Monday, July 18, 2011

Stranded At the Drive-In HorrorShow

Ahh, the horror anthology, a sadly under-utilized subgenre that irrationally went the way of the leg warmer (and tragically enough, drive-in) when the 1990s rained its plague upon us. Browse through your Mill Creek packs and you’ll find, amongst the adorably inept Guy From Harlems and less adorably but more inept Sunbursts a handful or anthologies that easily clean your palette. On a personal note, it’s rare that a multi-story horror film leaves me totally cold because with anywhere from three to five shots, a few simply have to hit the right spot.
2010's The Drive-In HorrorShow is a cheerful throwback those days of horror yore, primarily the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Directed and co-written by Michael Neel (a horror convention pal I’ve had the honor of sharing bacon bread with), it features five stories that cover such genre tropes as rape revenge, body melting, urban legends and the tried and true slasher. The segments are framed in a post-apocalyptic future drive-in where the host, Zombie Frank, tries his bet to please ghoulishly unhappy patrons.
The first story, Pig, opens upon a frat boy glued tightly inside a bathtub as his date rape victim lords over his frozen body with a running faucet and hammer. It’s a typical morality tale aided by decent performances and some painfully gooey gore, but (MILD SPOILER ALERT) it also has a strangely straightforward storyline. On one hand, it’s oddly (and ironically) refreshing to NOT have to expect the unexpected standard short story twist so widely used in anthology pieces, but at the same time, the structure somewhat deprives its characters of any real arc.

Next comes The Closet, the first of two child-centered tales. The segment follows young Jamie, the black sheep of his crass family. While Jamie dreams of attending space camp and cleaning the kitchen, his parents moon over his overachieving tennis star sister. Everything changes when a good old fashioned monster-in-the-closet offers a hand (or more appropriately, mouth) to Jamie’s plight, slowly tearing through the household to free space and power to our young hero. It’s a fun segment with a great sense of humor (note that the first thing the newly liberated Jamie does is scrub the dining room table) that manages to be a playful exercise in cheeky black comedy. 

In Fall Apart, we meet the sympathetic Dr. Paul Mazursky, a general practitioner who despises the current state of the healthcare profession for its bureaucratic limitations. When he makes a housecall to a mysteriously ill couple, he catches their unpleasant, skin-peeling disease and finds himself suffering a far worse fate. Like Pig, Fall Apart puts some incredibly gory makeup effects on display, aided here by Larry Jay Tish’s likable performance as a man always trying to do the right thing. The segment drags a little during the middle, but ultimately offers a darker and more serious anchor to nicely balance some of the lighter segments.

Speaking of, the fourth story, The Meat Man, is easily the funniest of the bunch. Two little boys trade urban (or rather, suburban) legends of the titular carnivorous villain only to grow suspicious that their own father might be the man in question. Much like The Closet, The Meat Man benefits greatly from how it portrays its young stars, energetically getting their humor and translating it into something funny, familiar, and lively throughout its short running time.

The final story, The Watcher, takes some inspiration from Creepshow 2’s The Raft crossed with just about any backwoods-set slasher. Survivor champions Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca star along with two other decent-looking folks camping in the wrong part of the forest. Once the monstrous woods killer emerges, the story moves well with intense human-hunting action. It's a strong note to end on, although my personal tastes would have preferred something with the more unique quirk of the previous three tales.

High Points
Boy that budget goes far! Some of the special effects on display are painfully icky and by painful, I mean they make you think twice about ever touching anybody with the sniffles or slipping rufies to a coed

Low Points
As is the nature of all anthologies, the balance in stories isn't quite perfect, since the best meat seems reserved for the middle segments

Lessons Learned
Water damage is expensive and plumbers aren’t cheap
There’s way too much paperwork in modern medicine
Frat houses tend to keep a ready inventory of industrial strength waterproof glue on hand, perhaps to ensure football trophies can always be safely put back together in case of accidents

In today’s anti-NASA culture, space camp has a dirtier reputation than rock ‘n roll, skateboarding, Pog playing, or gang warfare ever got from your parents
The Drive-In HorrorShow is a neat little nostalgic package, one that should put a smile on horror fans raised to associate Leslie Nielsen with burying Sam Malone in sand just as much as Frank Drebin. The middle three segments offer a genuinely creative batch of laughs and ews, while the surrounding two are a little more traditional but give some impressive low budget gore. The film is now available at the official website,, as well as on store shelves in those places that kind of still exist, ACTUAL STORES!

And if you're a Bostonite, why not see the film on the big screen for all of SIX DOLLARS? A certain little podcast called Outside the Cinema is presenting a very special screening this coming Saturday (July 23rd) at the Hollywood Hits Theater in Danvers, MA. Tickets are sold at the door, but you can stay up to date with the Facebook event page here.


  1. What are your thoughts on the films of the Bronx Warriors 'trilogy'?

  2. Post-apocalyptic drive in!??!? I'M HOOKED ALREADY!!!
    And sorry to be an uncultured moron but what's bacon bread? (I just signed my own death warrant saying that didn't I!)

  3. I'm sold. Looks more than a cut above what usually passes for "indie" horror.

  4. Anonymous: Considering most of my memory of those films are heavily MST3K-influenced, my thoughts are that they are spectacular.

    Chris: Bacon bread, also known as the 8th wonder of the world, is what happens when a breakfast buffet puts slices of toast at the bottom of vats of bacon so as to absorb the grease. The result, when eaten (and I imagine the Surgeon General isn't actually recommending you do) is an explosion of bacon in one's mouth, a meaty oral orgasm that simply cannot be topped...even if it ends up being your last meal.

    Adam: Definitely is, especially since it has such a great indie spirit about it.

  5. Pausing in wonderment @ the phrase "Meaty oral orgasm."

  6. Vegetarians beware! Your chastity simply CANNOT last.

  7. Thats Right. Bacon is lurking near your mouth hole vegan. Just waiting to impregnate your onion abused taste buds!