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The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs marches toward the season finale with its indiscriminate movie selections alongside the informative, and sometimes on-topic, rants Joe Bob delivers 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. It can be watched on AMC+ and Shudder.

CW // Perfect Blue includes graphic animated depictions of SV and SA

Animation Night

Mad God (2021) and Perfect Blue (1997) have three things in common: 1) they are animated 2) they are horror 3) you’re going to need a shower after watching them. Well four things, if you count being shown together on The Last Drive-In during the first-ever Animation Night.

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

It’s a Mad, Mad World

Instead of opening the episode with a questionably on topic rant, Joe Bob breaks with convention and gets right to business. He introduces the Phil Tippett created stop motion, mostly speechless film Mad God almost immediately and warns the audience it is nearly indescribable.

A poster for Phil Tippett's Mad God. It shows a nightmarish scene of monsters.
A poster for Mad God.

To prove its elusive nature, Joe Bob reads out multitudes of reviews full of nouns and not verbs. When one review mentions dieselpunk, he appears confused by the concept of ___-punk. Despite Darcy’s best efforts at explanation, he sums it up as “Fuck you dieselpunk.” I personally enjoy several dieselpunk movies, most notably Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984).

Concessions Break

When asked what sort of “popcorn” would be best to enjoy with Mad God, Darcy recommends psilocybin. Joe Bob has his own whiskey recommendation. He even recommends a specific high CBD, low THC strain of marijuana to enhance the experience. We really need these pieces of advice in advance, Joe Bob.

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The most unhinged Drive-In Totals I have ever seen for Mad God include but certainly are not limited to: 1 giant cervix, legless mummy-head crawling creature, skinny hypnotized undead machine-people, monster-baby totalitarianism, plump nekkid stag-reel porn, and Nosferatu fu.

Joe Bob reads the drive-in totals. The image reads "baby-guts gold-dust explosion causing mountains to move, meteors to explode, and flying saucers to take off over a deep inferno where amoebas and floating bubbles and pools of liquid and sing-cell organisms and galaxies of stars and fetuses in golden bubbles cause giant skyscrapers to be quickly built with radio antennas on top of the tallest building"
“Weirdest drive-in totals ever,” says Darcy.

When Joe Bob finishes rattling off the totals, Darcy asks everyone on set to clap for the feat. The movie earns Joe Bob’s highest rating of four stars and Darcy’s stamp of “Weirdest Drive-In totals ever.”

Tippett or Not Tippett.

As the movie slogs its way through hell, Joe Bob interviews the Oscar-winning creator of Mad God. Tippett is best known for his work on blockbuster films like Jurassic Park (1992). As well as the cult classic Starship Troopers (1997). Joe Bob makes it clear the main point of the interview is to get Tippett to accurately describe the plot of Mad God, but I don’t think he can count it a success by that metric.

In terms of being a sort-of basement masterclass in life philosophy and film, the interview is a wild success. Tippett does not hesitate to push on any and all assumptions Joe Bob has about the creative process of creating Mad God or his interpreted meanings. Joe Bob is met with “No,” as an answer to more questions than I can count.

God is a Woman?

In one instance, Joe Bob repeatedly assigns the male gender to both God and The Assassin in his descriptions. Tippett quickly points out the assumed maleness is just that – assumed. “It’s a force, it’s a thing.” They are never given a gender. I find this level of discourse on The Drive-In to be absolutely delicious, and I watch in real-time as Joe Bob corrects his language away from he/him pronouns.

When talking about making the film, Tippett emphasizes repeatedly he did not know what story was being told until years after he started making it. When Joe Bob describes the movie as grim, Tippett endearingly responds, “I thought it was funny.” Having a dark sense of humor is, in my opinion, needed to get through the shit-shoveling world of today.

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Phil Tippett sits on The Last Drive-In's interview couch. Tippett is saying, "I-I thought it was funny."
Me too Phil, me too.

Estimated Time to Process: 30 years

Tippett says the film is about process as much as it is anything and resists most interpretations Joe Bob foists his way. “If I do know, I’m not saying,” remains the most cryptic answer given, hinting at an inner interpretation Tippett is unwilling to give.

One thing Tippett is clear about is the value of hard work and dedication. When Joe Bob asks him what advice he’d give a newcomer to the effects / animation field, his response is simple – practice. Sometimes the only prescription is more work.

Tippett mentions his failures as much as his successes and his struggles with mental illness & substance use. He talks about himself as if he does not know he is one of the greatest living visual effects artists. He is probably the definition of the word humble.

Even Joe Bob acknowledges this by revealing the college students who worked weekends on the film were the best students from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Tippett mentions them in the interview as if they were just random students who decided to help.

You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas

The interview again highlights Joe Bob’s best strength: his adaptability. With Darcy absent during the interview, Joe Bob was placed in her usual position of attempting to keep the conversation on track. Thankfully, he mostly lets Tippett wander with his thoughts. I certainly do not understand Mad God any better, but I definitely have a shifted perspective on life.

The fan mail segment delivers an emotional e-mail from Josh Hitchens. Hitchens describes how Monstervision gave him something to look forward to, and thereby a reason to live, as a young queer person in a hostile environment. We’re all glad you’re still here circling the sun with us Josh.

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Joe Bob Briggs sit in his longhorn chair reading a fan mail letter. He is saying "...and I'm glad you're part of the mutant fam."
We’re all glad you’re a part of the mutant fam.

Joe Bob seems reluctant to accept this position as a source of comfort. Darcy succinctly describes the feeling as: “It’s like we felt like outsiders and we became insiders when we watched your show.” I re-discovered Joe Bob during the early chaos of the pandemic, and The Drive-In became my happy place. Now that I’m a part of the #MutantFam, I’m never leaving.

My rating for Mad God: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Lost in the Sauce

Joe Bob describes Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue as a “Japanese giallo.” The film tells the story of ex-idol Mima as she attempts an acting career and loses her grip on reality as her life becomes indistinguishable from her work & the lies of an online stalker. While more easily described than Mad God, Perfect Blue is itself a puzzle box with many layers of possible interpretation.

A poster for Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue. A young woman lays on a bed of blue/green colored objects.
A poster for Perfect Blue.

The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: 19 breasts, 1 downtown Tokyo apparition traffic-jam chase, gratuitous superhero movie, and aquarium fu. This movie also lands a four-star rating from Joe Bob.

I suddenly feel an urge to go back and see how every movie shown on The Drive-In is rated to see if my suspicion that Joe Bob is showing more movies he loves this season than in previous seasons is correct.

Sounds Like Mima

Darcy certainly loves Perfect Blue, and reveals her overall love for the anime genre. She gives a shout-out to Fullmetal Alchemist for being one of her favorites, and somehow manages to make the story sound almost delightful. If you’ve ever seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, you know how horrific the story gets.

An image from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. A dog wearing a flower crown with its tongue out stands next to a sitting young girl in a red dress.
I’m sorry if you understand this.

While Mima learns if she can trust herself to differentiate fantasy from reality, Joe Bob tells the audience Satoshi himself cannot be trusted. He describes Satoshi as a “sometimes misleading teacher.” This immediately reminds me of Tippett’s earlier interview and his seeming nonanswers to some questions.

What’s in a Name?

Perfect Blue is loosely based on the novel Perfect Blue: Kanzen Hentai. The name of the novel has a double translation of either Complete Metamorphosis or Total Pervert. Satoshi famously said there is no meaning behind Perfect Blue as a title, although Joe Bob does not believe that to be the truth. He calls Satoshi an unreliable narrator, which is not something you hear often in regards to a creator discussing their own work.

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(Listen, there’s no better way to say this. I just need to say it and get it out of my system: I don’t think Joe Bob knows about hentai. He seems to not know a lot about anime in general, but the way he says Perfect Blue: Kanzen Hentai without even a glimmer of a smirk reveals his utter ignorance of anime’s kinky cousin. Some would say ignorance is bliss. I say we all deserve an education.)

While Satoshi cannot be trusted as a narrator, he can be trusted as a filmmaker. Joe Bob highlights in particular the use of match cutting and intercutting as a way to obfuscate the truth of what is happening to Mima. Though in true giallo fashion, he lays out enough clues that a viewer might be able to figure it out before the end.

Huge in Japan

Joe Bob brings out The Drive-In’s art director and the Tokyo Cowboy, Yuki Nakamura to act as the resident Japan expert during the film. We learn: Japanese people love idols. There are not too many idols. Some idols make good money. Joe Bob is pronouncing none of the Japanese names correctly.

Yuki Nakamura sits next to Darcy the Mail Girl on the interview couch. He is saying "I grew up with Donna Summer."
Yuki missed the idol craze.

My rating for Perfect Blue: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Idol Worship

As the movie ends, we return for the final fan mail segment and Darcy finally reveals her perfect Mima cosplay. The fan mail comes in the form of a letter and an incredible maquette of the (mostly implied) monster from Hogzilla (2014) from Tim Martin. Martin’s letter follows a similar theme to Hitchen’s e-mail and describes The Drive-In as “virtually hanging out together on the front porch… welcome and invited.”

Darcy the Mailgirl in cosplay as Mima from Perfect Blue. Joe Bob (off screen) is saying "I am impressed."
We are all impressed.

Fuck Cancer

Satoshi and Tippett seem to share the commonality of allowing the audience to keep whatever meaning they find in Perfect Blue and Mad God. Tippet thinks hell is the clock in the doctor’s office while you’re waiting for the cancer diagnosis. Satoshi wrote a beautiful letter to his friends asking them to guide his wife onwards after his own terminal diagnosis.

We do not seek. We find. I’m so glad, like countless others, that I found the #MutantFam.

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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 Say Cheese and Die

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Book Reviews

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

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“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.

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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. 

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[USR 4.2]

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Movies n TV

Dolores Roach, A Fillet of Left Cheek

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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