I’ve been around this planet long enough to have heard the term “peak, physical condition” more than once. I’ve read from multiple articles that a man “peaks” in his late 20s. As I sit here and write this article, now on the back nine of my life, I’m not sure if I ever had a “peak, physical condition.” Mainly, this is because I like brownies and cheeseburgers. In the past few years, I’ve changed my diet, enjoyed a good salad, and hit the gym multiple times a week—yet, I’ve probably never hit a “peak” in my physical performance. Is that a bad thing, though? Sure, a poor diet has the potential to shorten my life, but I’ve been happy. What am I getting at, you may ask? With this week’s episode of The Last Drive-In, Joe Bob Briggs gave us the horror equivalent of a perfectly-cooked hot dog chased with a healthy, scrumptious salad.
The food analogies are not just coming from me. Upon the opening moments of this week’s episode of The Last Drive-In, Joe Bob taught Darcy the Mail Girl the history of everyone’s favorite franken-food, hot dogs! Breaking down the snack’s humble beginnings in Europe to the mass of meat and slime that Americans call hot dogs, Joe Bob set the night up beautifully. As Darcy does not chow down on hot dogs, Joe Bob relished (I learned that from Joe Bob this week) getting into the nitty-gritty of the many parts that make up these American meat tubes. Equal parts disgusting, entertaining, and simplistic, one wonders how you transition from hot dogs to the first film of this week’s double-feature. Easy! As Joe Bob coined this episode, it’s junk food night! And what could be more junk-infused than the 1987 slasher Slaughterhouse?
This episode is something I would like to classify as a “cheat day.” Most people work out or try to eat better, work towards changing their life for the better. While you do the best you can, none of us are perfect. A “cheat day” is used to treat yourself to a snack occasionally, so the daily grind of healthier living is more manageable. Check back next week if you’re looking for healthy, high-brow art to kick off the show.
Weeks like this are different than, say, VHS Night, which was a concoction that I hope to never endure again. Instead, Joe Bob chose a simple, easily-digestible film to kick off this week’s festivities. I had heard of Slaughterhouse in the past but never had the drive to seek it out. I’ve shrugged at the thought of setting aside 90 or so minutes to plop down and give it a look. After watching this 1987, uh, classic(?), I shrugged—then my attention immediately went to awaiting Joe Bob’s second film of the night.
Setting the stage with a fifteen-minute speech dedicated to the history of one of the world’s foremost junk foods was the perfect appetizer for Slaughterhouse. As Joe Bob alternated with rattling off factoids about the intricacies of hot dogs and the simplistic joys found amongst Slaughterhouse, the table was set for a week that goes down smooth if you can stomach what was on the menu. As Slaughterhouse began, Joe Bob listed off how predictable and by the numbers the film was—comfort food, one might suggest.
Does that make for a rough time? Certainly not!
Describing Slaughterhouse, the film’s setting and the predictable stylings of the picture fall squarely into the category “Junk Food Night.” You know the type of film you’re getting. There are no surprises. The enjoyment factor lasts through the runtime, and you’ve forgotten about it five minutes later. If that doesn’t sum up junk food, I don’t know what does.
Understanding how bad junk food makes one feel, Joe Bob offered a palette cleanser with the second film of this week’s double-feature, Dario Argento’s Tenebre. Hogging out on hot dogs all night will end badly for everyone, so Joe Bob sent everyone home with a fine dessert to savor, even if the version shown was the English dub and not the original Italian audio track with English subtitles. Not the end of the world—just an aside I feel should be brought up.
What can I say about Tenebre that hasn’t been discussed elsewhere by better writers? Tenebre is not my favorite film from Dario Argento’s filmography, but there’s a reason why this film is in the upper echelons of Giallo cinema. Beautifully shot and directed, Tenebre showcases the director crafting wonderful set pieces and gorgeous costumes as only Dario Argento can. Depending on who you ask, Tenebre is the last gasp of the director at the top of his craft. While I may not love Tenebre as much as Joe Bob does, I find much to admire. There is something about watching a master craftsman such as Dario Argento using all the tools he has accumulated over the years and putting them to work to assemble such pristine work as seen on screen in Tenebre.
Going from a grungy, low-budget slaughterhouse-set slasher to the peak of Giallo is a wild swing, but somehow, Joe Bob and Darcy pulled it off. As I mentioned above, if Slaughterhouse was a hot dog, then Tenebre was a healthy, scrumptious salad. Pairing up two films of wildly different quality for the same episode of The Last Drive-In may not seem logical, but sometimes opposites attract to create a delectable one-two punch. Slaughterhouse strikes me as the cheat day, while Tenebre works to get me back on the healthy track.
The latest episode of The Last Drive-In was another swell time that only Joe Bob could pull off. No one else could pull off such a feat on “Junk Food Night,” and thus, one of the many reasons I will always tune in for Shudder‘s The Last Drive-In. Will there be more ventures like this latest episode? We can hope. One thing’s for sure: I’m hungry.