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We return to the Drive-In for a special night of fun, movies, and a lack of social distancing. In all seriousness, though, it was a lovely night with a surprising amount of talent on the set.

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)

Opening Rant: Don’t body shame women.

1987’s Slumber Party Massacre II is a weird movie. It’s fun, but it is also like a lesser version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Instead of exploring dream logic, Slumber Party Massacre II instead puts its eggs in the musical horror comedy basket to mixed results. Mind you, I am saying this as a fan of the movie.

The film follows Courtney, a survivor of the original Slumber Party Massacre, as she seeks time with her boyfriend while struggling with nightmares about the killer from the first film. Only now, inexplicably, he seems to be greaser and his drill is also a guitar. The movie is a comedy first and horror film second and while there is quite the body count, it also tends to be at the hands of a goofy, singing greaser.

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There are a number of elements of the film that do not age well. For a film about a teenage girl who is in a band, a film with such a musical focus, the music really isn’t all that great. The logic of the killer is largely nonsensical as well, never really committing much to the idea of him being a real person or a dream entity in any convincing way. The story is about as complex as most 80s slashers, so the writing isn’t necessarily doing the film any favors either.

Yet, for the most part, none of this matters because it’s such a fun movie. I tend to love movies despite their flaws. A lot of my enjoyment of this movie comes from an appreciation for a lot of the same things I criticize in the first place. I enjoy how ridiculous the killer is, I like the songs despite the fact they’re fairly lame as far as songs go, and the ending makes no sense at all. The killer quips his way through his murder-spree like a rockabilly Freddy Kreuger.

Hell, the two cops who show up and do nothing for the teens are named Voorhies and Kreuger. It’s not a film that thrives on subtlety. It is one where topless karaoke, food and pillow fights, and light fixture grinding are in ample supply.

JBB was pretty fair with his own assessment of Slumber Party Massacre II, giving it two and a half stars. Among some of the interesting bits regarding the movie was the revelation that Paul Rubens spent time on the set for who knows what reason. Perhaps the best bit for the first half of the night, though, was Joe Bob’s expression of exasperated crew members of a Roger Corman production at 5 AM. If you remember “Demons-Fucking-Five” from the original Last Drive-In marathon then you get the same sort of energy here. Of course, the bits with Joe Bob and Darcy in pajamas were welcome and adorable, but none of the eventual guests were present for the first half of the night.

Basically, the night began with slumber party cheese that was punctuated by Darcy forcing Joe Bob to wear adorable Halloween pajamas, and isn’t that just what we’d expect from a Last Drive-In “Summer Sleepover?” Slumber Party Massacre II may not have been a master class in movie-craft, but it’s the perfect sort of junk food for the soul when you want to spend a night with friends. I can’t really go higher than three Cthulhus, though.

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Best Line: “My… burger’s… weird.” – Courtney

“Oops, I did it again.”

Victor Crowley

Opening Rant: The Leggings Wars.

So, full disclosure, I have not seen the three prior films in the Hatchet series, of which 2017’s Victor Crowley is the fourth installment. This half of the evening was a Shudder premiere and also was, quite obviously, the main attraction of the night featuring a cavalcade of horror talent clad in their bedtime best. Based on what I saw, however, I will be seeking out the other films in the series. This is good stuff.

The film follows an amateur film crew and a plane of media figures who are going to the swampy remains of the Crowley house. Their paths converge after an accident causes a plane to crash and they are then stalked by the vengeful and murderous Victor Crowley. It’s a simply story, but it pretty much puts the pieces in place right away and then proceeds to break them in fun, messy ways.

The main appeals of the film are clearly outrageous violence and Victor Crowley himself. The film does present some particularly brutal kills, particularly one that turns a veteran horror actress into a human sleeve. As an unstoppable murder machine, Victor Crowley is very much in the mold of Jason Voorhees; hulking, tied to water, apparently undead, and mercilessly disfigured, and as a whole, he works. I am not sure how deep Crowley’s story is, but there is enough there to interest me in seeing the previous films. Truth be told, Victor Crowley is the best Friday the 13th movie I have seen since The New Blood.

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Perhaps the biggest weakness of the film is that so much of the action is locked to the single location of the downed plane. The film does a good job using the plane and the limited surrounding swamp, but I can’t help but feel that the film spending so much time within the limited location was motivated primarily by budget concerns. Another concern is that the characters were also a bit broadly drawn, skewing more towards cliched archetypes rather than fully-fleshed out characters to cheer for, with the notable exception of Dillon who more or less steals the film as soon as he is introduced. Though admittedly, I am coming into the series in the fourth film, I did find Andrew to be fairly compelling, particularly as he was presented as such a punching bag despite what appeared to be some massive trauma.

Joe Bob was particularly effusive in his praise for the film, which is fair given the level of talent attached to it and present on the set. He gave the film the four-star treatment, but he was not above poking fun at the title a bit. We again have a bit of a Demons situation on hand here. Are we going to see Victor Crowley 2, or will we jump to Hatchet 5? Who knows?

Most of the host segments revolved around the continually growing list of guests and the running gag was quite fun. The amount of talent present was absurd: Felissa Rose, director Adam Green, Kane Hodder, Tiffany Shepis, and Brian Quinn all had their moment to share their thoughts on the film, and there was a great amount of rapport between everyone. What was amazing is that it never got chaotic. It would be crazy to ask the team at The Last Drive-In to pull off such a feat again, but what is The Last Drive-In if not a tribute to excess?

Perhaps the best host segments of the night represented the show running on two different ends. The first was a very intimate and frank discussion on the craft of film with Adam Green. He clutched Ernie, the resident Drive-In mascot, and talked at length about the struggles of making a horror film like the type that the Hatchet series is evoking in spirit. It was a wonderful moment of vulnerability from a talent and a level of insight that seems to come easily around Joe Bob Briggs. This is the sort of horror-nerd end of the Drive-In experience when it comes to host segments, frank, sometimes ugly, sometimes emotional discussions about how the screwed up things we love get made.

The other end of the Drive-In experience was one of emotion and community when Darcy brought out an emotional letter from a fan about his own experiences sharing Joe Bob’s older shows with his father. As these things go, the father eventually passed, but the feelings of love remain even today, as the author describes sometimes talking to his dad when watching the show now. It’s all very powerful and is just another one of those examples of the sort of camaraderie that has sprung from the community.

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We know there is more of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs coming, but the horror community as a whole would be well served if Shudder recognizes the show for what it is: a communal touchstone and institution. The smart move is to keep it running for as long as Joe Bob, Darcy, and the rest of the family feel they need to.

Victor Crowley was a great premiere. It’s a quality film and even if Shudder could not show the unedited version, it was still just the right amount of nasty for the night. I feel comfortable giving Victor Crowley four Cthulhus. I do have some issues with it, but for my first Hatchet experience, I am intrigued and wish to see the other films. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Best Line: “Ten years later, you are like the O.J. Simpson of Honey Island Swamp. Wouldn’t you say?” – Sabrina to Andrew

Be like Victor Crowley, find joy in your work.

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

As per tradition, we gotta relay those Drive-In Totals. Thanks for providing them as Tweets, Shudder!

Also tradition? Our own totals! Let’s see what I have in my handy notebook, shall we?

  • 2 MST3K Alumns in TLDI (Baron Vaughn and Jonah Ray)
  • 5 Sleepover Guests
  • 6 Severed Heads
  • 9 names in Joe Bob’s list of the Greatest Texas Musicians
  • $12,000 Pimple Effect Budget
  • $400,000 Real Budget
  • Dead Bird
  • Suburban Terror
  • Swamp People
  • 80s Overload
  • Topless Boyfriends
  • Aborted Axe Throw
  • Surprise PeeWee
  • Killer Karaoke
  • MPAA Blues
  • Mangled Vagina
  • Verbal Massacre
  • Gratuitous Sing-A-Longs
  • Gratuitous Slumber Party Girl Fight
  • Gratuitous First Marathon Rememberances
  • Gratuitous Emotional Letter
  • Freudian Fu
  • Awkward Genitalia to Light Fixture Grinding Fu
  • Chicken Fu
  • Gratuitous First-Half Joking
  • Ernie Holding Fu
  • Aggressive Fisting Fu
  • Suicide Dive Fu
  • Yuki Sightings: 1
  • Silver Bolo Award: Cinamassacre
  • Darcy Cosplay: No cosplay, but a very open set of pajamas.
That zipper is in it’s final moment.

Episode Score

A fun night with a cult classic, a Shudder premiere, and the world’s tiniest pajama top. What’s not to love? 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

With any luck, we’ll be meeting up again for another event in October, but until then why not check out some of the other content here at Haunted MTL?

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Cursed Neighborhood

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Episode five of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was one of the best kind of horror stories. It is a dark, eerie tale of a mean house that is determined to destroy anyone who dares reside within it.

The story

Our story begins in 1682. A group of colonists are attempting to take over land that is very much not theirs. When the colonists are killed, they vow to curse the land.

Fast forward to modern times, and the land in question is a little suburban neighborhood. Carlette Norwood moves in with her husband, mother, and daughters. The house seems like a dream come true. Until, of course, their beautiful dream home becomes a nightmare. The curse of the colonists wrapped itself around the neck of each family member, turning them into people that they didn’t recognize. People who don’t exactly like each other.

What worked

While I wouldn’t say that the acting in this episode is flawless, it was several steps above what we’ve seen so far. Every actor seemed to understand their role and reacted in realistic ways. I was especially impressed by the young woman playing Angelique. She had the good sense to not overplay the role, giving each scene exactly the right amount of energy.

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Of course, there was one actress who way overplayed every scene. But rather than being terrible, it was terrific. And that was Chloe Zeitounian, who played the neighbor Stacy. Stacy the neighbor was creepy as shit. After an unnamed neighbor dies by suicide, Stacy shows up at Carlette’s house with a bottle of champagne, sipping coffee with a big old smile. Well, okay it probably wasn’t coffee.

Stacy was a fantastic character, and I hope there was a crazy neighbor just like her. I bet her house was haunted as hell, but she just decided that her ghost was like a stray dog that everyone else thinks is dangerous. She probably put a bejeweled collar on the colonist ghost and renamed him Kori spelled with an I on purpose.

Finally, I want to talk about the theme of ancestral curse and ancestral protections that this episode discussed.

Charles County was cursed by the colonists who took the land that rightfully belonged to the indigenous tribes. They took what their ancestors had given them, and left a curse in their wake.

At the end of the episode, Carlette talks about being protected by her ancestors. Ancestors that survived horrible things most of us can’t imagine. I am sure that their strength blessed Carlette, and helped her to save Angelique.

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What didn’t work

While this episode was certainly better than most of the season, it wasn’t perfect. The thing that most stood out to me as being frankly unneeded was the inclusion of maggots attacking Brian.

Paul A Maynard in Suburban Screams.

In multiple scenes, during which Carlette is narrating, Brian has maggots coming out of open wounds. Never once does Carlette mention a maggot issue.

It feels like there is a clear reason why the creators did this. This story doesn’t have a lot of blood, gore, or jump scares. And a core goal of horror content is to cause a reaction.

Stephen King has a great quote about this goal. “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”

The inclusion of maggots in this story admits that someone involved didn’t think the story was terrorizing or horrifying enough. But it was. The story was freaky all on its own without the inclusion of our wriggling friends.

Is it true?

This might be an unpopular opinion, but aside from the completely unnecessary maggots infesting Brian, I think this episode is the most honest and accurate one so far.

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The thing about hauntings is that they’re seldom what we see in the movies. Haunted houses don’t have glass vases flying off shelves and wallpaper peeling to reveal 666 painted in blood over arcane symbols. Haunted houses dig into the minds of those who live there, causing bad luck and bad vibes. And that’s exactly what happened here. There are no massive explosions. No spirits throwing people downstairs or demonic dogs chasing children from the attic. This house dug into the hearts and minds of a loving family, ripping them apart.

So yes, I do think this episode is likely true.

The further we get into Suburban Screams, the more I enjoy it. This episode was eerie, upsetting, and riveting. I hope that Carlette and her daughters are healing from this horrific journey. And I’m thankful to them for sharing their story. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Happy Father’s Day Herman Munster!

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Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel
Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel

Today for Father’s Day I want to celebrate one the best dads in horror ever: Herman Munster! Herman Munster of television celebrity is a perfect example of a good father in a genre awash in epically horrible parents. He is fun to be around, cares deeply about family, and has a huge heart. He is essentially the naive and loving Frankenstein’s monster despite his horrific appearance, and is aptly employed at a funeral home.

Herman is lovable, hardworking, and always ready with the physical humor dad jokes, even if he is too naive to catch on to his role in the punchlines all the time. He is devoted to his wife Lily Dracula and son Eddie and will do whatever he can to protect them. His generosity extends beyond just his own, with the family taking in his niece Marilyn (who is painfully normal by comparison to the Munsters), and father-in-law Grandpa.

Portrayed by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster is kind of the epitome of the good father in horror. Sure, he’s a brute, and can be a little dim sometimes, but he’s really just a big teddy bear at heart, and always ready for a good laugh. And apparently Herman Munster was even nominated by his son Eddie for Father of the Year in Season 2, Episode 25, so it all comes around full circle. If the show highlight doesn’t load, you can find it here.

And to celebrate more great Hollywood celebrities, here’s a poem for Ed Wood and an homage to Theda Bara

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Suburban Screams, The Bunny Man

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Someone is stalking the children of Fairfax, Virginia. He comes bearing an axe. He comes from the forest. He comes in the night.

He comes dressed as a bunny.

The story

In the 1970s, the sleepy town of Fairfax Virginia was menaced by a man dressed as a rabbit. He stalked kids and teens with an axe while they were playing in the woods, or ‘parking’. Children were cautioned to not play outside after dark. Parents were terrified. The whole community was rocked by the horrific killer who, well, didn’t kill anybody. And who might have been a whole bunch of people inspired by a truly sad tale?

Still from Suburban Screams The Bunny Man.

The story begins a hundred years earlier. A man whose name is lost to time is accused of stealing a cow. For this crime, he’s sentenced to death because things were a lot tougher back then. The man escaped but swore vengeance on the town. A few days later several children were found hanging from a bridge underpass, butchered and hung as though they were slaughtered rabbits.

What worked

The biggest thing to love about this episode, the one thing that sets it apart from the rest of the season, was the presence of Historian Cindy Burke. Finally, we have an actual professional talking about one of these stories. Yes, there are still first-hand accounts. But that is how these sorts of stories work best. We have the emotional retelling of evocative survivors. But we also have a professional who is emotionally separated from the situation backing up these stories with historical knowledge.

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This wouldn’t have mattered as much in any other setting. But Suburban Screams has been clear from the start that it wants to be seen as a documentary. This is supposed to be real. And if you’re going to claim that your ghost story is real, bring receipts. As many as you can.

If we’d seen more historians, detectives, and police reports through this series, it probably wouldn’t have the bad rating it does on IMDB.

What didn’t work

Well, it might still have had a bad rating. Because the acting in this episode was, for lack of a stronger word, terrible.

I don’t know if it was the directing, the casting, or just a weak talent budget. But not a single person except for the man playing the Bunny Man could act in any of these dramatic reenactment scenes.

The worst offender was probably the child playing Ed’s childhood friend. This character was way overacted. It’s as though the child had seen a parody of how little boys behave, and was told to act like that. As this was a little boy, he was likely a bit embarrassed.

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And I know, I’m trash-talking a child actor. I’m trash-talking all of the children actors in this episode. But children can act. There are lots of examples of kids doing great acting jobs. Stranger Things is an obvious example. Violent Night is another. The kid can act. These kids couldn’t act.

Is it true?

Unlike most of the other episodes in this series, The Bunny Man is a story I’ve heard before. It is a legitimate urban legend that blossomed from a few firsthand accounts of madmen doing scary things dressed as rabbits in Fairfax County, West Virginia. These events probably inspired others to do stupid things like dress up like a rabbit and run around with an ax. Much like the people who decided to dress up like clowns and scare the hell out of people across the country in 2016.

So, yes, the Bunny Man is very much real. He’s real in the hearts and minds of pranksters and West Virginia frat boys. And he is based on some very real, very upsetting, actual events.

I honestly wish the whole season of Suburban Screams had been exactly like this. Filled with facts, first-hand accounts, and proof of scary events. This was everything I wanted in a supernatural/true crime story. So if you’re giving the rest of the season a pass, I would suggest watching this episode.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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