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Welcome to “Notes from the Last Drive-In,” Haunted MTL’s review and recap series of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder. This is our second Joe Bob special in a month, but this time we cover the surprise special all about The Walking Dead. The Drive-In The Walking Dead special ran the first two episodes of the long-running zombie horror series. We not only were able to enjoy a visit from effects legend Greg Nicotero but had the distinct pleasure of seeing a raccoon buttplug (more on this later).

The Walking Dead – “Days Gone By”

Halloween night, 2010, over 5.35 million Americans tuned into a zombie television show on a cable network. Adapted from a comic by Robert Kirkman and directed and written by film legend Frank Darabont, the pilot was too big to fail. The Walking Dead – “Days Gone By” featured British actors Andrew Lincoln and Lennie James, alongside future heavy-hitter Jon Bernthal to tell a gripping story about a man who awakes from a coma into a world where the dead have taken over.

The combination of Darabont and Kirkman here is wonderful. Where Kirkman’s writing is effective and the ideas are strong, Darabont took the material to another level. The comic itself is the equivalent of beautiful inked illustrations. The pilot was Darabont applying shading and color to create a deeper and fuller picture. Also helping in that regard, cinematographer David Tattersall gives the pilot a timeless 16mm treatment, like a glimpse into a lost late 1970s zombie film derived from Romero‘s Night of The Living Dead.

Lincoln is deft with his portrayal of Rick Grimes, a man on a mission, and Bernthal is charismatic even playing the worst guy you know. The episode belongs to Lennie James, though. His character’s story is the heart of the episode and creates an important narrative through-line that ultimately gets jettisoned until seasons later. And Lennie James acts the *hell* out of this. One wonders what would have happened had the show decided to stray from the source material and had the character of Morgan catch up to Rick in Atlanta.

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The Walking Dead‘s pilot episode, “Days Gone By,” to this day, is a monumental achievement and one of the finest zombie stories ever filmed. Is it without flaws? Not entirely, no. Characters make odd decisions, some elements, such as the “Don’t Open – Dead Inside” door are still very campy. As a singular story, up through Rick Grimes riding into Atlanta? There hasn’t been such fine, classic zombie storytelling since the 1990’s Night of The Living Dead remake. Had the episode ended with Rick riding into Atlanta via the highway on horseback you would have had a brutal, effective film. That is not to say the final moments of the episode are bad, though, it just takes what could be a singularly excellent product and makes it part of a larger series that ultimately would not live up to the standards set by the pilot.

The pilot, really, is lightning in a bottle and it could not last. The first season already had some significant issues as it wore on, but between “Days Gone By” and “Guts” the promise was there, and for a while, the show was the premiere zombie entertainment of the 2010s. I admit I felt off around season six, myself, but for a long time, this show was an obsession that hit almost everyone in the United States, even people not into horror. It was astounding, and so much of it is a result of the pilot episode.

I won’t spend too much more time on this episode, or “Guts,” the second episode, because I am planning to revisit the series as a whole once it ends, but for now, for the purposes of the review, The Walking Dead – “Days Gone By” is near perfection.

Joe Bob-servations

Joe Bob’s assessment of the first feature? Four stars. While the special does smell a bit of a company mandate (maybe more of a firm suggestion), it also just genuinely felt like an acknowledgment that The Walking Dead has an important place in horror history and one that is quite deserved.

Listening to Joe Bob Briggs break down the rules of The Walking Dead universe was quite fun, especially his observations about how cynical and dark the world can be. Also of great fun was one of those infamous Joe Bob Briggs lectures, complete with map and pointer. For me, personally, this was entertaining because every time he named a movie I was able to say “been there, saw that.” It made me feel like a real zombie expert, likely along with a lot of the other hardcore zombie fans watching The Last Drive-In.

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Particularly great was having Greg Nicotero and series make-up artist Carey Jones at the drive-in. The heavy dive into the incredible effects work and crushing schedule of The Walking Dead was fascinating and slightly anxiety-inducing. The speed and scale of the work from season one are truly a marvel of production design. Of course, we also see the start of turning Darcy into a walker in the first half of the night as well. Being able to get schooled on zombies and the makeup process was quite a treat for a pre-Halloween show.

As far as new observations on the original season of the show and the masterful pilot episode, I didn’t learn much, but I also was a Walking Dead-head for quite a while, having read all the comics and been into the show for about 6 seasons or so. That being said, it was fun to be reminded of just why the pilot was so important to horror on TV.

Final Thoughts on The Walking Dead – “Days Gone By”

I could write a lot about The Walking Dead – “Days Gone By” because it is a cultural touchstone for zombie storytelling. That might be a topic best saved for another kind of article, however. As a feature for a Drive-In episode? It’s solid – maybe not quite doing things “The Drive-In Way” we are used to, but it is also just such a quality production. The Last Drive-In has been fortunate to deftly weave between the “trash” and “treasure” that makes up the horror scene – all of it wonderful, across three seasons and several specials. However, for some of the more hardcore mutants this episode might be a miss. Not for me, though. I would give “Days Gone By” the full five-Cthulhu treatment. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “Yeah. They get more active after dark sometimes. Maybe it’s the cool air or… Hell, maybe it’s just me firing that gun today. But we’ll be fine, long as we stay quiet. Probably wander off by morning. But listen, one thing I do know… Don’t you get bit. I saw your bandage and that’s what we were afraid of. Bites kill you. The fever burns you out. But then after a while… You come back.” – Morgan Jones

Screencap of The Walking Dead from The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) looking pensively away from a zombie
Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) steels himself to deal with a zombie.

The Walking Dead – “Guts”

“Guts” is the second episode of The Walking Dead‘s mostly-excellent first season and is what served as the transition point of what felt like the first episode’s “movie” style to the larger episodic nature of the series. Directed by the brilliant Michelle MacLaren, one of the most accomplished television directors out there with some incredible series under her belt, the episode is strong. The second episode has a lot to do, introducing a very large array of new characters, and MacLaren’s directorial sense, combined with Darabont’s writing handles it pretty well. For example, the episode is big on the idea of show, don’t tell. We’ll cover that in a moment.

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The episode fleshes out some of the figures introduced at the tail end of episode one. Notably, Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), Rick’s wife, is having an affair with Shane (Jon Bernthal). We also have Rick’s son, Carl (Chandler Riggs). We also get to spend more time with survivors Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) while also introducing a whole group of survivors in a besieged department store, including Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Merle (Michael Rooker). Everyone is solid here. Lincoln comes out a little stronger as a moral compass while not being overshadowed by Lennie James. Steven Yeun quickly establishes himself as the heart of the show through Glenn. Michael Rooker is Michael Rooker – pretty much the perfect deplorable bastard. I was surprised he didn’t just chew his way through the handcuffs as he did with the scenery.

The cast swells dramatically in this episode and there is a lot to establish in the world, too. One brilliant way in which that is handled is through the set design. Between Alex Hajdu and Lisa Alkofer, the world of The Walking Dead feels so much bigger and well-worn that most other horror shows would have managed to pull off, prior. Meanwhile, this episode’s cinematography from David Boyd gives the entire episode a gritty, sweaty, and grimey (pun-intended) layer, made even more horrible by the addition of dripping blood and guts from Nicotero’s team.

The second episode is largely great but does have some rather odd moments. Two examples: the lack of barricades used by the survivors for one, and the somewhat narratively pointless sewer jaunt to show us what we already know for two. None of that matters though because the survivors are dumbasses. It’s too early for them to be smart about any of this and they are still putting pieces together. This is exemplified from the best scene in the episode, where Rick and the survivors dismember a zombie to disguise their scents with guts and offal. It features a speech by Rick about the new world and a dark joke about organ donors by Glenn. It’s one of the most perfect scenes of the show that tells you everything important that you need to know.

The show absolutely had a difficult task ahead of it following the pilot, but it largely succeeds.

Joe Bob-servations

Our venerable host awarded the second episode four stars. There was a lot of great discussion with Greg Nicotero about the production of the show, following up on points established in the first half of the night. Joe Bob also made some quite salient points of The Walking Dead being a western, particularly given the frontier-like nature of the zombie apocalypse. Lastly, I appreciate the discussion on the lasting impact of the series. Despite the very vocal community of The Walking Dead haters, the show is still absolutely a top performer in horror television and spawned an entire, massive franchise, all derived from the comic book.

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Of course, the highlight of these host segments was the journey of Darcy becoming the living dead through the efforts of make-up effect artist Carey Jones. Zombie Darcy sluggishly chewing the scene as a zombie was quite adorable. Plus… one fan sent in a raccoon-heat buttplug. What a great introduction to the show from curious fans of The Walking Dead.

Final Thoughts on The Walking Dead – “Guts”

“Guts” has some heavy lifting to do regarding the task of turning a film-like pilot into part of a longer television narrative and largely succeeds. Though there are some cracks that show in logic in order position characters in certain situations, the episode is strong. Much of the strength comes from the episode’s primary setpiece involving those titular “guts.” Overall, the episode is a four-Cthulhu effort. Not as sterling as the pilot, but certainly no slouch, either. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Best Line: “If bad ideas were an Olympic event, this would take the gold.” – Glenn

Screencap of The Walking Dead from The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs featuring Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) covered in zombie gore in an alley
Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) attempt to fool the undead by smelling like them.

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

We have our official Drive-In totals from Shudder, of course.

As for our own totals, we have –

  • 1 undead mail girl
  • 2 special effects makeup experts
  • 3 rules of The Walking Dead
  • 5 rules of the Romero zombie
  • a bajillion car alarms
  • Zombie BBQ
  • Zombie schooling
  • Gratuitious zombie history lecture
  • gratuitous prop collection reveal
  • Raccoon head buttplug
  • Corporate synergy fu
  • Walker makeup fu
  • Cannibal jokes
  • Lawyer jokes
Screencap of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs with Darcy in walker makeup
Vegetarian Darcy finally makes the carnivorous switch.

Episode Score

I will never complain about new specials for The Last Drive-In and as far as I am concerned, The Walking Dead is right in the wheelhouse of the show. I know some fans were a bit negative about the focus being on The Walking Dead, but they let their perspective be clouded by what the show had become, and not what it was. This special also had the bonus of deep, insightful discussion about what the appeal of the zombie is, what makes a zombie look good, and even a few nods to how tight the show’s cast and crew had become. This show was a great reminder about what was so revolutionary about The Walking Dead, and Joe Bob Briggs is just the right voice to convey that to the audience.

This installment of The Last Drive-In was also quite a good introduction to what fans love about Joe Bob Briggs and the crew of the show, raccoon-buttplug and all. it is goofy, affectionate, but also knowledgeable and insightful. Where else can you get a glimpse of Greg Nicotero’s process and props without breaking into his home, really? Plus, the fun of turning Darcy into a walker is not something you see on most horror-hosting shows. Likely, for many viewers of The Walking Dead, this may be their first encounter with Joe Bob, and horror hosting outside of Elvira. Just be thankful we can show more people how things are done the Drive-In way.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

We’ll see you again with a new review and recap in December when The Last Drive-In returns with a Christmas Special. I confirmed this directly with Darcy on Saturday at the Victorville Scarefaire. So until then, mutants, please let us know what you thought of the night or the review for that matter. And please browse Haunted MTL for even more horror news, reviews, and fiction.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

Movies n TV

The Boys, Beware the Jabberwock, My Son

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We’ve reached episode five of The Boys. And after the last episode’s emotional bombshells, this one had some much-needed levity.

And then a whole bunch more emotional trauma.

The story

We begin this episode with Homelander and Ryan in a meeting regarding a new teenage show. But Ryan doesn’t want to be on a show. He wants to be an actual hero. He wants to do real good and help people. And Homelander, fresh from his therapeutic killing spree, is in a mood to support his son.

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Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

For now.

Meanwhile, The Boys are searching for a virus that can kill sups. The last time we saw this virus, it was in the hands of Neuman. They borrow Stan Edgar from jail and go to the lovely family farm upstate.

There, they discover that Neuman’s been testing temp V on farm animals. And it works as well on them as it does on hamsters. Soon the boys find themselves batting killer sheep, chickens and bulls. Hilarity and blood ensues.

What worked

The first thing we have to talk about is the superpowered animals. This was such a fantastic, hilarious situation. I especially loved the flying homicidal sheep. They were hilarious, unexpected, and incredibly gory. One just doesn’t expect to see a sheep covered in blood and guts. But it was delightful.

Karl Urban in The Boys.

The main pull of this episode, though, is the evolving relationship between Homelander and Ryan.

Homelander realizes that he doesn’t want Ryan to be brought up the same way he was. He wants his son to be happy.

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He isn’t trying to be a better person though, and I think that’s important to remember. He loves his son, and he wants his son to be happy. And if being an actual hero and actually helping people will make Ryan happy right now, then that’s what Homelander is going to do.

Except that, since he doesn’t care about people, he is really bad at being a good person. Which is what led to a director getting beaten to death by his assistant.

I’m not saying this beatdown wasn’t cathartic. I’m just saying that it was maybe not something a good person would endorse.

I honestly think this new desire to be an actual hero is going to make Homelander more dangerous. If such a thing is possible.

What didn’t work

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Of course, this episode wasn’t perfect. It brought to light a weakness that’s been irritating me this whole season. And that is the storyline with Hugh Senior.

What are we doing here?

While Hughie’s dad’s health issues are sad, and the sudden reintroduction of his mother is interesting, it has nothing to do with the rest of the season. Every other storyline blends and ties together. You can’t pull one string without all of them coming unraveled.

But not this story. So far, this storyline could be removed entirely and the whole rest of the season would remain pristine. All this storyline seems to have done is to have popped our main character out of the main storyline altogether.

Hughie’s absence is a deficit. I would have loved to see him freak out over the killer chickens. But I also would have liked to see him work with Neuman. I would have liked him to be there to defend Butcher. I would have liked to see him interacting with any other characters at all.

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At this point, no character is purely good or purely bad. And I think that’s important. I’m invested in the story of every single character. And with three episodes left in the season, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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The Boys, Wisdom of the Ages

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Episode four of The Boys was possibly the darkest episode of the series so far. And I am aware that this alone is an intimidating prospect.

It should be.

The story

Our story in this episode mainly consists of the single most dickish action I have ever seen anyone perform. Sage and Firecracker set up a four-hour show outside Starlight House, to talk about how horrible of a person Annie is.

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Four hours.

Valorie Curry and Susan Heyward in The Boys.

Annie gets everyone out of the building safely but then decides to watch the entire Anti-Annie show. And it is horrific.

The real horror show of this episode, though, is Homelander’s little adventure. After a fight with Ryan, he’s decided to visit his childhood home. Or, at least the place in which he grew up. Because he was raised more like a science experiment than a child.

I don’t think we’ve seen so far exactly what Homelander went through. The horrors he faced as a small child. Things no one should ever have to experience.

Things that the rest of his world will now have to pay for.

What worked

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If you’re paying attention to politics, this episode got way too real. The absolute hypocrisy of our current political situation was on display with superpowers. I especially liked (and by that I mean was enraged by) Firecracker saying that accidentally blinding someone at age thirteen was worse than being an adult and assaulting a minor. Those two things are not the same, and one of them is obviously worse.

Another thing that I appreciated in this episode was the new, and horrific, information we got about Homelander’s childhood.

Do I maybe feel bad for Homelander now? After seeing the dismal and dark little world he was raised in, yeah, I do. That is a monstrous way to treat a child. It’s no wonder he ended up how he is. Even the milk fetish makes more sense. And I am not any more cajoled by the fact that these people were just doing their jobs than Homelander was. That has never been an honest or adequate justification.

This, of course, doesn’t justify the horrors he’s inflicted. It just makes it easier to see how he got to where he is.

Antony Starr in The Boys.

The best fiction inspires strong emotions. It makes us feel things for people who are not real and feel passionate about events that did not happen. It does this by showing us glimmers of real people and real events within these bags of bones and false narratives. And it is because of this that The Boys is succeeding. It’s taking very real moments we are all living through, and embedding them into a fictional narrative. And that’s always going to be more impactful than just burning someone alive.

What didn’t work

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I only had one complaint about this episode. But it did bother me.

When Firecracker’s show starts, Annie makes a point of getting all the kids out of Starlight House to safety. That’s good. But then she sits down with her friends to watch the show.

Why would you watch a four-hour-long live show about why you are a terrible person?

I get asking someone else to watch it and take notes, because in a position like that you need to know what the opposition is saying about you. But for Annie to just watch that unfiltered was asking for trouble. And it’s exactly the sort of trouble that Annie ended up in.

In conclusion, this episode was almost too real. It had my blood boiling. It had me yelling at the TV. And that’s exactly what I want a good story to do.

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We’re halfway through the season now, and I think we’d all better buckle up for what’s coming.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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House of Dragon: S2E3 – Family Feud for Dummies

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In this great episode, we see something we have yet to see in any of the GoT/HoD shows–a dysfunctional family. Wait. I meant, SSDD.

We start out with two people fighting. Why? Why not. I guess they have a blood feud for ages. I mean AGGGGGESSSSSSS. So, of course, we don’t know anything about them what-so-fuck-ever.

Basically, the scene is two girls slapping each other and then one gets an arrow to the knee. The end.

Dead hookers, Kings Hand, and a War Plan

Next up, we have two dead twins, but enough about my sex life. In the show, there are two dead uhhh twins (note to self: deeper holes for twins). Alas poor ermrmm….let’s call them the Ging Twins. We hardly knew. ye.

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Ohhhhh I love this part where a knight that’s fucking the queen and got Poor Sir Ging killed is being late to his first day of class. Naughty Naughty. The rest of the scene is like ‘oh new peeps in white, something something, King is Big Warrior!’. So, this is what it would be like if Joffrey got laid? Hmmmmm….

Daemon arrives at Harrenhal–buyers remorse incoming

Daemon apparently wanted to take over something so he took over a shit hole. It’s almost suspenseful. Almost. I think it would be better to have drug the scene out more to give a sense of how Daemon was thinking about taking this big stronghold but slowly finding out it’s just a ghetto of shit.

For all the grief I give HoD for rehashing old tropes/plots from GoT, this is the one connection that makes sense so far. I like the exploration of a place we hear about in GoT but never got to see much into it. The connection is a way of doing exposition for a series we cared about. This is the first time it really feels like a prequel and not just a stand alone ‘shit pile’ they put the skin of GoT on.

We also get to see something of a character development for Daemon. This is something I really. hope others get a chance to get–characters. Maybe this is just the actor putting everything on his timey-wimey shoulders. Maybe that’s what the real turn for the character is–Matt Smith just going ‘fuck it’ and hitting for the fences.

Rhaenyra’s Diplomatic Mission, Some Politics, and Ser Cole Gets Jiggy Wit It

So like even though you fucked my dad and like made sure I wasn’t queen and then like started a war and like your bastards killed my son and like, you know, maybe we can be friends and end this war?

I heard this part of the scene was ad-lib. The writers had just this for direction: Think of the stupidest thing you can think of for your character to say and just go with it! Oh, and if you can tie in a previous episode of a better show into it–even better!

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While that happens, political people are like ‘lets use a dragon. The show is called house of dragon, not house of weird random call backs to the future happenings of GoT’. Speaking of GoT, remember when the small council meetings were interesting? Like you wanted to know the twists and turns of it? You know why those were better? Because you gave a shit about the characters who made up the council. Even when the Queen remakes her council after her dad’s death, we still cared. We didn’t know them as well, but we cared because we knew the people they replaced were better for the job. So we had an interest in ‘how doth they fucketh this up’.

Here is more like…well, put it this way. Take pictures of the people on both councils. Then cut them into single head shots. Now, shuffle. Can you name the person? Hell, can you even name which side that person is on? That’s my point.

Oh and Cole goes off with the queen’s brother to attack something. A dragon happens. They go awwwhwhwhwhwhwhw!! Then run away like little girls.

Change your whores more than you change your undies

So pirate eye blondie is caught by king blondie using the same whore as he did before. Guess this is what rich kids count as shame.

Oh and surprise to nobody–the Queen admits that maybe Rhaenyra should have been ruler, but shit happens so it’s like too far gone stop now. Let’s have everyone kill each other and that way the gods will decide who the king really meant to give the throne to when he said, ‘I want my daughter Rhaenyra to be ruler’.

Final Comments and rating

It’s starting to pick up, but it seems that every time that it does pick up the writers go ‘fuck it’ and swerve directly into the ditch.

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I don’t think the lack of action is a problem in this series. I think taking things slower in places and cutting down the cast to a manageable number (or at least give them a different look/name type so we can tell them apart) might be the thing needed to bring this show into a better footing. Will it ever be GoT? No. Sadly, I think it’s trying so hard to connect to GoT plots that it waters itself down. Instead of giving us a fascinating look at an older time, we get a constant reminder of just how much we miss GoT. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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