Welcome back to another season of our favorite show on Shudder with our review column ‘Notes from the Last Drive-In’ – this week is tackling season 4, episode 1, featuring the long-overdue Night of the Living Dead (1968) and the weirdly Italian companion piece Antropophagus (1980). When we last left off, we were at the Heartbreak Trailer Park. Now we’re back to business as usual with season four.
It was an exciting premiere featuring the 100th movie shown on The Last Drive-In with two exceptional guests across both features tonight. We get a horror host crossover in the first half of the night with the legendary Svengoolie. Then, in the back half, we get reunited with Honey, one of the beloved mail girls of the Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater era.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Night of the Living Dead is a simple plot. Barbra and Johnny visit a Pennsylvania graveyard to pay respects to a relative, unaware that the world is falling apart around them. Soon, the pair are separated in tragic circumstances, and Barbra finds herself isolated in a house with other survivors as the living dead lay siege to the house. Soon enough, tensions flare between two survivors, Ben and Harry, which threatens the safety of all.
The film, directed by George A. Romero and written by the team of Romero and John A. Russo, which additions by various actors and producers, is a classic of independent cinema and horror. The film’s big three performances are the iconic Duane Jones as Ben, Judith O’Dea and Barbra, and Karl Hardman as Harry Cooper. Produced independently by a ragtag group of Pennsylvanians, the movie has become a focal point for discussions in the public domain for the unique circumstances which led to the film’s open distribution by anyone with the means; this would ultimately be the reason for the film’s overall success.
There isn’t much to say about Night of the Living Dead that has not been noted in the 54 years since the film’s original release. The film is a masterpiece in several ways and still carries incredible power today. It is as timely parable now as it was in 1968 and continues to shock and surprise modern audiences. In my day job as a teacher, I’ve assigned this film, and inevitably the feedback is excellent. Despite some minor quibbles here and there, the movie works. You could do no better for a 100th movie on Joe Bob’s show than this one.
It would be unfair to boil down a review of such an iconic film in a couple of paragraphs in this column, so I won’t. Instead of any potential 100th film run, perhaps the only other choice would have been The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This movie is essential to horror and film as a whole.
Joe Bob-servations on Night of the Living Dead
Joe Bob brings up the point early on in the night that so much has been written about the film, and there have been so many interpretations that it is hard to bring anything new in about it. You could find any rhetorical angle for analysis and likely find plenty of scholarship to support it. My reading, pulled from other authors, is about property and capitalism, but it is certainly not the only game in town.
So, Joe Bob doesn’t spend as much time delving into the film behind the background. He’s less about interpretation here than context, which is perfectly fine. There is a lot of fun information about the circumstances behind the film, the cast, crew, and reaction. The potential downside lies in that much of this information for the film buffs who know and love the movie, especially horror nerds who watch Joe Bob Briggs, already know much of this. He also hammers home the collaborative nature of the film as Romero and Russo tend to get the lion’s share of the credit, which is fair, but that sometimes results in the other contributions being overlooked.
But that’s not what is most important here; this is a celebration, and that tone is palpable throughout the evening, celebrating a horror classic and the art of horror hosting. This is best exemplified by the gleeful fun of the legendary Svengoolie (Richard Koze( popping out of a cake and Joe Bob being pelted by rubber chickens. This, for many of the weird kids who grew up watching gimmicky hosts talking about B and C movies on late-night television, was an emotional moment.
Koze was, of course, a perfect guest. Able to keep Joe Bob on his toes with knowledge of film and compatible work history, the segments were less and interviews and more of just two work buddies shooting the shit most warmly and invitingly possible. Except one playing a cowboy and the other slathered in greasepaint – that was the funny little abstraction.
Final Thoughts on Night of the Living Dead
Look, we know the film is good. Maybe even close to perfect in a few ways. There is no way that Night of the Living Dead, a personally important film to me, is getting anything less than five-Cthulhus. Of course, the film also received the inevitable four-star treatment from Joe Bob.
We knew going in the first movie was universally praised. It’s not just film – it’s culture. (5 / 5)
Best Line: “Now get the hell down in the cellar. You can be the boss down there, but I’m boss up here!” – Ben, in one of the underrated lines that open a whole can of worms regarding readings of the film.
Antropophagus (also known as Antropophagus: The Beast and The Grim Reaper) is an Italian cannibal film that already lets you know what you are in for. Italian films have become the butt of a number of jokes on the show, and this because, generally, there is certain chaos attached to them. This chaos is found throughout the feature of the back-half of the evening. This 1980 film was directed by Joe D’Amato (an alias of Aristide Massaccesi, one alias of about a dozen) and co-written by D’Amato and George Eastman (Luigi Montefiori). The presence of multi-aliased stewards already gives us insight into the film. The international cast of Tisa Farrow, Zora Kerova, Saverio Vallone, Serene Granid, and Margaret Mazzantini also clues the film’s quality.
Okay, time to disappoint the Antropophagus-fans: It is not a good movie regarding production quality, storytelling, structure, or even logic. It is fun as hell, though. The film is a chaotic assembly of interchangeable characters and Italian location in lieu of an actually coherent story. In truth, the film is pretty hard to follow because the characters are so visually similar and the reason for moving from location to location is so abrupt and non-sensical. The plot involves a group of tourists exploring a nearly abandoned town, finding themselves in a series of escapes that eventually leads them to the home of a man driven mad in grief to consume human flesh.
What the film lacks in story and performances, it makes up for in effects and aesthetics. The film is notorious for being a strong contender as an escalation of the gore film and was so infamous it was considered one of the UK’s “video nasties.” The film also has a wonderfully strange score with dashes of Europop and heavily synthesized compositions by Marcel Giombini. However, that score was not heard in the film’s American release, instead replaced by the score of Kingdom of the Spiders (1977).
The film’s look is pretty muddy, and the cinematography by Enrico Biribicchi is at best functional, barring a few moments of visual fun. Ironically, this cinematography is strongest during the moments of extreme gore toward the film’s end. The emphasis on the body is a carryover from his work on Italian pronographic films.
The film’s direction is likely the largest contributor to the middling quality of the film; as we learn during Joe Bob’s host segments, Joe D’Amato’s workmanlike attitude meant he was generally a fast director and may have been less of an artist and more an assembler. His most significant contribution to Italian cinema would be his porn films, of which he is credits with about 120.
Joe Bob-servations on Antropophagus
Imagine the audacity of going from one of the greatest films ever made to… Antropophagus as a double feature with Night of the Living Dead. One of the most extraordinary things about The Last Drive-In has always been the usage of juxtaposition to pair what may seem unrelated films to create a larger whole for the episode. A great example of this was the pairing of The Changeling with Deathgasm.
With Antropophagus, the theme is established beyond cannibalization; the night’s theme appears to be one of “origins.” Just as the drive-in film culture owes a lot to the work of Romero and Image Ten, our foremost drive-in scholar Joe Bob Briggs owes a lot of his career to what is a mid-level Italian cannibal movie. The pairing works here… the milestone of Night helped formalize a whole culture that one John Bloom, under the guise of Joe Bob Briggs, would find a way to make his mark as a writer. Nobody was reviewing movies like Antropophagus, and that is where Bloom found his hook.
A lot of the back half of the night was the real celebration of Briggs. The first half would be considered a dive into the drive-in culture, but the second half was all Joe Bob. Antropophagus was the subject of his first published drive-in movie review and the origin point of what we enjoy today on Shudder on Friday nights. Not bad for a pretty meh cannibal film.
Of course, the Joe Bob content was fantastic, starting with his immediate cause for tracking down the film’s mysterious, workman-like director. This is one of the significant bits of the episode and is pretty much the main appeal of Briggs’ show – the whole “why-the-fuck-does-he-know-this”-aspect.
However, the real highlight for the back half of the night was the meeting of one of the original mail girls, Honey Gregory, and Diana Prince, the modern mail girl Darcy. The whole thing came off as lovely and affectionate as it dived into the old dynamic of Joe Bob being put in his place by two beautiful women. There was even a sweet little musical number woven in.
Final Thoughts on Antropophagus
So while Antropophagus is not the worst film featured on The Last Drive-In, it is certainly not among the best. All films shown are worthy of inclusion, and this one perhaps doubly so due to how much we know as The Last Drive-In owes its existence to it. Antropophagus is one of those films that audiences would have likely forgotten if some weirdo cowboy hadn’t realized that “hey, this should be talked about” and started a little newspaper column about Antropophagus and other movies like it.
The movie itself? It’s fun. Is it muddled, confusing, and ultimately more a loose assembly of time-filling moments to get to the money shots? Most definitely. But that’s also fine for us because we’re Drive-In Mutants. (3.5 / 5)
Best Line: “There’s evil on this island. An evil that won’t let us get away. An evil that sends out an inhuman, diabolic power. I sense its vibrations now. The vibrations are an intense horror. It will destroy us! The very same way it did all the others!” – Carol, really making it about here right now, you know?
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As always, we have the official totals courtesy of Shudder.
As for our list, we have…
- 2 horror hosting legends
- 2 mail girls
- 2 darcy cosplay
- 10 producers pooling money for NotLD
- 40 years of Joe Bob Briggs
- 101 drive-in movies on Shudder
- 250 aliases for Joe D’Amato
- Gratutous usage of “thee-ate-er”
- Gratuitous musical interlude
- Gratuitous drive-in history
- Rubber chickens roll
- Eyes roll
- Cake popping
- Synthesizer Fu
- Tomb Desecration Fu
The Last Drive-In: S4E1 – Night of the Living Dead and Antropophagus Episode Score
The night was a huge success, not only examining the art and history of horror hosting but taking the time to acknowledge Joe Bob Briggs and his contribution to both rightly. It also helps that the movies themselves were genuinely fun as well. As far as season premieres go for the show, it may be hard to top the sheer, unadulterated joy of the original revival marathon, but damn if this one isn’t close.
Here is to 100 more movies if you feel like it, Joe Bob. I give the season four premiere 5 Cthulhus. (5 / 5)
Please let us know what you think of the review and recap. We would love to read your comments about the films as well. Please let us know what you think.
Until next time, Mutants.
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Movies n TV
2023’s ‘Summoning Sylvia’ is a Faboolous New Film
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I was asked if I wanted to cover the new “LGBTQ horror” film, SUMMONING SYLVIA from director/writer duo, Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse.
New LGBTQ horror can feel either very outrageous and full-on camp like Death Drop Gorgeous, Ticked Off Tr*****s With Knives, or You’re Killing Me.
Or they can be very cerebral and dramatic like Raw, Lyle, and Bit.
So, which route would SUMMONING SYLVIA take?
Summoning Sylvia’s Plot:
It’s the bachelor weekend for Larry (Travis Coles) and his three best friends (Frankie Grande, Troy Iwata, and Noah J. Ricketts) have booked an entire weekend to spend together in a historic house. They’re set on getting glam, party games, drinking appletinis, eating fancy snacks, and the pièce de résistance — a séance to summon Sylvia (Veanne Cox), the murdering mother and resident ghost.
However, what they didn’t plan on was Larry’s new brother-in-law (Nicholas Logan) to crash the party and open up new doors to dark pasts…
I was expecting to enjoy this movie enough. Nothing too much, nothing too little.
With a lot of LGBTQ horror comedies, they typically have the same jokes and punchlines. And as much as I love big dick jokes and bottoming jokes as much as anyone, but it gets to be…a lot. It gets stale. It gets boring.
And worse, inauthentic to the characters and plot.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, this caters to a very specific type of gay subculture, but it was authentic in its celebration. When Larry wipes off his eye makeup, knowing that his very straight and close-minded new brother-in-law is coming, it’s heartbreaking. It’s watching him wash a piece of his happiness away in a very quiet and sad moment. We understand his character completely in this small and subtle gesture.
The cinematographer (Matthew Roveto) did a fantastic job at focusing in on Larry throughout the film, reminding us that Larry is the focal point, regardless of the story. This was HIS story, even with other shenanigans happening.
And I’m really shocked to find out that Travis Coles hasn’t done that much in front of the camera yet, spending most of his experience as a crew member. His range and rawness are there throughout the film. As Larry, he was playful, nurturing, and self-conscious. For a silly-billy movie about ghosts and gays, he effortless portrayed a lot of depth.
And in fact, the whole cast has real magnetism and cohesiveness that I often find lacking in many horror movies. It’s the common trope of “friends find a haunted house”, with an emphasis on “haunted house” but very little thought on the “friends” part.
The warmth that the characters had, even the catty diva Nico (Frankie Grande), was convincing and magnetic. The cast gelled well together and were believable as friends who sass each other and maybe (like many queer circles) have little crushes. The relationships in Summoning Sylvia were genuine and charming.
Also, the editing (Sara Corrigan) with the ghosts in the past and the characters in the present was incredible and stylized. The editing was so effective and precise, it delighted me every time I saw it.
The costuming and sets were so much fun and showed the juxtaposition between the ghosts and the guys. From dark and drab to light and…well…gay. Each character had his own design and brand, which was easy to pick up. All of them were dressed beautifully and Sylvia was foreboding and gothic. Pure perfection.
The only thing that I had a bit of a hard time with was…
Brainroll Juice : The Ending of Summoning Sylvia
The ending was a bit messy. Everything was kind of happening all at once, like a sloppy Joe sandwich coming out at all ends.
And we haven’t really talked about Harrison.
So, I know. I get it. People are awful. They get weirded out by things they don’t understand even to this day. And there’s a suspicion that some of what Harrison says and does in this movie are because he’s under the possession of Sylvia.
And regardless of that or not, I was really hoping that there would be another twist. Because Nicholas Logan’s acting isn’t bad. It’s good as a stereotypical cis-het white male as the villain. And the ending is the same as many other endings with the same, er, beats (I’m trying hard not to give this away). And while I applaud Larry for standing up to him, I wish there had just been a different twist.
It’s a safe ending. It’s a trope ending.
And that’s not necessarily bad, but I just wanted it to veer into new and fresh territory. I wanted more from the ending.
Now, this was a short movie, and perhaps there was a longer ending, who knows. I would have loved a little more time to clean up the sloppy Joe mess and tie things up more gracefully, but obviously that wasn’t in the cards.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t ruin the movie, it just doesn’t hit as strong as the rest of it.
Are you looking for a fun gaycation with a spooky house and an awkward new addition to the family? Look no further. SUMMONING SYLVIA is funny, charming, and will lift your spirits. (4 / 5)
The Horror Collective is excited to announce the North American theatrical and TVOD release of their LGBTQ horror comedy Summoning Sylvia. Written and directed by Wesley Taylor (Smash, The Spongebob Musical) and Alex Wyse (Marvel’s Iron Fist, soon to join Broadway’s Good Night, Oscar), the hair-raising romp tells the story of a gay bachelor party that takes a spooky turn when sinister spirits are suddenly summoned.
The Horror Collective will release Summoning Sylvia in theaters nationwide March 31, 2023 and on Cable VOD and Digital HD April 7, 2023.
Movies n TV
Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube Channel
Youtube is a great place for those of us who like a spooky story. There we can find a mixture of true tales and cutting-edge fiction. These range everywhere from amateur footage to professionally crafted videos.
Today, we’re talking about a hidden YouTube gem, Scary Fairy Godmother.
The channel launched in December 2014. Since its birth, there has been just one topic of discussion. The fey is not to be trusted, and in fact, is something to be feared.
Some of the stories on this channel are fiction. But some are claimed as first-hand accounts of dangerous interactions with fairies.
Now, whether or not we believe in fairies isn’t the point of this review. I am only here to talk about the level of entertainment to be found on this YouTube channel.
A recent video titled Melsh Dick (don’t laugh) was a common fairy tale. A girl is lured away from her friends by a boy who claims to be her cousin. He doesn’t give her a name, they never do. Fortunately, the girl escapes. Others haven’t been so lucky.
A favorite video of mine, being a city dweller, was Urban Fairies. This video consisted of eight encounters with fairies in an urban setting. Many of these encounters are nice. There’s a beautiful swirl of lights seen out of an apartment window. A person is lured into a city park by a lovely young woman who might or might not have been human. And another person receives some personal and sage advice from what looks to be a homeless man while she’s out walking her dog. All of these stories were delightful, reminding us that magic can be found in any setting.
For creepier encounters, we turn to the video House Fairy Horrors. Warning, you might not be as thrilled about the Elf on a Shelf after this one.
In this video we hear the tale of a goblin that took over one room of a person’s house, chasing out anyone who tried to go in. A young child sings to scare sprites out of their home, only to have them hold a grudge and return years later. There’s even a shadow man who seems to encourage a vegan lifestyle.
Some of the videos have themes, like frost fairies or encounters with fairy royalty. Some are eerie tales plucked from Reddit, real life or imagined.
Of course, the creepiest tales are those where people are lured into the forest by the fey. You’ll find several of these stories on Scary Fairy Godmother. It always seems to be in good fun, until one finds themselves lost.
These stories might not seem very scary to us. The tellers of these tales come away without a scratch after all. But consider this. The only time we’d hear about a fairy abduction is if it fails. We do not know what happens to the others, only that they’re not around to tell us.
How many people went missing in your town last year?
From what we can gather from these videos, we are never safe from the fey. They can reside in our homes, our cities, and our parks. They can even reach us in our dreams. What they want with us may vary. Perhaps it’s just to give us a scare. Maybe they enjoy playing tricks on us. Or maybe they’re vengeful, angry at the disrespect mankind has shown to the environment, and eager to punish us for our abuses. Whatever the reasons, it’s probably best if we steer clear.
The Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube channel is one with staying power. The fan base is small, but it’s growing. It’s a great one to throw on while your hands are busy, or if you just want a soothing voice to tell you a scary story. So if you’re a fan of the creepier side of life, do yourself a favor and check it out.(3.5 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episodes 8 and 9: The End
Sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe you watched the episodes the nights they came out, but then you got your stomach tattooed so you didn’t have the energy to type on your computer, and then you had to work nonstop for six days straight and housesit 20 miles out of town, and then you got into a hit-and-run car accident with your boyfriend (luckily you’re both okay but really very angry at the asshole that just drove away), etc. etc.. March has been a lot, but I finally rolled up my sleeves, made time for my computer and stopped procrastinating the job of writing my final review on HBO’s The Last of Us.
Here we will cover the final events of Joel and Ellie’s saga. Both episodes were directed by Ali Abassi and written by Craig Mazin and, in episode 9, Neil Druckmann. The adaptation continued to cover the story elements of the game, leaving out and/or changing most of the fighting and action scenes. This change is especially noticeable in episode 9, “Look for the Light,” but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first do a recap of episode 8, “When We Are in Need.”
“When We Are in Need”
Ellie is on the hunt for food and comes across a deer, which she shoots down almost effortlessly. It is in this moment that she meets a preacher named David (Scott Shepherd) and his partner, James (Troy Baker, (Joel’s voice actor in the video games)). After a moment of hostility towards the stranger, Ellie agrees to give the deer to David in exchange for penicillin. Shortly after giving Joel the medication, Ellie has to leave again to deter David’s religious crew from hunting her and Joel. It turns out Joel killed a few of David’s men, and the preacher is out for revenge.
The religious group captures Ellie and puts her in a cell, where she discovers David has been feed them human remains. Meanwhile, Joel finally awakes and is stable enough to escape the house and search for Ellie. He tortures two men into disclosing her location, but he is almost too late. David places Ellie on a butcher block and is just about to chop her up when she narrowly escapes. The two fight until she finally has the advantage and takes him down, bludgeoning him to death with an insurmountable fury of vengeance.
“Look for the Light”
Episode 9 begins with a flashback of Ellie’s pregnant mother, Anna (Ashley Johnson, (Ellie’s voice actor in the video games). An infected bit Anna just moments before she gave birth to Ellie. Moments pass, and Marlene finds the two in a pool of blood. She is forced to take the baby and kill her friend. Fast forward 14 years, and Joel and Ellie are almost done with their journey. They finally made it to Utah. Ellie, still processing everything that happened with David, is sad and somber. Joel tries his best to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work.
Suddenly, the youth sees something and runs off to get a better look. Joel chases her until he stops and stares in awe. The camera pans from him to Ellie inches away from a giraffe. She is her old self again, cracking jokes and asking a myriad of questions. Later on, when Joel reveals that he tried to kill himself after Sarah’s death, Ellie provides him as much comfort as she can. But the fact that Joel can trust her enough to reveal such a secret means is a comfort on its own. He asks Ellie to read some puns to lighten the mood, but his moment is interrupted when a group of Fireflies knock them out.
Joel wakes up in a hospital to see Marleen, who informs him that the doctors are preparing Ellie for surgery to remove the part of her brain that makes her immune. This procedure, however, will result in Ellie’s death. No matter how hard Joel fights, Marlene won’t budge. She instead has two Firefly soldiers escort Joel out of the hospital, but he kills them and everyone else until he finds the surgery room, where he murders the doctor in cold blood. He escapes with an unconscious Ellie and makes it as far as the parking garage until Marlene stops them. The camera cuts to Joel driving a car with Ellie in the backseat.
Ellie wakes up and asks Joel what happens. While he lies to her that there is no cure, the camera flickers back to the parking garage scene with Marlene. He shoots her once. After listening to her begs and pleas, he kills her with a final shot.
The duo have to walk the last few miles to Tommy’s town. At the top of a waterfall, they get a spectacular view of their new home, their new futures. Before making the final trek, Ellie tells Joel about her past and how she saw her best friend die. This lead to watching Tess, Sam and Henry die because of the disease. The fact that they all had to go through such gruesome deaths, only for there not to be a cure, is too much for Ellie to handle. She makes Joel swear that he is telling the truth, and in a beat, he does.
HBO’s The Last of Us is a remarkable video game adaptation that deserves all the high praise it has received the past few months. From the set design and effects to the filming, screenwriting and acting, the show is a peak example of how to do an adaptation well. It is heart-throbbing and terrifying.
A few issues with HBO’s adaptation is how much they excluded the game play scenes. Despite the world being filled with infected, they were rarely on screen. This is disappointing, especially because it increases the stakes and so much of Joel and Ellie’s relationship builds in these fight scenes. The biggest disappointment was in episode 9, in which the show completely cut out the game’s highway scene. Furthermore, there are numerous creative weapons the show could have included to illustrate Joel and Ellie’s means of survival, from molotov cocktails and nail bombs to the beloved shotgun and its shorty companion.
Despite these small quibbles, the show is arguably one of the best American video game adaptations out there. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were the perfect casting choices for Joel and Ellie, as was the casting for all the other characters.
It will be exciting to see where Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin take The Last of Us 2. I hope they will include more gameplay (aka a little more violence), more screen time for infected, and some creative liberties with the original story while also sticking to the heart of it. We will just have to wait and see what they come up with. Until we meet again, don’t forgot to read about the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.
(4 / 5)