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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Billy

    June 29, 2023 at 5:46 pm

    Plethora…..

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Movies n TV

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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Movies n TV

The Girl in the Trunk (2024): A Tense Danish Horror-Thriller Led by Katharina Sporrer

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If you grew up in the 90s you will know one thing–ol’ Jimbo used to have ‘trunk rides’ through the north woods with people in various states of drink screaming for more. This Girl in the Trunk movie is a different type of screaming in the film and in the audience.

The premise at first glance is simple–a terrifying snatch and grab kidnapping. The modern day twist with cell phones, cell reroutes, and trunk escape buttons all come into play with just enough realism to have you wonder if this could happen to you.

The strengths of this contained thriller fall squarely on the shoulders of Katharina Sporrer, who carries the film with such abandon that I’m pretty sure she’s in traction as I type this with an overstrained back. Make no mistake — this Danish horror-thriller works because of Katharina. The end. Not the writing. Not the direction from Jonas Kvist Jensen. Not the edits. It’s her film and she does marvels with walking the tightrope of victim and vengeance as the thriller girl.

What Worked

This movie is a weird catch. What works is one actor. That’s it. Really. Katharina does a lot with little and this is something that can stand out in movies grand and small, especially in an understated Danish horror movie.

I did enjoy the filming style and the thoughts of a low budget gripping thriller. It goes to show that with a talented person you can make a movie with very little set switches, without many effects, and without multiple casts members feeding off each other. All you need is a good basic story of abduction of girl in a trunk–some solid tense pacing–and one amazing actress like Katharina. The rest of the magic is just getting out of your movie’s way.

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I think this is what works the best: The movie doesn’t sabotage itself. It knows its limits. It knows its strength and it plays to that strength.

Make no mistake — this film works because of Katharina. The end. Not the writing. Not the direction. Not the edits. It’s her film and she does marvels with walking the tightrope of victim and vengeance. Jim Phoenix on The Girl in the trunk

What Didn’t Work

When I saw this screener pop into my box, I knew there was just something about the setup I wanted to see play out. This could have gone extremely bad–but because of Katharina’s presence it swerves out of the ditch and into cinema gold.

I am not sure if this movie works only because of her acting, but I know it doesn’t work without her. The other cast members seem out of place–clunky at times. Some of the writing is a level of bizarre ‘I call bullshit’ that I haven’t seen this side of film school.

With that said, there really isn’t much of anyone else in the film for most of this mysterious true crime style film. This seems to work to its advantage, as we focus on the painful consequences for the kidnapped girl in the desert heat, with no bystander to help as she suffers heat exhaustion, bites, mental and emotional abuse, and deep uncertainty all in a very tiny trunk.

Final Verdict of The Girl in the Trunk:

The Girl in the Trunk is a story we’ve heard before, and sometimes in better ways. However, this film is worth the stream. The runtime is tight, the pacing works well, and, as I stated before, Katharina is an amazing actress who pulls this entire thing off. Almost on her acting alone, I give this 4 out of 5 Cthulhu.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Dark Deviations: A Halloween Episode in May

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Smiling Friendsfirst Halloween episode aired in January 2022, so this May release isn’t completely out of character. The much anticipated second season of the bizarre Adult Swim show has, as of June 5,2024, delivered five intriguing stories about geometrically-distorted beings and blob-shaped humans. Episode four, “Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” is a truly terrifying sight to behold.

A Mission to Make the Boss Smile

Smiling Friends is a small company whose mission is to make anyone and everyone smile, per the customer’s request. Each episode consists of various missions the four main characters, Allan, Glep, Pim and Charlie, must accomplish. These tasks can range from saving the career of a homicidal frog to finding true love for a reclusive shrimp. Season two episode four’s dilemma is to save the Boss, a charismatic, unnaturally proportioned man and Smiling Friends’ CEO. We rarely get a glimpse into the Boss’ personal life, but now we are invited to his wedding, where he is marrying none other than Satan’s daughter, Brittney.

The Smiling Friends main cast at the Boss's wedding.
(Left to right) Allan, Glep, Pim, Charlie and a new friend at the Boss’ wedding.

Naturally, marrying Satan’s daughter comes with some major consequences, the biggest of which is losing all free will. Brittney has completely possessed the Boss and transformed the Smiling Friends business into Brittney’s Beautiful Demonic Flowers. It is up to the smiling friends must find a way to save their jobs and creepy, beloved employer.

The Scariest Smiling Friends Mission

“Erm, the Boss Gets Married” is one of the scariest episodes in the series. There are jump scares, Brittney’s hellish face is even worse when she smiles. The animation is enthralling, terrifying and hilarious. Creators Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack went out of the box for this Halloween special and were especially creative with the journey to the Boss’ exorcism. Britney’s screechy demise is abrupt, as most endings in Smiling Friends are. The show is wholly unhinged, and the final lines come from Pim shouting, “HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYBODY!!!!”

While the plot is similar to South Park‘s season three episode “Succubus,” this Smiling Friends episode still upholds its own uniqueness and is fun to watch. Stick around after the credits, and you will see a delightful scene: the Boss in the middle of a screaming match with his ex-father-in-law, Satan, over their personal property in hell.

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The Verdict

“Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” is a ridiculous May Halloween special that keeps the audience on their toes. It is one of the scarier episodes in the season. The creators have a knack for illustrating uncomfortable-looking characters and complicating the simplest of storylines. It would be exciting for Smiling Friends to do more than just one horror themed episode per season, especially with how good Hadel and Cusack are at creating terrifying creatures. However, since the seasons are short, these special holiday episodes are a fun once-a-year treat. The show is already weird and scary enough; it would be overkill if they did too many spooky specials.

(That said, if the Smiling Friends creators ever decided to make an entirely new horror animated series, I would be first in line to watch the entire thing.)

“Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” earns 4.5 out of 5 cthulhu. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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