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The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs returned for its annual Christmas special on December 15th. As is tradition, the episode also serves as a charity fundraiser for four different charities. Special guest Robin Sydney joins Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl for added late night entertainment. The Drive-In is available on AMC+ and Shudder.

This week on The Last Drive-In, the holiday spirit is in full force as Joe Bob and Darcy return to the screen to present their annual Christmas special / charity auction fundraiser. Cozied up next to a fireplace and in a blanket draped armchair, Joe Bob presents Edward Hunt’s The Brain (1988) and Charles Band’s The Gingerdead Man (2005).

Promotional material for Joe Bob’s Creepy Christmas

Is this PBS?

Creepy Christmas opens ala Masterpiece Theater, with a soft spoken Joe Bob in a smoking jacket welcoming us into the studio. As he gently drones on, Darcy can’t help but interrupt. “Sir, what are you doing?” Turns out, Joe Bob is “trying to give the Christmas special a little class.” Points for effort.

As he transitions into his annual Christmas speech, his Masterpiece Theater persona drops away. “Once again, not a good year.” After getting sidetracked into a rant about mass-prescribing Floridians xanax, he eventually makes his way around to his main point. Speaking about Jaques from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Joe Bob reminds us “It’s easier to be [a troll] than seek acceptance.” He goes on to say we should forgive and forget what the haters have to say because they “need the love more.”

A still image from Joe Bob's Creepy Christmas. It shows Joe Bob and Darcy sitting in a room decorated for Christmas. The captioning reads, "Give the Floridians some Xanax and let's move on, okay?"
Joe Bob has some ideas.

Joe Bob’s desire for us all to come together and join hands around the Christmas tree singing forgiveness like those in Whoville forgiving the Grinch is understandable. It’s also probably easier to espouse this rhetoric because he does not (as far as I know) belong to any of the marginalized groups who have seen a disgusting ramp up in violent words and actions in the past year. The responsibility of reconciliation should never be placed on those who have been deeply wounded by another person’s actions.

It’s certainly not praxis

Despite my objections to the message on a praxis level, Joe Bob clearly feels strongly about forgiving and forgetting. He gets choked up and yells out “FUCK,” before taking a swig of brandy. Steadying himself, he goes on to introduce the various charities that are being supported throughout the night: The Wildlife Conservation Network, Every Mother Counts, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Solving Kids’ Cancer.

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Moving onto the first movie of the night, Joe Bob reminds us, “There is no such thing as a nice disembodied brain.”

A poster for The Brain (1988), the first movie shown on Joe Bob's Creepy Christmas. It shows a giant, glowing green brain looming over a neighbrhood.
A poster for The Brain (1988)

It’s Alive!

The Brain (1988) is about the mad scientist Dr. Blakely (David Gale) using an alien creature called The Brain to hypnotize and brainwash the masses through his TV show Independent Thinking. When a teenage boy named Jim (Tom Bresnahan) refuses to be programmed, he becomes determined to expose the plan for world domination.

The Drive-In totals include but are not limited to: 1 giant brain in a vat, tentacle stabbing, computer screen brain-nagging, bleeding milk tanks, chainsaw to the crotch, gratuitous beefcake photos, and brain wave fu. “Four stars. Joe Bob says check it out.” 

Oh, Santa John

As Joe Bob attempts to give information on director Edward Hunt, Santa Claus (John Brennan) tumbles down the chimney to announce the first two auction items of the night. His appearance brings laughter from the set and slight annoyance from Joe Bob. Auction items this year are a mix of memorabilia, merch and in-person experiences. 

Interruption over – Joe Bob gets right back into the history of the movie. It isn’t a holiday special until we learn about a tragic, real life death – and this one is no exception. The deal for the film’s distribution to video stores was made with the head of Live Entertainment, José Menéndez (the father and victim of the Menéndez brothers).

A still image from Joe Bob's Creepy Christmas showing Darcy reacting to Joe Bob talking about the Menéndez brothers.
Darcy’s face really says it all.

Christmas connections

This film also has a connection to last year’s Christmas special through George Buza, who Joe Bob calls “the hardest working character actor in Canada.” Buza plays the character of Santa Claus in A Christmas Horror Story (2015). In The Brain, he plays the beefed up assistant to Dr. Blakely.

Santa John continually interrupts Joe Bob’s segments to announce more auction items, with increasing levels of irritation from our host. He takes to calling our host Joseph Robert Briggs and I can’t help but laugh each time. Despite the interruptions, Joe Bob powers through to give the audience background information.

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He credits the creation of “the brain” genre of movies with Curt Siodmak’s 1942 novel Donovan’s Brain. According to Joe Bob, there are four specific sub-genres of brain movies: 1) I’m in love with the damaged brain, 2) whoops, didn’t mean to piss off the brain, 3) they saved Hitler’s brain, and 4) brains from outer space. He adds the caveat that there are two other sub-genres but they do not fit in with the drive-in exploitation genres: brain damage rocks and I’m in love with a funky brain.

As the movie ends, Darcy espouses her love for it. It’s “so fun and the brain design is super cute.” I’m not sure that I would call the design cute by any measure of the word, but the movie is a fun romp. 

My rating for The Brain: 3.4 out of 5 stars (3.4 / 5)

Are these crimes, Kyla?

Our first piece of mail for the night comes from Kyla in Idalou, Texas. If you have no idea where that is, don’t worry. Joe Bob not only knows exactly where this small West Texas town is located, he also somehow knows what their highschool mascot is. Kyla writes a heartfelt and hilarious letter about potentially committing assault against a dead-beat stepdad who hated MonsterVision. Joe Bob has one response to her antics, “I love you!”

A still image from Joe Bob's Creepy Christmas. It shows Jow Bob in his blanket adorned long-horn chair reading from the first letter of the night.
Kyla got creative with her “punishments.” (Please note we do not condone violence.)

Don’t Santa, Open Inside

Slipping back into the Masterpiece Theater persona, Joe Bob introduces the second film of the night. The Gingerdead Man (2005) is a movie you either love or hate. It really seems like there is no middle ground for this one. Joe Bob talks about other movies he wishes he could have programmed for the special, like Lifetime’s Christmas on Wheels (2020). Darcy interrupts him and begs him to “stop saying things.” 

Before the movie starts, we are treated to a quick lesson on “the vile satanic history of gingerbread,” from Joe Bob. As he delivers the lesson, Santa John slams back through the fireplace and Joe Bob chides him: “This is no longer funny or interesting nor even remotely polite.” Once Santa announces the auction item and blips back to the North Pole, Joe Bob finishes introducing the movie.

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A poster for The Gingerdead Man (2005). It shows the gingerdead man holding a knife. It reads "Evil never tasted so good!"
A poster for The Gingerdead Man (2005)

High in sugar, low in quality

The Gingerdead Man (2005) is about the spirit of killer Millard Findlemeyer (Gary Busey) possessing a giant gingerbread cookie to exact revenge on Sarah Leigh (Robin Sydney) for sending him to his execution.  

Drive-In totals include but are not limited to: 2 mangled bodies, face whipping, and rolling pin fu. This movie actually has one of the shortest, if not the shortest, list of totals I’ve seen on The Drive-In. Joe Bob gives it three stars.

Pump up the energy

Robin Sydney is the guest for this special and she brings a much needed burst of energy into the second half. Joe Bob gets right to it with the interview questions and asks, “You actually met your husband during the filming of this movie, right?” She is, in fact, married to Charles Band. Their wedding was recent, and was officiated by Joe Bob himself. As she answers, it’s clear she is still rocking her honeymoon glow (despite having been engaged for 18 years.)

According to her, things were always “super profesh” on set. It wasn’t until the two began having business meetings to bring Sydney in to help with merchandise sales that the relationship turned romantic. As for the long delay between engagement and marriage? “I was, like, immature in my brain. But then, my brain got more mature-ish.” Sydney’s answer is hilarious and a little tongue-in-cheek. She has, after all, been running a toy company with her mother for decades.

As Joe Bob points out, The Gingerdead Man “barely qualified as a movie in Shudder terms,” due to its length. It is a quick watch (in the worst possible quality), which thankfully allows for more time with the hosts and Sydney.

Gary A-Busey?

The funniest part of the night comes when she and Joe Bob begin discussing Gary Busey. Sydney says that she only shot with him for one day. “I didn’t have to act at all that day. I was freaked out by Gary Busey!” Joe Bob cuts in to say that Busey owes him $900 and Darcy rolls her eyes. “Oh my god, he will not let this go.” I lose my shit entirely when Joe Bob recounts meeting Busey and him insisting Joe Bob feel the dent in his head. Apparently, “PTS-Gary” as Sydney puts it, is more common than I realized.

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Santa John continues to interrupt the segments to announce auction items, except the booby trapped chimney forces him to use a door. Each entry he makes startles Sydney. I understand how filming The Gingerdead Man might have really scared her as she says. 

Sales force

Sydney’s sales skills are in full force as she models different auction items. She shows off the Fright-Rags exclusive beanie and one of Joe Bob’s cowboy hats and blows the Walpurgisnacht horn. She and Charles Band also donated two collections to the auction. Sydney does a great job showing off the different items in the Full Moon Features gift set.

Guest Robin Sydney describes the Cracker Barrel gift shop.

Before the movie ends with the slowest credits in cinema history, Joe Bob and Sydney talk about the movie’s reception at release. She understands the reviews and says about the movie, “There’s not much logic. There’s a lot of holes.” It is a very time and state-of-mind dependent movie. If you aren’t watching it late at night and a few substances deep, you probably won’t have as good of a time with it as I did.

My rating for The Gingerdead Man: 2.3 out of 5 stars (2.3 / 5)

Cue the waterworks

The final piece of mail comes from Nick in Indianapolis (join us at a meetup next year, Nick!). Nick is a recent convert to the ways of Joe Bob, but reaches out for some good southern gothic recommendations. Joe Bob says Sling Blade (1996) is top tier in terms of movies, and Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner is the best novel representation of the genre.

Before the night ends, Brennan (no longer in character as Santa John) joins Joe Bob and Darcy on stage. He seems to be upset and says he felt like he was ruining Christmas. “I just wanted to have a good Christmas with you guys.” Joe Bob seems reticent as he allows Brennan to announce the final auction item of the night: Darcy’s tiara from her prom way back in season one. 

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The night ends with Joe Bob thanking the audience and saying how grateful he is for the community. “I have never in my life encountered such an amazingly supportive family of viewers.” He tears up and bemoans, “I do this every year.” Darcy replies, “Yes you do, you sentimental fuck.” At least he’s our sentimental fuck.

My rating for the special: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

You can continue to bid on the charity auction items on the auction website: joebobscreepychristmas.com through the 25th of December.

Joe Bob wasn’t the only person in a charitable mood last Friday, as we gave away four different items to followers of our account on the platform formerly known as Twitter. @thedivebard won a Fright-Rags exclusive #JoeBobsCreepyChristmas t-shirt, @Chicago7Charlie won a physical copy of our anthology collection 101 Proof Horror, @KimberlyLuffman won an autographed copy of The Walking Dead Vol 1 HC, and @CapnCosmo won a copy of Eyes without a Face (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]. 

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Kait (she/her) haunts the cornfields of the Midwest after being raised in a small Indiana town built on sickness and death. She consumes all sorts of horror-related content and spits their remains back onto your screen. You can follow her on Twitter at @ KaitHorrorBreak, where she live tweets The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs and posts other spooky things.

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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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