Connect with us

Published

on

After a month-long mid-season hiatus, The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs splashed back onto television sets and computer screens across the USA (sorry Canada, next time!) last Friday with a double-feature of aquatic horror on AMC+ and Shudder. The Last Drive-In is known for its eclectic movie selections as well as the informative, and sometimes on-topic, rants Joe Bob is prone to deliver during breaks in the films. His co-host, the intelligent and beautiful Darcy the Mailgirl, does her best to keep him under control but he is one hard to wrangle cowboy.

Aquatic Horror Night

It always starts with a tweet. This time: “a double feature of impossible scenarios from 2 continents.” Without knowing what to expect, viewers tuned in to see what Aquatic Horror Night on The Last Drive In would deliver. Sharknado (2013) and Amsterdamned (1988) were the winners that swam into our lives Friday night.

Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy selling hotdogs at a theatre. The Last Drive In with Joe Bob Briggs is on the poster
The Last Drive In with Joe Bob Briggs

Look out! A Sharknado!

While Sharknado might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Joe Bob’s excitement to be presenting writer Thunder Levin and director Anthony C. Ferrante’s work on The Last Drive-In for its 10-year anniversary will win more than a few people over to his side by the time they finish watching.

A movie poster for Sharknado, one of the films presented by Joe Bob Briggs.  A tornado made of sharks is featured.
A poster for Sharknado

The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: one bikini-bar riot, a burning nursing-home swimming pool, an exploding shark, a school-bus rope rescue, and propane tank fu. “Joe Bob gives it four stars, check it out! I’d give it five stars if I could.” Which is some of the highest praise I’ve seen Joe Bob give a movie on The Last Drive-In.

In between scenes of shark related carnage, Joe Bob interviews Ferrante. “We need to know where it ranked, that hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. We need to know that precise number.” Ferrante says category 5 based on the presence of flying sharks. I agree when Joe Bob thinks it should be higher.

Other questions include which letter of the Hollywood sign crushes the sort-of heroic school bus driver. Joe Bob also demands to know who wrote the line “Looks like it’s that time of the month.” His willingness and ability to adapt his interview style depending on The Last Drive-In’s guest is truly admirable.

Advertisement

All Hail The Drive-In’s Mailgirl

Darcy fully embraces the unserious nature of Sharknado, and hides what I am certain are bloodshot eyes behind the sunglasses included in her customary character cosplay. At one point, Joe Bob asks her what she would do if a real life sharknado happened. I choke on my drink laughing when she giggles and replies, “Online, so I could share, like, videos and shit.” Wouldn’t we all?

She also chimes in to explain the logic of the movie with a simple, “It’s Sharknado.” While her word count per episode is significantly lower than Joe Bob’s, Darcy’s contributions on The Last Drive-In are always valuable.

Darcy the Mailgirl, wearing a shark hoodie and sunglasses, gestures towards an off-screen Joe Bob Briggs with a beer bottle. The caption on the image reads "It's Sharknado."
Darcy explains the logic of Sharknado to Joe Bob

The fan mail reading reveals another of Joe Bob’s strengths: his ability to tell people they are wrong in a way which never makes them feel stupid. Darcy’s ability to pick out letters which elicit amusing responses from Joe Bob is unmatched, especially when Joe Bob disagrees with the author.

Made-for-TV Love

It’s easy to see the love Joe Bob has for Sharknado as he goes into the different aspects of the production history. He gives Ferrante’s biography, and he wraps it into a motivational speech about the power of putting yourself out there. He dives deep into Syfy’s sometimes complicated partnership with production company Asylum. As he lists movie titles, I realize there are too many shark movies lurking out there.

Nothing highlights his love of the movie like his beautiful rendition of the theme song “Sharknado” at the movie’s end. Joined by John Brennan, The Last Drive-In’s music producer, on his guitar, he breaks into song. The segment feels like a campfire sing-a-long. These moments are an example of what makes The Last Drive-In so special. No matter where you are watching, you cannot help but feel like you are right there on set.

Joe Bob lets loose a signature bad joke to end the presentation of Sharknado. Darcy says she’s too “Sharknado’d out” to get it. I’m right there with her.

Advertisement

My rating for Sharknado: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

We’re all Amsterdamned

Before flying into Amsterdamned on The Last Drive-In, viewers must listen to the pre-flight boarding rant. Joe Bob declares, “The Goddamned foreigners are trampling the tulips in Bollenstreek.” Thankfully, Darcy interjects with a loud “Wow,” to show her displeasure with his choice of words. Her pushback is appreciated, and Joe Bob corrects “foreigners” with “tourists.”

He proceeds with everything from airline price fixing to pirates. His dedication to broadening the cultural worldview of his audience is admirable, even if his less than politically-correct language frequently makes Darcy shake her head. The contrast between Joe Bob’s old-school style and Darcy’s more modern sensibilities helps The Last Drive-In strike the necessary balance between offensive and progressive.

A movie poster for Amsterdamned, one of the films presented by Joe Bob Briggs. A man stands on a bridge overlooking a canal as he fires a gun into the water.
A poster for Amsterdamned

Amsterdamned is written and directed by the Dutch film director Dick Maas, and is about a scuba-wearing serial killer who sneaks through the city’s canals to murder random unsuspecting victims. Joe Bob describes the movie succinctly as Dirty Harry (1971) meets Jaws (1975).

The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: a gunshot through the shattered diving goggles, throat slitting, a boat paddle to the cranium, juvenile psychic-sleuthing, and spear gun fu. Although he believes Amsterdamned “sounds like a title they thought up with when they were drunk,” he still gives it three stars.

Drive-In-Flight Announcements

Joe Bob starts by calling Darcy out. “So, you’re the weed expert.” Despite Amsterdam’s reputation for weed tourism, Darcy is much more chipper and bright eyed for the start of this movie. As the serial killer evades and torments the detective hunting him, Joe Bob breaks in with critical information. This includes how to tie a one-handed bowline knot, the virtues of the Golden Earring hit song “Radar Love”, and the perpetual misrepresentation of musketeers.

Advertisement
Joe Bob Briggs sits in his longhorn chair and demonstrates how to tie a one-handed bowline knot. The caption on the image reads "I'm a dead man. Because I did that too slow."
Joe Bob fails to tie a one-handed bowline knot to Boy Scout standards

His segments also offer a plethora of information about Maas and Amsterdamned. The smash Dutch hit features well known actors in the region with a quarter of the Dutch population seeing it upon release. Darcy unfortunately runs to the store for more snacks during the movie. Without her breaking in to keep him on track, these segments of The Last Drive-In can feel more like info dumps than usual.

One of the more fascinating tangents Joe Bob shoots into includes the drug lord Klaas Bruinsma and his use of the city’s canals to stage a prison escape. When Joe Bob continually references a “frog man,” my literal-thinking brain conjures up something much different than a man wearing scuba gear.

All of the stunt men in Amsterdamned (including stunt horses) were imports from England. Joe Bob Briggs praises the 8-minute boat chase scene near the end of the film, saying it alone is almost reason enough to watch. He specifically calls out Nick Gillard as the stuntman responsible for the scene. It is nice to hear as Joe Bob gives recognition to the often-forgotten stunt crew.

The Red-Eye

Darcy returns, wearing sunglasses again, at the end of Amsterdamned. She quickly falls back into familiar banter as the two debate whether the end of the movie made any sense. Joe Bob vehemently believes the ending is terrible because the killer is never previously mentioned or seen. She believes the ending is great because of the song that plays over the credits. 

Before he refutes her, Brennan returns to the set for an incredible rendition of the song, aptly called “Amsterdamned”. Neon lights shine and someone turns on a bubble machine. It’s hard to not want to join the costumed production crew as they dance. As the song ends, Joe Bob sits unmoved and perplexed in his longhorn-adorned chair. He continues the argument, and Darcy stands firm in her beliefs.

My rating for Amsterdamned:

Advertisement
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Landing at The Drive-In

The episode ends with the final fan mail. Before he reads the letter, Joe Bob Briggs is off on another tangent about the use of live animals as college mascots and the intricacies of crossbreeding bovines. As the author of the letter, Zach Crockett writes, “Your commentary and monologues make the show great fun.”

Without knowing what will be shown, viewers continue to tune in to The Last Drive-In. They have faith in Joe Bob Briggs and his seemingly endless pool of film knowledge, and you should too. My rating for the episode: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Kait says check it out.

Advertisement

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Billy

    June 29, 2023 at 5:46 pm

    Plethora…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Movies n TV

Goosebumps Say Cheese and Die

Published

on

Released in 2023, Goosebumps is the latest in a line of content based on the insanely popular children’s book series with the same name. And if you’re here, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you a lot about Goosebumps. Most horror fans are at least passingly aware of the colorful covers, dark plotlines, and surprise twist endings. Some of us even have a few of the original books lying around.

For nostalgia.

Cover for Say Cheese and Die, Goosebumps number 4.

With so many good and bad versions of the original stories floating around, I was unsure how to feel about this brand-new series. I was sure, however, that I had to watch all of it. Especially with the infamous Slappy appearing so prominently in the advertising.

So, how was the first episode?

The story

Advertisement

We start this episode with a flashback to 1993, and a young man named Harold Biddle. We don’t spend a lot of time with him. He comes home from school and goes right to the basement. There he starts writing some concerning notes in his journal. This is interrupted when a fire consumes the basement, killing him.

We then flash forward thirty years to the real start of our story. The Biddle house has just been inherited by a man named Nathan Bratt, played by the delightful Justin Long. He adores the place but is less than thrilled when a bunch of teens crash it for a Halloween party.

The teens end up not being thrilled either.

Now we come to our real main characters, Isaiah, Margot, Allison, and James. It is the four of them that planned the ill-fated party.

Zack Morris in Goosebumps

While in the house, Isaiah finds a Polaroid camera. He starts taking pictures of his friends, only to find that they don’t come out right. One of them, Allison, shows her on the ground in the woods, terrified for her life. Another shows Margot in a panic next to a snack machine.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he eventually sees both of the girls in those exact situations. The real trouble comes when Lucas takes a picture of him, and it shows him on the football field, horribly injured.

Advertisement

All of these near-death experiences seem to be caused by the flaming spirit of Harold Biddle. And it soon becomes clear that the adults of the town likely know more than they’re willing to tell about what went down at the Biddle house thirty years ago.

What worked

For someone who grew up with the series, and is therefore of a certain age, the first scene of the episode was a lot of fun. It oozed 90’s vibe in a way that’s immediately recognizable to most, and familiar to my generation. Well, insomuch as wearing flannel and coming home to an empty house is the pinnacle of being a 90s kid.

It was also fun for the constant references to books in the original series. Blink and you missed them, but I saw the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Haunted Mask, and Go Eat Worms. These make sense, as they each have their episode this season. But I’m sure I missed a few. Please let me know in the comments.

That was a lot of fun for someone who grew up with the series. But it wasn’t so constant and all-consuming as to distract from the story. Someone could have never read a Goosebumps book in their lives and just enjoy this episode of television.

Advertisement

More importantly, younger viewers can watch this and feel like it’s for them. The main characters aren’t the parents, they’re the kids. And it’s clear even in this first episode that, even if it was the grownups who caused this horror, it’s going to be the kids that fix it.

This is a series that is for kids. And that’s great. It’s introducing a whole new generation to a series in a way that feels like it can be theirs just as much as it was ours when we were kids.

What didn’t work

All that being said, the story also felt a little dumbed down. A little too predictable. There was one line that particularly irritated me in this regard. When Nora goes to see Isiah’s dad in the hospital, she just flat-out says, “The children will suffer for the sins of the fathers.”

Not only is that just a bad line, it’s also a lazy one. It’s awkward and unrealistic. People simply do not talk that way. And we frankly didn’t need this information dropped on us. It was pretty clear during the football game that at least some of the grownups in town were going to be involved with this when we saw Nora recognize what was happening to Isaiah and try to stop the game. Kids are smart. They would have figured this out by themselves.

Advertisement

It’s also a really tired trope. Freddy and Jason after all, are both killing young people for the sins of their parents. It was a big part of the storyline in Hide. And while I get that this might feel relevant to the next generation who are all paying for the mistakes of Boomers that Gen X and Millennials have not done enough to solve, it’s also a bit lazy. I just feel like, if this is going to be our main story, it could have been a better one.

But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this episode. Overall, it was a fun start that left me with lots of questions. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Book Reviews

The Dead Take the A Train Review: Queer Magic and Monster Mayhem

Published

on

“Julie crawled onto the table, straddling her intern, both hands around the knife. She torqued it downward, cursing. Brad shrieked harder.” -pg 57, The Dead Take the A Train by Cassandra Khaw & Richard Kadrey

The Dead Take the A Train is the first book in a duology by authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey. It was published in 2023 by Tor Nightfire (like the Scourge Between Stars, which I reviewed here). I was not previously familiar with Kadrey’s work, which most notably includes the Sandman Slim series. However, I was introduced to Khaw through The Salt Grows Heavy (review here), which I absolutely adored in all its twisted, gory glory. Therefore, I was thrilled to pick-up The Dead Take the A Train, which promised similar heart in a modern cosmic horror package.

In The Dead Take the A Train, a magical fixer named Julie must hunt down eldritch monstrosities threatening the lives of those around her. To do this, she has to go up against her shitty ex, a questionable angel, finance executives, and her own sobriety. When an old friend shows up, Julie is terrified to find herself making a retirement plan that doesn’t involve getting murdered by a demon.

The Dead Take the A Train is reminiscent of N.K. Jeminsin’s The City We Became, with both featuring queer characters tackling eldritch horror plots in New York City. In the same way, the novel was reminiscent of a gorier version of Dimension 20’s Unsleeping City actual play series. However, it clearly carves out a space for itself among the droves of cosmic-horror inspired love letters to New York City. For one, it is mostly unconcerned with borough beef, which (not to sound like a curmudgeonly Midwesterner), is so refreshing. The book also has a relatively novel way the world works, which helps it stay memorable.

Advertisement

Overall, I really liked The Dead Take the A Train. First off, the characters are fun and easy to root for. Julie is a mess in pretty much every aspect, but her bad decisions are understandable and she is charismatic. Her romance with her friend, Sarah, also serves to make Julie more likable. It helps that the villains are so easy to hate too. What’s not to hate about rich Wall Street assholes engaging in human sacrifice? Speaking of which, I liked the juxtaposition of corporate Wall Street and cosmic cultists. The actions taken were evil, but more importantly, they were just business.

The prose was flowery, but not quite as much as in The Salt Grows Heavy. So, if you struggled with Khaw’s other works for that reason this may be a much easier read. Personally, I enjoyed the prose in both. There is quite a bit of gore in The Dead Take the A Train, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming. I think you could still enjoy the book if you don’t love gore, though maybe not if you have a weak stomach.

One of the largest issues I have with The Dead Take the A Train, is the lack of clarity in power levels of the various characters. Especially since all their forms of magic work in different ways, it is sometimes unclear the level of danger present. This can also sometimes create room for plot holes. For example, Julie has a friend who is tapped into anything and everything happening online. This is an absurdly powerful ability (and is used as such). But there were moments where the main conflict probably could have been avoided or solved using that power. It also felt odd that no one else in this thriving magic community felt strongly about stopping a world-ending catastrophe. Because of this, the magic underground of NYC could feel smaller than I think was intended.

Having been familiar with Khaw’s work previously, The Dead Take the A Train clearly feels like a mix of Khaw’s style with someone else’s. This could be a boon or a hindrance, depending on your view of Khaw’s distinct prose and storytelling. Either way, if you are interested in learning more about the process or the authors, check out the interview they did for SFF Addicts Podcast!

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey on the SFF Addicts Podcast

I recommend The Dead Take the A Train, especially for those who are fans of modern urban eldritch horror. The book is an even bigger steal if you are looking for danger, gore, and queer characters. Check it out! And keep your eyes peeled for the next book in this duology. 

Advertisement

[USR 4.2]

Continue Reading

Movies n TV

Dolores Roach, A Fillet of Left Cheek

Published

on

The second season of Dolores Roach started with a bang. The first episode was dark, gristly and in a strange way whimsical. It certainly brought to light new elements of the character.

The story

We begin our story with Dolores somewhere, talking to someone. I’d like to be more specific, but that’s all we know right now.

She tells this unknown person about her flight from Empanadas Loco. How Jeremiah killed Luis. How she, whether she meant to or not, killed Jeremiah. How she then set the building on fire by blowing up the fryer in the kitchen.

Advertisement

Scared and alone, Dolores then ran for the underground. Dragging her purple massage table she runs into a hole in a subway track and finds herself in a whole different world.

Almost at once, she finds a place where someone is living. There’s a hot plate, a kettle and several packets of ramen. Even better, everything has Jeremiah’s name on it, literally written on it. Exhausted and alone, Dolores makes herself a cup of ramen and goes to sleep on her massage table.

She’s woken sometime later by a small man named Donald. He knows her because he knew Jeremiah. Dolores proceeds to tell him an abridged version of events that led up to Jeremiah’s death. And by abridged, I mean she blamed Luis for everything, throwing him under the bus so hard I’m surprised she didn’t pull something.

Donald seems inclined to help Dolores. He tells her that if anyone messes with her she should go further down, down a stairwell that he points out for her.

Dolores thanks him, then tries to go back to sleep. She’s soon woken again by a young woman collecting Jeremiah’s things.

Advertisement

While Dolores has an issue with this, she’s willing to let it go. Until that is, this woman tries to take her table. Then, Dolores does what she does best. Because one thing is for sure. Dolores is going to take care of herself.

What worked

One thing I love about this series so far is that our main character, Dolores, is crazy. And hearing her rationalize her crazy is both terrifying and fascinating. I hate/love how sweet and soothing she can be. Even with the rat that she killed in this episode. She cooed at it, encouraging it to come to her, even calling it a subway raccoon.

Then she killed it and started crying.

I also love the underground community. It’s both horrific and whimsical. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which is full of worlds most people don’t see but are all around us. It’s also horrific because there are so many people that our society has failed, that they’ve gathered underground and made their own little society. That’s not great. There just shouldn’t be that many people who need homes.

Advertisement

What didn’t work

Unfortunately, this episode did have two major flaws. And the first one is a personal pet peeve of mine.

In the last episode of season one, certain things were established. Dolores said she was carefully rationing her weed. She said she didn’t have anything to eat since coming down to the tunnels. She still had her massage table. This episode rewrote a lot of that.

Frankly, I hate when stories do that. It may or not make a difference to the story. It just strikes me as poor planning and lazy writing. This show has proven it’s capable of doing better.

All things considered, I thought this was a great start to the season. I’m invested in the story, curious about the new characters, and worried about the well-being of everyone Dolores comes in contact with. And that’s all as it should be.

Advertisement
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing, you might want to check out my latest sci-fi horror story, Nova. It’ll be released episodically on my site, Paper Beats World, starting February 5th.

Continue Reading

Trending