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The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs continues with its diverse movie selections as well as the informative, and sometimes on-topic, rants Joe Bob is prone to deliver during breaks in the films on Folk Horror Night. 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. It can be watched on AMC+ and Shudder.

Folk Horror Night

As Joe Bob Briggs himself says in the most recent episode of The Last Drive-In, “we are in a folk horror era.” The subgenre has enjoyed a resurgence, and viewers are taken back to its past with Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) and Beyond The Door III (1989) during Folk Horror 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

The Hiding Game

Before viewers wander the fields in Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Joe Bob doles out seasonally-appropriate, though not medically sound, information on tick removal. I cheer for the return of Joe Bob’s ridiculous visual aids, although the content leaves me squirming in my chair. Darcy thankfully guides the conversation back to film and I no longer smell the sulfur of matches past. 

Joe Bob Briggs sits in a camping chair on the folk horror version of the trailer park set. He is holding a stick and is next to a poster which reads "Blood-Sucking Tick Removal Chart." The chart shows a tick being removed by tweezers, a tick being suffocated with nail polish, and a tick being burnt with a match.
None of this is recommended by medical professionals.

Made for the Drive In

Made-for-TV movies are not common on The Drive-In, but the last two weeks have both featured one. Dark Night of the Scarecrow, directed by Frank De Felitta and released on CBS, ranks perhaps the highest among made-for-TV horror films. Without the hosts interjecting and reminding you of the network limitations, it is hard to differentiate this movie from a cinematic release.

The overall plot is a familiar tale of an ill-gotten execution and supernatural revenge, wrapped in burlap. Joe Bob warns viewers before watching that the character of Otis Hazelrigg, played by Charles Durning, is “one of the most hated characters in horror history.” By the end of the movie, it is very hard to disagree with him. He also credits the role of Bubba Ritter, played by Larry Drake, in defining Drake’s career.

The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: 1 vigilante round up, a killpit of the corn, a pitchfork through the gizzards, and brush machine fu. This movie earns another coveted four stars from Joe Bob, and Darcy describes herself as a superfan.

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A poster for the folk horror classic Dark Night of The Scarecrow. A large scarecrow holds a pitchfork towards the viewer. There are shadows showing men with guns and dogs in a field beneath the scarecrow.
A poster for Dark Night of the Scarecrow

The First Scarecrow

According to Joe Bob, this is the first scarecrow movie. There are some things you trust him on enough that you don’t bother fact-checking. This is one of those times.

While the folk horror plays out, Joe Bob breaks in to break down the movie. An important story includes the editing Ray Bradbury did to help J.D Feigelson, the writer, with the script.

In the Dirt

As he breaks down casting information and the history of production, Joe Bob is intentional with the stories he chooses to highlight.

It’s often hard to catch the threads of Joe Bob’s rambles and weave them together. However, a simmering discomfort runs throughout the presentation of Dark Night of the Scarecrow. He highlights the tragic story of civil rights icon Booker Wright following his involvement in De Felitta’s Mississippi: a Self Portrait. He’s also certain to mention Durning’s history as a veteran of Normandy in WWII. “All his heroes were in those graves in Normandy.” My great-uncle is included in those numbers. He died while killing Nazis.

Mail Call!

The fan mail segment gives Joe Bob a chance to talk about working in movies as an actor. I find comfort in knowing that even the all-mighty Joe Bob gets nervous during auditions and cringes at past experiences. When he reveals he once learned a Cockney accent for a Mel Brooks role (he didn’t end up landing), Darcy enthusiastically asks to hear it. He sadly refuses, but this is the 4th of July / Folk Horror Night, so I forgive him.

Darcy believes this movie proves that a made-for-TV movie can be just as frightening as a theatrical release, and I wholeheartedly agree. This presentation is a treasure-trove of trivia and proves to any newcomers that Joe Bob certainly knows film.

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My rating for Dark Night of the Scarecrow: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

It’s the Folking Fourth!

Despite declining to do his 4th of July speech at the start of the episode, Joe Bob is unable to hold back in the second half of the night. He quickly introduces Beyond the Door III, and Darcy reveals she is over the current folk horror era.

I cannot do the speech justice in summation, so I very much recommend you watch it for yourself. The most important piece is his belief we should be able to debate with those we disagree with the most and still be able to say, “I sincerely wish for you to have a long life, to be happy, and to live the way you want to live without government interference.”

This is an idealistic notion, and requires good faith on both sides. Just take a look at Shiny Happy People, and tell me if you think everyone should be able to live without government interference. I understand his meaning though, as even those trapped in the IBLP cult are victims themselves. 

Watching Joe Bob get choked up as he recommends “moving on without” those who can’t accurately define what being an American means triggers my own emotional response. Living in this country is difficult right now, for a multitude of reasons. But I believe, like Joe Bob, we have to keep working towards something better.

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Trope City Central Station

Moving back to the Jeff Kwitney directed Beyond the Door III, Joe Bob describes it as: “The old story of the high school field trip to a dark forest in Serbia where inbred Satanists live.” The film is full of tropes and is also known as Train Amok.

The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: 1 ghost woman with bad teeth giving birth to a jackal, high-school-student-crispy-critter immolation, 1 ancient tattered warlock book,  the devil as a rail-travel tourism enthusiast, and folk horror fu. “Three and a half stars. Joe Bob says check it out.”

A poster for the folk horror classic Beyond the Door III. A woman bathed in red light stands with her hands outstretched. The text on the poster reads "The prince of darkness is about to choose his bride." and "Some doors are best left closed."
A poster for Beyond the Door III

Can You Show Me the Door?

As the American students die their way through Yugoslavia on a train, Joe Bob manages to stay mostly on track as he drops off information about the movie. Beyond the Door III is part of a wholly-unrelated trilogy produced by Ovidio Assonitis, and a possible prequel is currently in pre-production. The series of films are popular in international markets, and the use of the name is intended as a marketing draw.

While discussing the film Joe Bob asks, “Haven’t there been several opportunities to simply jump off of the fucking train?” When I recommend the characters do just that on Twitter during my account takeover, I promptly get our account suspended for encouraging self-harm. Sorry boss!

The suspension notice the Haunted MTL team received during folk horror night.
I was trying to save them!

Sex-Appeal for Satan

Another criticism includes the main character Beverly not passing Joe Bob’s vibe check to fuck Satan. “I would expect Beelzebub, he’s got to be a freak, right?” Darcy enthusiastically agrees. She would know after her Walpurgisnacht dance with the devil.

Viewers are also treated with Darcy’s very simple principles of screenwriting: “It must be fun. Heads must roll.” Oh, and there must be breasts and “byu-tocks.” I think the movie meets these standards even if Darcy believes parts of it are too slow.

My rating for Beyond the Door III:

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3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Home Is Where The Haunt Is

The final mail reading from author Kris Rose delivers a copy of her book, How Horror Movies Made Me a Better Feminist as well as a plea for a hagsploitation centered episode.

Joe Bob talks about Bette Davis and I almost wish instead that we’d get a conversation about the inclusive nature of horror to those who are othered by society. It’s not needed though, as Joe Bob has made it clear The Drive In is home to whatever mutant claims it. We’re all at Camp Joe Bob and can laugh together around the fire at the end of the night.

Joe Bob and Darcy share drinks and laughs while sitting in front of a fake campfire.
Joe Bob and Darcy share drinks and laughs on The Drive In.

My rating for the episode: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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.

Movies n TV

Goosebumps, Go Eat Worms

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We’ve reached episode four of the 2023 show Goosebumps. This one is titled Go Eat Worms, based on the book released in July of 1994. And so far, it’s the story that has been furthest removed from the source material. However, I think it’s the story that got the biggest glow-up.

Cover for Goosebumps Go Eat Worms.

The story

This episode is the first that doesn’t jump back to Halloween night. And it largely focuses on Lucas having a really bad day.

He wants to perform a jump on his dirt bike. He gets everything set up, then chickens out at the last moment.

Unfortunately, that means he gets home just in time to catch Nora and Colin kissing in the car.

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Technically there’s nothing wrong with this. Nora’s husband is dead and Colin’s going through a separation. But there’s no reason to expect Lucas to feel this way. And he does not. He goes to school and decides the best thing to do is tell Margot.

That honestly makes sense. At least, more sense than anything else he does.

Seeing how upset Margot is at this realization, he wants to make her laugh. Being a child who should never see Jackass, he decides to eat a worm in front of her. Margot’s face says it all at that moment, as she realizes there’s a strong possibility this boy is going to be her stepbrother and he is eating worms.

Of course, those aren’t any worms. They came from the Biddle house. And they do the bidding of Harold Biddle.

What worked

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It’s pretty clear at this point that the only adult willing to listen to the kids is Nora. The only other one who might have listened was Margot’s mother, who appears to have vanished entirely.

And while this is horrible for the kids, it’s kind of what we should expect in a show for kids.

Content for children and young adults should have heroes who are children and young adults. That was one of the great things about the Goosebumps books, and most of the great stories meant for kids. Coraline, Stranger Things, Ms. Perrigrins School for Gifted Youngsters, Series of Unfortunate Events. These stories all have a young protagonist who has to face the monster without their parents and win. It reminds me of a wonderful quote by Neil Gaiman.

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

I also loved the action scenes in this episode. I didn’t know I wanted to see a giant worm monster chase someone on a dirt bike through the woods, but I’ve seen it now. And that was pretty great.

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Finally, this episode tackled some really difficult topics. Not the least of which was how suicide impacts the family left behind.

That’s a pretty heavy thing to talk about, and it was approached well. This is one of the things that horror does well. It allows us to discuss the things we’re afraid to discuss. To face our real fears. Not the fears of haunted masks, killer worms, or prophetic cameras. It lets us talk about divorce and death and mental health crises in a way that feels more approachable because it’s side by side with the monsters.

What didn’t work

Unfortunately, this was not a perfect episode. And a lot of my issues are about Luke.

Will Price in Goosebumps.

Now, this is not the fault of the actor, Will Price. But he does not look young enough for this role. Some people in their early twenties can look like teens still on TV. The rest of the ‘kids’ are adults. Miles McKenna, who plays James, is 28. But Price looks significantly too old. And it’s distracting.

I also hated the jumping from scene to scene when Luke took Margot to his house. They didn’t do anything there that couldn’t have been done at school. There was just no need for a scene cut. Scene cuts should be kept to a minimum if possible because it’s distracting and runs the risk of taking a viewer out of the story.

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All in all, though, this was a really good episode. It was touching, exciting, and still managed to be funny. So far, this has been a really solid season of horror television. And we have more than half a season yet to go.

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 launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Goosebumps, Cuckoo Clock of Doom

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Named for the 28th installment of the original book series, The Cuckoo Clock of Doom has the least in common so far with its source material.

Thankfully, the story isn’t negatively impacted by this. I can honestly say so far that these episodes just keep getting better.

The story

After the last episode’s explosive ending, I’m sure we were all more than a little worried about James. I for one was worried we were going to have an example of the Bury Your Gays trope on a kid’s show.

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Cover of R.L. Stine Cuckoo Clock of Doom

Thankfully, that’s not the case.

We go back in time again to Halloween night, and this time we see what James was up to.

Mostly he was up to trying to flirt with his crush. Everything seems to be going well until James lies about being interested in football.

He tries to leave the house, but instead finds himself back at the basement door when Isaiah is trapped and the cuckoo clock is going off. James then shows a remarkable amount of genre savvy and tries his best to escape the house. Each time he does, we see another version of him walking away.

Eventually, he devises a plan to break the clock at just the right moment, but not before he gets some intel on his crush’s favorite team so he can score a date.

Back in the real world free of the time loop though, James finds that he has far more worries. Every time he tried to escape the house, a duplicate version of him was created. And all of those duplicates are waiting for him.

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Back at the Biddle house, though, there’s a surprise waiting. One of the James duplicates has brought Harold Biddle a box. A ventriloquist dummy-sized box.

An empty box.

What worked

The effects of this show so far have been wonderful. When the other characters hit a James duplicate, it doesn’t just die. It explodes in a Nickelodeon-style wave of slime. This is just fun, and I’m kind of sad there doesn’t appear to be more of the duplicates around.

I mean, I wouldn’t rule it out.

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Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps.

Did I mention that these duplicates appeared to smell like watermelon Jolly Ranchers when they exploded? That was a visceral detail that was both alarming and terrific. They could have smelled bad. They could have smelled like rotting plants or people. But no, they smell like candy.

Of course, the characters continue to steal the show. Margot and Isaiah could be said to be the main characters, but everyone comes into this with main character energy. They are all funny, all capable, all smart. And they all seem to care about each other.

I loved that James and Isaiah talked about how they were feeling. I think it’s important that we’re modeling that for young men. They talked about what was bothering them, and they made up.

Finally, though, we have to talk about Justin Long again. His acting in this just keeps stealing the show. He dances like a cartoon and jumps from joyful to violently furious at a moment’s notice. The character doesn’t know how to act, and watching him fail to act right in front of people never fails to make me laugh.

What didn’t work

I honestly can’t say that anything didn’t work in this episode. But there is something about the show that I, at least, don’t like.

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There’s no real blood or gore. There’s more blood when I eat an actual jolly rancher because I always cut my tongue on them.

Now, this show is pretty clearly not for kids and young adults so there’s probably not a lot of need for too much gore and violence. But if the bloody stuff is more your style, like me, the lack of it might disappoint you.

Fans of the Goosebumps books will know that everyone ended with a twist. And the show so far has been no different. And the ending of this episode has been the best so far. The tension of Margot’s mom’s impassioned reaction, blended with the revelation that Slappy is somewhere in town is just too much. I can’t believe we’re only three episodes in and I am this invested. I hope you are too.

Viewer beware, I suspect things are going to get a lot worse for our characters before they get better.

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4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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

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Goosebumps, The Haunted Mask

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Episode two of Goosebumps was honestly more fun than the first. It was dark, funny, infuriating and wonderful. Best of all, it has a killer twist ending.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Based loosely on the 1993 story of the same name, The Haunted Mask begins sort of partway through the first episode.

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Cover of R.L. Stine's The Haunted Mask.

We’re introduced to a character we haven’t seen much of so far, named Isabella.

Isabella’s life doesn’t seem great. She’s all but invisible at school. She is responsible for taking care of her little brother. It seems like her only real joy is bullying people online. She was the person who tried to get Allison’s party canceled by sending the invite to her parents. Why? Because she is a very unhappy person.

Despite trying to get the party canceled, she decides to go anyway. At the Biddle house, a voice calls her down to the basement. There, she finds a mask.

The mask inspires her to do wild things. She wanders around the party, flirting with everyone. And she has a great time.

Several days later, after Isaiah breaks his arm, Isabella brings an expensive drone to school to get shots of the football team’s practice. Unfortunately, Lucas breaks it fooling around. And Isabella, tired of being ignored, says some awful things to him.

When her mother grounds her because she took the drone without asking, the mask compels her to do some awful things.

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What worked

I would first like to talk about the storytelling structure in this season. It appears that we’re going to be getting the events of Halloween night multiple times, from multiple points of view.

Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps.

I love this structure. It’s unique, and it allows for more mystery in a shorter period. It’s also more complex, showing just how much madness was happening, while just showing one part of the story at a time.

Another thing I appreciated was the evolution of the character Lucas.

On one hand, it’s easy to be angry at Lucas. Even if he thought the drone belonged to the school, it’s still kind of a selfish move to break it.

But Lucas just lost his father. We don’t know how yet, but we know from Nora that his death caused Lucas to start doing things like jumping on drones and skateboarding off the roof from his bedroom window.

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We all mourn differently. Losing a parent as a teen is awful. So while we can all agree that he’s being a problem, he’s also being a sad kid working through something hard.

And the same can be said for Isabella.

Look, we still don’t know what the adults of this town did to make Harold Biddle haunt them. But we do know that these parents are messing up in all sorts of other ways. And Isabella is suffering from parentification. She’s being forced to play mom at home while being ignored by her classmates at school. Even without the mask, I could see her lashing out and trashing the house.

Finally, I love Justin Long in this series. His visual comedy was fantastic here, as he falls through the hallways. But he also manages to be scary as hell. His creepy smile and jerky movements are enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. I honestly can’t think of a living actor who could have played this better.

What didn’t work

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If I have one complaint about this episode, it’s the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Every song seems like it’s just screaming what the characters are thinking. Which isn’t really what I’d consider the point of a soundtrack.

Maybe it’s just a curse on RL Stine. None of his projects can ever have good soundtracks aside from the theme song.

Unlike the original Goosebumps series, there were moments in this episode that did startle me and unnerve me. Which is wonderful. And while it’s still clearly for kids, it’s something anyone can sit down and enjoy. I’m very excited for the rest of the season. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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

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