Love, Reliability, and The Last Drive-In (S3E5)

There are certain aspects of life that are more important than others, at least according to me. Some people take pride in getting their work done faster than others. Sure, this is an admirable trait to have, but in this author’s opinion, being reliable is more attractive than motoring through whatever work needs completing. Depending on the job, if someone dives headfirst into fourth gear from beginning to end, one might feel that joy is lacking. One place where I can say that someone takes pleasure in their work is Shudder‘s The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.

Now, I’m not trying to say that in every facet of life—whatever your job may be, standing around smiling and taking as long as possible to complete your work is the way to go. If I took my car in for major maintenance and you came back an hour later and rushed me out the door, I am going to pause to wonder whether I got my money’s worth and whether my car will come out the shop in worse shape than when it went in. Every time I start my car from that day forward, I should ensure my insurance premiums are up to date if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Unlike the previous scenario, which has never happened to me, Joe Bob Briggs does care about his job. Knowledgeable in more than just film history, Joe Bob Briggs uses The Last Drive-In as a means to share his enjoyment and wisdom with us, the viewers. It is not uncommon for someone to be knowledgeable in a single area and share that with others. What makes Joe Bob different, though, is the joy you see week in and week out as he dispenses whatever is rattling around in that brain of his that particular week. Sometimes it has to deal with that week’s films, and other times, he surprises you with a non-sequitur that vaguely ties into the topic at hand. Whether on topic or off, you see that twinkle in his eye that you see when watching someone who loves what he does.Red trying to start a chainsaw to begin the chainsaw battle

And speaking of love, the first film on this week’s double feature was the Nicolas Cage love-fest that is Mandy. Anyone reading this article is probably familiar with this film—but it’s the old story of two lovers separated by a gang of cult leaders who summon demon bikers from hell to kidnap Red (Nicolas Cage) and the love of his life, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). After rejecting the offerings of the cult leader, including laughing at his whangdoodle while under the influence of poison from a black wasp-thing, Mandy is burned alive in front of Red. Seeking revenge, Red recovers a crossbow, makes a battle-ax, and heads out for vengeance on the demon bikers from hell and cult leaders while also high on cocaine and blood infused with bad LSD. You know, a love story.

While most in the horror community have an affinity for Mandy, I fall more on the side of like, not love, for this film. It’s got an iconic Nicolas Cage performance, the visuals are a wonder to behold, and the gore is excellent. My issues, surprisingly, come in the final leg of the movie. As the movie crescendos and the film becomes more dream-like, my interest level wanes. Yes, we get an ax fight followed by a chainsaw fight, but Red’s journey through the cult leaders felt like a foregone conclusion to the first two-thirds of the story. I’m not knocking Mandy, as I do think it’s a welcome addition to the horror library, but the build-up works better than the execution.

Going from the lush and colorful Mandy, our second feature for this week’s The Last Drive-In was the fog-infused Dead & Buried. Slowing things WAY down, Dead & Buried tells the tale of Potters Bluff, a small seaside town that is keeping secrets close to their chests—so close, in fact, that they may be replacing their hearts. As unusual circumstances and murders continue popping up around town, the local sheriff (James Farentino) teams up with the town mortician (Jack Albertson) to figure out the goings-on in Potters Bluff.

I remember the first time I ever saw this film. I am a fan of physical media and have been known to blind buy a movie here and there. While shopping at a local big box store, I saw the two-disc special edition sitting on the shelf. It was showcasing the theatrical poster of a face sticking out of the ground, and I was immediately intrigued. With this being before the advent of smartphones, I had no way of getting additional details, so I snagged it and brought it home. Upon getting home, I sat myself down, popped the DVD in, and spent the next 92 minutes sitting quietly and struggling to maintain interest. Being a young buck at the time, Dead & Buried was not the film I envisioned it to be from the DVD packaging.

So, it has sat on my DVD shelf for the last two decades. Hell, as I’m writing this, I can see the film haunting me, probably wondering why it has sat by idly for 20 years and not been given a second chance. The DVD hasn’t been given a second chance, but the film has, and upon second viewing I enjoyed the film a bit more than the first time I checked it out. As Joe Bob said during this episode of The Last Drive-In, this film wouldn’t make anyone’s top ten list, but Dead & Buried isn’t an awful film.George's bandaged face looking to the camera

Upon rewatch, I enjoyed the moody setting, Jack Albertson’s performance, and the ideas the film presented. Dead & Buried is the type of film I don’t think I wanted to see two decades ago. I may not always agree with what Joe Bob says, but his assessment on Dead & Buried hits the bullseye. It’s a minor film in the pantheons of horror, but I am glad Joe Bob ended the night with a movie as slight as this one. You don’t always need the wall-to-wall craziness that Mandy has to offer. Ending the night slowly and reliably with Dead & Buried is what The Last Drive-In is all about. It’s not always about the recent, flashy movie, but also features the slower and forgotten films of yesteryear. It’s an indication of Joe Bob’s reliability that you can find him digging deep in the annals of horror, finding a film that isn’t sexy, and wanting to spend a few hours discussing a movie that most have written off. That love and patience with films like these are the reasons why Joe Bob and everyone associated with The Last Drive-In make Friday nights worth tuning into Shudder.

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Written by Robert Chipman

Robert Chipman has had a love of all things horror for as long as he can remember. His favorite horror franchise is the Nightmare on Elm Street series and his favorite horror director is John Carpenter. He thinks the Maniac Cop series is supremely underrated, Demon Knight and In the Mouth of Madness are slept on and loves what Don Mancini has accomplished with the Child's Play franchise.

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