This isn’t exactly a focused review. I’m turning off my film-scholar voice for this one. Who knows what might happen, maybe I’ll say something wild and crazy. But I’m not doing a review of all 13 movies featured in The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs, mainly because Joe Bob Briggs just did that last week.
Let’s see what happens.
Did you know the cinematic piece of Americana known as Blood Beach was released in France before it was released in America? By about four months, actually. Joe Bob Briggs is probably aware, but I wonder if he knows it didn’t open in Turkey till 1983. Our Turkish friends got a raw deal on that one.
A little context.
Joe Bob Briggs has been gone from hosting horror/exploitation movie marathons for the better part of 20 years, but Shudder—an excellent horror streaming platform, and no they didn’t pay me to say that—became the savior of countless horror fans, in being the first channel to make the plain-as-day-common-sense-seriously-how-the-fuck-did-it-take-this-long decision to bring Joe Bob Briggs back-the-hell where he belongs.
I really don’t get it, how is Shudder the first network to make this happen? I remember sending Joe Bob Briggs an email, nostalgic fanboy that I was, in 2007 and asking him if MonsterVision or something like it would ever come back. He wrote back and was super cool, but really had no answer for me.
Two decades passed from MonsterVision to The Last Drive-In and yet when the legend finally took a seat in the recliner-throne to start jaw-flapping about David Lynch’s aversion to cell phones as a lead-in to Tourist Trap, it was like he’d never left.
Like that, but all the same, Briggs was so on-point it was a hard reminder of what we’ve been missing out on since the turn of the millennium. Joe Bob Briggs is more complex than he appears and is the best living film critic working in the art of movie-rambling. Yes, I’ve read Roger Ebert’s half-star review of Blue Velvet and wasn’t impressed.
Joe Bob Briggs: More Than An Expert, Closer To An Anomaly
At the risk of being inducted into the humblebrag hall of fame, I get remarks on being knowledgeable about movies from time to time. People are often, I won’t say impressed, because some just probably feel sorry for me, but certainly, people are often surprised by my knee-jerk ability to bust out movie references, actor names, directors, years of release, any kind of movie knowledge often comes right off the top of my head. Truth be told, I just have a good memory for one reason or another. But to the credit of those remarking on my film knowledge, I don’t call myself a doctor of film analysis for no reason.
That said, to those befuddled by my movie proclivities, I say to you, put me in a room with Joe Bob Briggs and watch me become a filthy casual by comparison. Briggs is the final boss of movie-nerdism.
FYI, Joe Bob Briggs is a character, of sorts. The good ol’ boy persona of John Irving Bloom. There’s exaggeration in the character, but after watching the exceptional interview with James Rolfe of Cinemassacre, it’s clear the essence of Joe Bob comes from a sincere place in Bloom.
Character or not, Joe Bob Briggs is an advocate for horror fans. Elitist movie critics historically snub horror at every possible turn. I do a lot of in-depth reviews of arthouse movies, dark dramas, prestigious Palme d’Or winning films, and whatever the hell Spotlight was. Moreover, theaters are flooded with shitty movies, even shitty horror movies, and I don’t subscribe to this idea that it’s “mean” to write a negative review. Shitty movies are shitty movies. I realize it’s just my opinion, but so what? Everything I say in a review should be assumed to be predicated on “this is my opinion,” because I’m not going to repeat the fact that something is my opinion 50 times per movie review.
Movies with artistic merit are what any good film critic is looking for, but critics and horror fans have a fundamental disagreement about what denotes artistic merit.
Joe Bob Briggs pushes back on behalf of that fundamental disagreement and in my estimation made his own, extremely relatable and resonant, brand of film review. Relatable, especially to a young punk like me who wanted desperately to be involved in some way with movies but felt I was a statistically unlikely candidate, Joe Bob Briggs made it seem like this goal might be within reach. Sure he was technically just a character, but I didn’t realize that at the time and he got me going in the right direction. What else matters?
Getting Personal And Waxing Emotional About MonsterVision
Growing up in a blue-collar home, arthouse came to me late in life. I grew up watching TNT. Looney Tunes in the evening, horror movies at night on the weekends. My house was comprised of people doing their best to just get by and there was little in the way of discussing Fellini films.
Actually, I take back what I said about growing up “blue collar.” I grew up poor. The thing about poor people is that we don’t have the luxury of grandeur delusions. Poor people know they’re poor and they use the term freely. You can describe us as impoverished or blue collar if you like, but you mean poor and every poor person knows it, as every black person knows what you mean when you describe a person’s clothing style as “urban”.
Sanitizing language, in some instances, doesn’t really benefit anyone. Joe Bob Briggs, I’m sure, is far from poor, but he’s relatable to the common man because he doesn’t speak to his audience like he’s talking to customers or constituents, or people who don’t know their ass from a festering sore in a Cronenberg movie. Joe Bob Briggs talks to us like he’s a friend hanging out on our couch, shamelessly enjoying trash-cinema.
And while there wasn’t a huge emphasis on the arthouse in my home, there was a deep appreciation for garbage programming and a tendency toward insomnia, particularly on my part. In the ‘90s, MonsterVision was an insomniac’s best friend. Watching MonsterVision, it’s undeniable that Joe Bob Briggs doesn’t come off as an amateur; he comes off as deeply knowledgeable and passionate about film. Full stop. He just openly loves films that many regard as stupid. At the time, I didn’t take him as the contradiction in terms he’s famous for being, I just took him as a guy on television who talked about horror movies and made me laugh.
Joe Bob made me want to talk about movies myself, and as I was already obsessed with watching movies, I did exactly that.
I cut my teeth on film commentary when MonsterVision wasn’t on during the week. Many nights I’d turn on my own horror movies and sit in a chair in my bedroom, pausing the movie every few minutes to stop and make Joe-Bob-like commentary. Of course, as I grew and kept discussing and eventually writing about movies, I was drawn to writing about more “prestigious” titles. It’s not a thing I regret, I love what I do, but I do find it’s still difficult to be taken seriously when defending certain titles to other film buffs.
For the past few years, I’ve been living my life with one foot in elitist academic circles made up of political, social, and artistic “intellectuals,” while my other foot is still planted in my decaying, drug-ridden childhood neighborhood. Try as I might to fit in with other writers possessing more extensive higher education certifications than I have, and many of those writers with affluent backgrounds to boot, I’m an outsider no matter how well I do and what I contribute. Joe Bob told me that being the odd man out is not only fine but something to embrace.
John Irving Bloom, I’m certain, has a wildly different background than what I have, but Joe Bob Briggs lives in a trailer park and drinks beer while talking about Creepshow. He’s rough around the edges, he doesn’t give a fuck what you think, and he’s also a beloved film critic. A “populist” film critic, by his own admission.
Furthermore, he doesn’t lambast arthouse films or Oscar winners, at least not arbitrarily. He seems to appreciate all aspects of cinema, from the steaming heaps of hot b-movie garbage to the high-rise towers of Best Picture-winning movies like The Shape of Water.
Everything gets a fair shake, regardless of academic value or prestige. Life isn’t like that, but it should be. Joe Bob Briggs represents a necessary change in the world I’ll never see take root, but here, on MonsterVision and now on The Last Drive-In, we don’t care about accolades or prior achievements, we care about the material. Give us something original and awesome or get the fuck out.
Not to get off on a political rant, but…
In America, the general public is engaged in an ongoing death match with academia which may well be a fine foundation for Civil War II: Twitter In Real Life. This perception of value swinging dramatically from scholars, to the every-man, is something I’m very-nearly afraid of.
For the record, I’m a staunch liberal and I place much value on science and academia, but I understand why working people who never had a chance to go to college give a huge eye-roll to the moral elite policing their language and values. A lot of these judgemental educated elites know jack shit about the plight of the working class. Keep belittling them and watch a populist win their hearts. You’re going to end up wondering how a smart motherfucker like you couldn’t hold their own.
The populist succeeds where the academic fails, in understanding and interacting with human beings on an emotional level, rather than treating them simply as a demographic.
A person can go two ways with populism.
Numero Uno: You can use populism to confuse people, to exploit their emotions, and to appeal to their irrational paranoid fears, courtesy of Fox News. If you understand humans at all, you realize people can be easily scared, and scared folks are easy to rally in support around anything they think will provide them with the ability to stop shitting the only pair of work-pants they can afford.
Example: A lot of under-educated people are afraid that Mexicans (specifically Mexicans by name, but any brown person is the threat in their mind) are taking over America. Donald Trump said, “I’ll build a wall and then no more Mexicans.” President.
Numero Two-o: You can genuinely empathise with a huge chunk of movie fans who share tastes you’re not “supposed” to have as a professional movie critic. You can reject conventional rules and give those ignored masses a voice by becoming Joe Bob Briggs, the world’s greatest drive-in movie critic.
Numero Three-o: Imagine I wrote something clever about Bernie Sanders also having appealed to populism.
Personal politics aside, Joe Bob went on some of the best political rants during The Last Drive-In where he took issue with legitimate problems of Democrats and Republicans and while I openly identify myself as a loyal lefty, I appreciated that he didn’t take a political or moral high ground for the special. We weren’t there for that, we were there to watch horror movies and anyone who isn’t a horror fan is roast material on Joe Bob Day.
The Charles Bukowski Of Film Criticism
Joe Bob Briggs is a name I rarely see mentioned alongside the likes of François Truffaut, Roger Ebert, or André Bazin. Film elitists don’t count Briggs among one of the greats. I try to remember that for the most part, Charles Bukowski never received due respect from academic literary scholars. That doesn’t stop Hot Water Music from being one of my favorite books.
And again, I’m not putting down academia itself, but I am criticizing their obtuse view of art in many situations. I’m not even riffing on film snobs. That would be especially difficult, because my extensive Criterion Collection and previous film reviews pretty well solidify me as, well, a film snob. Moreover, I’m guilty of treating Marvel superhero movies much the way a lot of critics treat horror movies. But something I keep in hand at all times is a strong love for horror and exploitation movies. The moment I’m too good to enjoy a good ‘Jason’ movie is the moment I’ve officially become pretentious.
In truth, if I had a time machine, I probably wouldn’t do much for humanity. I’d go back in time to see theatrical runs of old horror films. I’ll leave killing Hitler to someone more tactically competent because while it’s a valiant cause, I’d fuck it up.
No, I’d head to the theatrical world-premiere of Motel Hell, which probably drew eight people. Actually, it would have only drawn seven, but one guy walked into the wrong theater, thinking he was at a showing of that Goldie Hawn movie, Private Benjamin. He was confused and upset at first, but Roy Calhoun is a powerful force and after this misled movie-goer was introduced to Farmer Vincent, there was no going back.
I like to think that man was Eli Roth.
The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs
Drive-In grandmaster Joe Bob Briggs makes his triumphant return to hosting all-night marathons in what could only be described as the be-all-end-all nostalgia trip for horror fans.
If there was news today that Robert Englund was stepping back into the role of Freddy Krueger for a new movie based off a long-lost Wes Craven script from the ‘80s, the final product could only hope to be an equal when compared to The Last Drive-In, in terms of major horror events. Joe Bob’s return was the biggest small-screen triumph since David Lynch brought Twin Peaks back after a 25-year hiatus. And before that, there wasn’t a television comeback strong enough to compare to The Last Drive-In.
Shudder hit a home-run, Joe Bob is back, and according to some tweets it looks like Joe Bob is coming back again this year, my hope is for a Halloween special. If you haven’t watched The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs yet, get your ass on Shudder, or get a subscription, I think they’re free for the first week or so. Then it’ll be time to learn the art of the Joe Bob Briggs horror movie marathon.
Let’s do the Drive-In totals.
9 GREAT horror movies including Tourist Trap and Sleepaway Camp.
4 horror movies made completely tolerable by breaks for Joe Bob’s commentary.
44,999 breasts (would have been 45K, but Demons only has the one, making the breast count fall just shy).
1 crashed server at Shudder, courtesy of the horror fan hug of death.
100 million-or-so horror fans who got over the crash by the next day as a result of “good guy Shudder” putting the whole thing up on demand.
88 billion tidbits of horror movie knowledge you can use to impress your Tinder date.
An amount of blood measurable not in gallons, but in Pacific oceans. (That’s right, the Atlantic won’t suffice).
A set of T-shirts Fright-Rags can’t keep in stock.
A lot of happy horror fans.
A promise of at least one sequel.
A likelihood of more than one sequel.
No gore or nudity censoring.
Curse words all in-tact.
No AT&T commercials, or any other commercials.
A superior followup to MonsterVision (who’d have thought it possible?).
Cell Phone Hate-Fu.
Pat McCrory as Barney Fife-Fu.
Drive-In Academy Awards for:
Craig Engel at Shudder for making this happen.
Darcy aka Kinky_Horror for being a great mail girl.
Joe Bob Briggs for doing what he does best.
FOUR STARS. Josh says check it out.