that he was a paperboy as a child. It is a hilarious sequence, and you get the sense that he is still pretty heated about it today.

The big topic, beyond the background of the film and cast, which is all very interesting, was the discussion of the true-crime story that inspired the film. The murders of John List are infamous for being some of the most significant and brutal family crimes in criminal history. In many ways, the brief summation of the tragic events by Joe Bob was even more compelling than the movie that pulled from the actual murders. It shows that Joe Bob and his interest in true crime is something that Shudder would be wise to tap into for a documentary series.


Joe Bob made much hay about the exploitation background of Joe Rubin, but the real story was, unsurprisingly, about how good Terry O’Quinn is in the film. His audition was supposedly fantastic and chilling, and I would have loved to have seen that.

Final Thoughts on The Stepfather

The Stepfather is one of the more below-average drive-in movies we’ve had on the show, but that isn’t entirely bad. However, most of my enjoyment came from the wrappings of The Last Drive-In as opposed to the movie for the night’s first half. With only one character with any real agency or interest, mediocre production values, and some comically puzzling writing choices, I don’t think I could recommend much with The Stepfather beyond “see it once.” It was not just a “Bad Daddy” movie; it was also just bad.

Joe Bob Briggs gave The Stepfather 3 out of 4 stars. I give The Stepfather 2 and 1/2 out of 5 Cthulhus. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Best Line: “Wait a minute, who am I here?” – Henry/Jerry, seconds before disaster

Still of Terry O'Quinn in 'The Stepfather" for The Last Drive-In "bad Daddy" night
Terry O’Quinn: killing it in several ways.

The Freakmaker (1974)

The Freakmaker, sometimes known as The Mutations, is a seldom mentioned 1974 science horror film with an unusual pedigree and excellent, notable cast that ends up doing little to salvage this B-picture. It is a curious artifact of 1974 that, while novel, doesn’t prove compelling. Yet, Joe Bob Briggs does have his fascination for this weird little movie, but I doubt the Mutant Fam will take after it as well as they did with The Legend of Boggy Creek.

The film was directed by legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who strangely hands the cinematography duties to Paul Beeson. The film was written by Edward Mann and Robert D. Weinbach, the latter who served as a producer. John Trumper steps in as editor, while the basic is handled by Basil Kirchin and an uncredited Jack Nathan. The film stars Donald Pleasance, Tom Baker, Brad Harris, Julie Ege, Michael Dunn, and Jill Haworth. The film also features a cadre of professional circus Freaks who lend their talents and authenticity to the sideshow setting for part of the film, including Willy “Popeye” Ingram, Esther “Alligator Girl” Blackmon, Hugh “Pretzel Boy” Baily, and Felix “Frog Boy” Duarte.


The Freakmaker features a group of students (Julie Ege, Jill Haworth, Scott Antony) and a visiting scholar, Brian (Brad Harris), who find themselves in the experiments of Dr. Nolter (Donald Pleasance) and his deformed assistant Lynch (Tom Baker). The two create genetic mutants combining human and plant characteristics, pawning off the failed results to a local Freakshow. Tensions arise between the experimenter, Nolter, the experimentees, and the Freaks, led by Burns (Michael Dunn), who rallies against the abuses of Lynch.

The “Bad Daddy” theme is a bit looser with this film but still pretty apt. The movie itself, however, is a mess. The film struggles between predictable plotting, homages that border ripoffs to stronger films, and a mixed bag of performances. Furthermore, the direction is stilted, which is odd from the director of Sons and Lovers (1960).

Poster for 'The Freakmaker' for The Last Drive-In "bad Daddy" night
It’s super freaky!

The story isn’t that good. Some ideas are interesting, but the way the concepts are delivered or developed is incredibly lacking. The film opens very slowly with what feels like a student film about the fungus life cycle as a metaphor as an understimulated Donald Pleasance recites memorized pseudoscientific lines. This is one of those rare instances where even I, a mighty reviewer who has managed to stay up for every movie shown on The Last Drive-In, felt my eyelids grow heavy. This is the most egregious example of the film’s ponderous, plodding, and talky nature.

With that being said, some of the ideas expressed in the dialogue are fascinating, but Donald Pleasance, usually an actor I am excited to see, doesn’t make it work. The cloning, genetic engineering, and the like theories are well ahead of their time here, even if they are couched in verbose nonsense. The film is at its best when it directly takes from Todd Browning’s Freaks (1932), but even then, it is a pale imitation. I’d rather be watching Freaks.

The other performances are fine, perhaps with Tom Baker having the most stirring of the bunch as a Freak who finds himself rejected in both worlds. He has a deeply sad scene with a sex worker that reveals his most significant insecurity, but it is a tantalizing tease and a more exciting story that does not get explored. Everyone else is just there to fill undercooked characters, and there is little agency for any of them to act upon. The ostensible protagonist accomplishes little, and the Freaks, fascinating that they are, only have a few moments before their sudden awkward action at the end of the film.

Even from a technical standpoint, the movie does not wow. I wasn’t overly taken with the direction from Jack Cardiff, nor were the editing and cinematography particularly interesting. The creature effects were decent enough, but ironically they looked to be on par with something in an episode of Dr. Who.


Joe-Bobservations on The Freakmaker

What became readily apparent as the film started is that Joe Bob has a soft spot for The Freakmaker. I can see why, too. Even if the movie isn’t the best I have seen on the show, it is a solid drive-in movie because it hits all the marks for Blood, Breasts, and Beasts. A lot of the apparent love for the film from our favorite horror host seems to originate with his interest in the subject matter of the Freakshow. During his host segments, he spent a lot of time talking about the people he interviewed and his love of the classic Freakshow. He also brought up an important point: if we are supposed to be body positive, is it fair to remove their opportunities for work?

Between Joe Bob’s discussions of the history of the Freakshow and the people who made them possible and his exciting stories about the cast and crew, there was also a hilarious moment of self-awareness as he just could not stop talking. It was charming to see Joe Bob break during one host segment, rattling off factoid after factoid, much to the chagrin of director Austin Jennings. I didn’t laugh quite as hard as the overly long Drive-In total for The Freakmaker, but it was a hilarious moment. Maybe the best part of the “Bad Daddy” evening.

Final Thoughts on The Freakmaker

I wish I could have enjoyed The Freakmaker more. It’s a strange little “Bad Daddy” movie, and had there been a bit more passion for the project across the board, I feel something fun could have really been found. Between a weak story, some overly-on-the-nose homages to Todd Browning’s Freaks, and curiously lifeless performances, there isn’t much to The Freakmaker that I enjoyed. I see the sketches of what I feel might work as a better film, but that’s not the point of this review.

Joe Bob Briggs gave The Freakmaker 3 out of 4 Stars. I can only give The Freakmaker 2 out of 5 Cthulhus. 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Best Line: “You’re a pretty one though, aren’t you. Look, spend a little extra, and I’ll be extra nice to you. Or shall I give it to you straight? Short and sweet. Two pounds.” – An intensely affordable sexworker to Lynch

Donald Pleasance in 'The Freakmaker' for The Last Drive-In
What is the rabbit for, Donald? Donald? Donald!

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

As usual, we have the official Drive-In Totals direct from Shudder. Tweet #2 is particularly intense!

As for our Drive-In Totals for the show, we have:

  • 2 “Bad Daddy” Movies
  • 52 Weeks of Movies
  • 65 Years of Father’s Day Legislation
  • 12 Year Production
  • Overly Involved Psychologist
  • Assault and Daddery
  • Holiday Ranting
  • Evidence Dumping
  • Childhood Trauma Regressing
  • Gratuitous Bathing
  • Plate Kicking
  • Gratuitous Lifetime Movie of the Week Musical Score
  • Gratuitous Fu Description Fu
  • Leaf Fu
  • 2×4 Fu
  • Killer Quip Fu
  • Clipboard Fu
  • Freak Fu
  • Reverse Time-lapse Fu
  • Corpse Rolls
  • Darcy Cosplay: Genderbend Stepdad
Screencap of Joe Bob and Darcy from The Last Drive-In S4E8
I guess the knife prop might be a mild spoiler?

Episode Score for the Last Drive-In: S4E8 – The Stepfather and The Freakmaker

It was a night for the “Bad Daddy” at The Last Drive-In. But how was S4E8, featuring The Stepfather and The Freakmaster, as a whole? Not great, if I am being honest. It was still an enjoyable night, but the films took a sledghammer to the overall evening. The theme felt appropriate, and the film choices made sense, for the most part, but the quality of the films was a real sticking point for me. I guess I am glad I’ve seen them at least once in my life. I don’t think I’ll be seeking them out again.

With that said, however, the show itself put together by the cast and crew of The Last Drive-In was a quality one. The “Bad Daddy” theme introduced some interesting discussion topics, even if those topics were more interesting than the films themselves.

I would give this episode of The Last Drive-In 3 1/2 out of 5 Cthulhus. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

And with that, we are done for the week. What did you think of the movies? Did you have a favorite? Will you ever watch them again? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts. “Do you have any “Bad Daddy” film recommendations?

Please join us on Twitter next Friday as we live-tweet with the rest of the Mutant Fam during The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs


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Movies n TV

The Beach House, a Film Review

The Beach House (2019) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown starring Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, and Jake Weber.



The Beach House (2020) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown. This film stars Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber, and Maryann Nagel. As of this review, this film is only available on Shudder.

Desperate to rekindle their strained love, Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) escape to a beach getaway. They soon learn to find that family friends of Randall’s father, Mitch (Jake Weber), and Jane (Maryann Nagel), also had a similar idea. After getting used to each other, a mysterious fog engulfs the town. Unfortunately, they realize too late the danger they find themselves in.

A woman with her mouth agape. Behind her is a dark background. Next to her reads, "The Beach House." Below is a scenic beach with a mountain in the distance.
The Beach House Alternative Cover Art

What I Like

Body horror gets under my skin, and The Beach House certainly lives up to the standard. There’s something magical about creatures terraforming your body to their preferred environment, turning humans into nothing more than conscious prisoners in their own flesh. While I wouldn’t consider this film the most traumatic or unsettling example, it utilizes wonderfully grotesque scenes.

Aside from the body horror, the film drops a few Cosmic Horror–or Lovecraftian–vibes that go together perfectly. Another favored genre of mine, this combination ensures the odds are overwhelmingly against our human leads.

Beyond the grotesque, visuals might not overwhelm but certainly succeed in their goal. Several scenes provide an intentionally tranquil experience that contrasts with the grotesques and improves their effectiveness.


In terms of performance, each actor hits their mark. While some roles require less effort, each contributes to the plot as intended. The standout performance goes to Liana Liberato’s Emily, who acts as co-lead. She simply has the most to work with and lives up to the part.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

As “body horror” should indicate, this film will hit hard for the more squeamish viewer. While horror by nature has some amount of grotesque, body horror brings that grotesque to the next level. While I don’t particularly find The Beach House hitting harder than its competition, it certainly respects its chosen genre.

Woman looks shocked or horrified. Bushes or trees make up the background.
Liana Liberato as Emily

What I Dislike or Considerations

A few scenic montages may hit or miss depending on your interpretation. While I have my own theories, that speculation goes beyond the scope of this review. Many of these scenes overlap more philosophical conversations and musings that may annoy or add layers. This strategy seems a common practice in Cosmic Horror, which forces characters to rationalize the irrational.

It’s hard for me to understand how secretive or known this event is supposed to be in the film’s world. Individuals know something outside of the town, with evidence implying governmental knowledge. This information creates a contrivance–perhaps, even a plot hole–because the characters had to reach this isolated town without any opposition.

One of the visuals didn’t exactly grab me. While I won’t go into too much detail, an effect looked too visually similar to a common animal that barely survives rain. It’s hard to be threatened by that. It also doesn’t exactly match up with some of the other visuals. Even the creatures that look similar to it still look different enough to provide a more alien assumption.

There are moments when the infected chase our main characters by crawling at them. While the context works, with injured characters helping to sell them, I can’t help but find these scenes amusing as opposed to frightening. Yes, it’s certainly visually different from the plethora of zombies out there, but it’s also less frightening than zombies that leisurely walk to their targets.

Final Thoughts

The Beach House combines cosmic and body horror to create an uncomfortable film that tests its characters. For those who enjoy these genres, it will certainly entertain you, but I doubt it will frighten you. I imagine the mood to watch it again might strike me, but I’m not entirely certain it will stand the test of time. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

If this movie suits your fancy and you want more, Honeymoon seems an appropriate recommendation.


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Movies n TV

Every Secret Thing, a Film Review

Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, based on Laura Lippman’s novel.



Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener. This R-rated film stars Diane Lane, Danielle Macdonald, Dakota Fanning, and Elizabeth Banks. Based on Laura Lippman’s novel of the same name, the film adaptation is accessible through MAX and DirecTV.

When a little girl goes missing, Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) spirals into an all too familiar tale. As pressure mounts, Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) and Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) become the leading suspects. The strained frenemies unravel under the attention and reminders of their shared past.

Laura Lippman stands out at the top of the cover, over a black background. Every Secret Thing appearing over a pool
Every Secret Thing Book Cover

What I Like

The film unravels in a non-chronological structure but makes it easy for the viewer to follow. It helps that the age difference clearly divides the younger actors, who change actors. One casting choice resembles their older counterpart, and the acting reflects a strong direction for their shared role.

Unreliable narration remains expertly communicated with scenes that change perspectives depending on whose perspective we view them from. This choice adds a reason to view the film twice, providing extra ambiguity for some of these events.

The camera gets up close and personal to an uncomfortable degree, which almost certainly presses the actors’ performances. This choice places the viewer in the character’s perspective and limits us from others’ perspectives to add extra credence to these biases.


Every Secret Thing provides a spiraling mystery that unravels with several twists and turns. Assuming the novel provided the outline, this film executes these points and keeps a consistently engaging experience throughout the runtime.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

Child abuse and neglect remain the central plot points of Every Secret Thing. Little of this abuse appears in scenes, but there is no escaping the danger children are in throughout the film.

Self-harm and suicide are shown throughout the film (once in the case of suicide) through one specific character. It isn’t glorified or romanticized nor addressed with particular sensitivity. For those sensitive to these subjects, it might be triggering.

Racism, the assumed motive for the bi-racial victims, plays a small role in the film’s narrative. However, character motives remain more complex, but going further spoils some elements. This film decision does create the reality that bi-racial children are the victims of child neglect and abuse in the film with little additional context. It does invite uncomfortable speculation, but speculation it would be.

Sexual assault is another concern for viewers, specifically statutory rape. This issue seems particularly mismanaged, considering the survivor remains an antagonist. One can be both survivor of assault and an antagonist of a film without needing to discredit the assault. While little appears of this issue, and the manipulation angle can indicate a perspective shift, it’s hard to refute how the film wants to represent this attack.

Daughter resting on her mother's shoulder. Both are in the back of a car.
Diane Lane as Helen and Danielle Macdonald as Alice

What I Dislike

Loosely tied to the above point, one character seems mentally off and purposely so. This point doesn’t inherently create an issue, but there seems to be a choice to make this character a mastermind. Perhaps this is better addressed in the book, but the execution is far from perfect here.

A newspaper montage reveals essential information which feels oddly misplaced. Practically the entire setup for the film appears through this montage, which creates the necessity to read these headlines in the minimal time given.


As a horror, nothing but the events are haunting. Children being abused or kidnapped always haunts, but the terror of this remains secondary to the mystery. While the mystery is nice, this film won’t particularly scare the seasoned horror fan.

Final Thoughts

Every Secret Thing unravels a mystery of opportunism, selfishness, and deception. While the movie won’t haunt the viewer, it certainly unravels a mystery that shocks them. The nuanced and deceptive characters add a layer of engagement that creates a unique experience, but I doubt this movie will linger in my mind.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Quid Pro Woe



We’ve now reached episode six of Tim Burton’s Wednesday. And after the last episode, this one did not disappoint.

We start with Wednesday attempting to contact Goody Addams. Last episode, if you’ll recall, Morticia explained the difference between a psychic dove and a raven. Since Goody Addams was the last raven psychic in the family line, it’s got to be her that trains Wednesday. 

But her seance is a failure, and Wednesday is interrupted by a magazine note shoved under the door. It says to meet someone at a crypt for answers. 

When she gets there, it turns out that her friends have put together a surprise birthday party for her. Before she can cut the cake, however, she has a vision.

Jenna Ortega in Wednesday

Goody Addams tells her that she must find a specific gate. After some investigation, Wednesday discovers it’s the gate to the old Gates house. 

Wednesday goes to investigate, but she isn’t the only one. She is nearly discovered by Mayor Walker. He is also investigating the Gates family, even though they’re all reported to be dead. He leaves a message for Sheriff Galpin and is almost immediately run over by a car.

This incident is enough to get Wednesday’s town villages revoked. Though this seems like an empty punishment since the whole school is on lockdown. Someone burned Fire Will Rain on their front lawn. 

Wednesday isn’t one for believing the rules apply to her. She has it in her head that she’s meant to save Nevermore Academy, probably from whatever descendent of Crackstone who’s still around. So she has no problem lying to Enid and Tyler and convincing them to help her sneak off campus and explore the Gates house further.

This, of course, is an incredibly informative trip. The kids find a hidden altar to Crackstone, as well as the missing body parts from the monster’s victims. They also find evidence that someone’s been staying in the house. Someone who’s staying in what looks like a little girl’s room.

Before they can find anything more, the monster finds them. They barely escape, and go to the sheriff with what they find. 


Of course, the house has been cleared out by the time Sheriff Galpin arrives. Furious that his son was almost killed, he tells Wednesday to stay away from him.

Because that always works, right?

Galpin isn’t the only one angry. Enid is fed up with the way Wednesday has been treating her. And so she leaves their room to bunk with someone else, leaving Wednesday alone. 

This episode was well done. The discoveries at the house were exciting, and I’m almost sure I know who’s behind the murders at this point. Overall, this was a good ramp-up to the season finale. 

Jenna Ortega in Wednesday.

Finally, this episode did something I was worried just wasn’t going to happen. And for that alone, it deserves praise.

Wednesday has been incredibly selfish and inconsiderate since the first episode. She’s been rude and demanding towards Thing. She’s ignored her friends’ needs and emotions while insisting they put themselves in danger for her investigation. She has respected no one’s boundaries, even while other people have at least tried to respect hers.


And now, it’s finally come back to bite her. All of the people who have been doing their best to show her kindness and support are finally done with her bullshit.

Yes, this is a good thing! Characters are best when they’re allowed to learn and grow. When they don’t come to us flawless. When they mess up and learn from it. Especially for a show aimed at kids, this is essential.

If you’d asked me at the beginning of the season if this character was going to experience honest character growth, I’d have assured you it would never happen. Much to my surprise, it’s happening. I hope that Wednesday is going to come out of this a better person. With two episodes left in the season, there’s plenty of time for that.  4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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