For many in the horror community and those who consider themselves part of the Mutant Family, Joe Bob Briggs has been a shining beacon of fun and entertainment throughout our lives. Whether we first came upon him through his column with the Dallas Time Herald, his time on The Movie Channel’s Drive-In Theater, his tenure at TNT with MonsterVision, or his current stint on Shudder with The Last Drive-In (S4E9), Joe Bob has always been there.
I can’t speak for other people, but most of the time that I have sat and watched him host horror films came about during happy times in my life. I was a teenager during the MonsterVision era, so many of life’s problems had yet to hit me. Fast forward a few years, and I’ve got some extra mileage and more responsibilities on my plate. Life is no longer open and as accessible. Real-world problems now affect me in ways they hadn’t when I was younger. I get it. It comes with the territory of being an adult. No biggie.
As an adult, that shining optimism of hope gets pushed to the corner, like Baby in Dirty Dancing, in place of the grim reality we currently occupy. Each day, there’s an overwhelming sense of dread I feel, as if the world resides within a cloud of melancholic sadness with an overarching touch of trepidation. Maybe it’s because of my age, but finding something to look upon for optimism and hope gets harder to locate. And maybe I sound like an old man yelling at the clouds, but between 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the failed War on Terror, Republicans stealing President Barack Obama’s supreme court pick, the Donald Trump presidency, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the nefarious plot concocted by Republicans to stack the United States Supreme Court with conservative justices—resulting in this week’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade—there hasn’t been much reason to celebrate about for the US. In fact, this is the scariest time I have ever experienced. Granted, I’m about halfway through my life, but what I’m saying is I’ve seen enough sh*t to know that the United States of America is in terrible shape.
The last time I wrote a piece about Joe Bob comforting during the dark times, it was about the COVID-19 pandemic. That was and continues to be a dark period for many. I still wear a mask when out in the community as there are people I don’t want to put in danger. I’m double-vaccinated and boosted. It’s my choice. I wish others would follow suit, but at the same time, I don’t feel I should push that choice onto others. Who am I to say what you should or shouldn’t do with your body? It’s your choice. And this leads me into one of the darkest days for the United States of America.
Friday, June 24, 2022—the day I began writing this article. It was a day like any other. I was up around 5:45 am PST and clocked in for work, unaware of the horrors that were just over the horizon. After about an hour of work, I checked my phone as I usually do, seeking out movie news, weather, and the usual jazz. Upon opening Facebook, a contact of mine posted a worrisome post—almost immediately upon reading, a wave of discomfort set in. He didn’t outright say what he was mad about, yet he mentioned all the people decrying “but her e-mails!” and what they “can kiss.” I assume you know how that sentence might end. From this, I knew something terrible was happening.
I hopped over to my news sites, and there was the headline, as bold and in your face as the situation: “Roe vs. Wade Overturned.” My heart sank. I felt awash in anger and sadness. Since the leaked Supreme Court draft in early May, most people, myself included, knew this was coming. Yet, when the news hit, it was like a punch to the gut. You can prepare all you want for something like this, but when the actual blow lands, it hits hard.
I’m not one to talk about myself that much. I’m not much of an interesting person, and most things about me aren’t worth more than a few sentences. As a straight, white male, I’m probably the last person that has any right to be disappointed or talk about the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade. Yet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Watching what the United States has become over the last few years is soul-crushing. The political power play at hand to stack the Supreme Court with a conservative mindset that allows six justices to say what a woman can do with her body is maddening. No one should have a say over what you can and can’t do to your body. It’s yours and whatever you choose is YOUR decision, period.
But that’s not the world the United States lives in anymore.
As the day wore on, I felt myself wearing down. I was lacking focus at my work—zoning out was the order of the day. Even during some of my worst days, I can find distractions to keep my mind centralized elsewhere. That wasn’t today.
At some point in the afternoon, I checked my social media accounts and saw many of the Mutant Family tweeting on various topics. I tweeted out to the Mutant Family, Joe Bob, and Darcy, exclaiming that we really need The Last Drive-In tonight. Almost immediately, Darcy retweeted my sentiments through her social media. And while I wouldn’t say it blew up, it helped quell the feeling of dread that had been with me all morning and offered a glimmer of love and positivity on the horizon.
My work day ended, and that feeling of awfulness still haunted me. I took my dog for a walk and decided to mow the lawn—trying to get my headspace somewhere other than the dwellings it had resided most of Friday. The distractions did little as I still felt in a fog of hopelessness. I came back into my house, I’d say around 5:15 pm PST, and popped open my laptop and logged into Shudder.
For those unfamiliar, the hour leading up to The Last Drive-In is a countdown show on their Live TV tab. It’s filled with pans across the set, incidental music, and nature sound effects. Honestly, this is one of my favorite, continuous aspects of The Last Drive-In. So, I accessed the show, put my ears buds in, and just listened to the countdown show, trying to put my mind at some ease. Was it successful? It didn’t hurt.
Finally, the countdown clock hit zero. It was 6:00 pm PST, and Joe Bob rolled up in his Iroc-Z with an opening monologue about social media. I found it humorous as well as timely. A small smirk flitted across my face as the opening song kicked in, and The Last Drive-In was live! I’m not sure if my mind was yet distracted, but the following five-and-a-half hours would do their damndest.
Ahead of the show, Joe Bob and Darcy announced that this week’s episodes would feature special guests during each film. Joe Bob welcomed Charles Band to co-host the first film of this week’s double feature, his horror comedy Head of the Family. Sometimes, you just need a movie from Full Moon Entertainment chock full of quirks, humor, and sex. Lots of sex. Today was one of those days, and Joe Bob delivered the perfect film at the right time.
I don’t think you’ll find anyone who calls the output from Full Moon high art, but it’s entertaining art, and sometimes that’s even better. As Head of the Family had passed me by, watching this for the first time put my thoughts into a different mindset. Not to say the dreadful feelings of earlier still weren’t there, but Joe Bob, Charles Band, and Head of the Family pushed those to the side in favor of having a good time. Alternating between the absurdity of the film with Joe Bob and Charles Band discussing the history of Band, his companies Empire and Full Moon Entertainment, plus other aspects of film production hit me in all the best ways. I’ve always been a sucker for stories of behind-the-scenes tales and nuggets of film history, and Joe Bob works well to engage Charles Band and extract as much information and stories from the man as possible.
While Head of the Family leaned in heavy with the humor, the second film of this week’s double-feature swung in the opposite direction. A grim and gritty New York City vampire tale, director/writer and star Larry Fessenden‘s 1997 film is the anthesis of Full Moon as he loads his film with drinking, dourness, and sex. Lots of sex. We’ll come back to the horniness of this week’s episode in a minute.
Joe Bob welcomed Fessenden to The Last Drive-In set, and their interview played differently than the one with Charles Band. Fessenden’s chat with Joe Bob discussed the themes of Habit while also diving into the man himself. Even if the film plays down-and-dirty, Fessenden came off as down-to-earth when talking with Joe Bob about his life in New York City and whether Habit and the main character came off as autobiographical. It was a welcome sight to see these two men having a jovial time while the film plays darker than the conversations about it.
I mentioned that this week’s episode had the horniness level kicked up a notch, and I’m not lying. There were boobs, “bewtocks,” and full frontal all over the place! There was something to see for those who are into guys and plenty for those who are into ladies over the five-and-a-half-hour runtime. Prudes need not apply, but it was welcome to see films as free as Head of the Family and Habit while the real world moves closer to The Scarlet Letter. Let the flesh fly, I say! We’re here to have a good time. And if we can have as captivating a time as the characters in this week’s double feature of The Last Drive-In, who knows, maybe the world might be a better place.
While I don’t mean to get political on a piece about The Last Drive-In (S4 E9), I feel it was essential. The world can be a dark and depressing place for many of us. Even when things appear to be at their worst, there are flickers of light to help guide each and every person. It could be hanging with your friends or family, spinning your favorite record, or the latest film from Full Moon Entertainment. Spending time with Joe Bob, Darcy, and the Mutant Family watching The Last Drive-In allowed me some time to decompress and enjoy the moment. And while the United States’ existential crisis continued, for five-and-a-half hours, I was able to set my mind at ease. Like always, Joe Bob Briggs was there.