Shudder’s The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs is a very popular series, and in between seasons, you can feel the excitement in the air when a new special is on its way. Don’t believe me? Check out the Twitter feed in the week leading up to a special.
The Last Drive-In features films of all types (some are not even technically considered horror), and I can honestly say I have watched movies that I would never have even considered viewing if they weren’t hosted by Joe Bob, Darcy and the gang. What’s more, I even enjoyed them, and have come to appreciate campy horror offerings much more than I did before.
Sprinkled among deadly serious classics such Black Christmas, The Changeling and Audition are some high camp offerings, and that’s what we are here to talk about today, in no particular order. I checked Shudder to be sure which films were still up on the platform, and had to unfortunately rule out a couple of my personal favorites. Tammy and the T-Rex and Jack Frost are no longer available on Shudder, so while I do recommend them, they just won’t be the same without Joe Bob’s entertaining commentary.
Of course, you can always pull up the “Just Joe Bob” section of Shudder and hear his remarks without watching the films, so there is that at least.
For my first suggestion, I am going to start with last month’s Heartbreak Trailer Park Valentine’s Special. The featured films were Black Roses and Frankenhooker, neither of which I had seen (I had never even heard of Black Roses). For great, over-the-top high camp, you can’t go wrong with either of these flicks.
Black Roses is about a heavy metal band led by a demon named Damian (of course). When the band comes to Mill Basin, planning to perform three concerts, a hip teacher named Matthew (who sports the finest of porn-staches) starts to suspect that something evil is afoot.
After most of the town’s teens violently murder their parents, they go to Black Roses’ final concert, where Matthew must defeat Damian and save his students.
The special effects for this 1988 gem are everything you could hope for in a campy horror flick, with plenty of gooey goodness and stereotypical demon makeup. But what makes The Last Drive-In’s Heartbreak trailer Park special so sweet are the special guests. For Black Roses, we were treated to The Boulet Brothers, of Dragula fame.
Dracmorda and Swanthula were the perfect guests. They were elegant, funny and honest, and they had great rapport with Joe Bob Briggs himself. I am a big Dragula fan anyway, but their appearance just made me love them even more.
The Last Drive-In hit a high note with this year’s Heartbreak Trailer Park special.
Our next fun movie is Frankenhooker. And before I dig into this one, I have to first give mad props to the cosplay Darcy the Mail Girl brought us. She not only had a great Frankenhooker costume, she had the moves, phrases and facial twitches down pat! Darcy always contributes fun, inventive cosplay to The Last Drive-In (her costume for Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II was fan-freaking-tastic), but this one was above and beyond.
Frankenhooker gives us James Lorinz as Jeffrey Franken, an eccentric young man who knows a lot about bioelectricity and anatomy. When his fiancee’ Elizabeth is killed in a gruesome lawn mower mishap, he is so grief stricken that he collects her severed head and decides to build her a new body.
In order to collect the body parts he needs, Jeffrey “accidently” kills a bunch of sex workers, thereby upsetting their pimp, a brutish bodybuilder named Zorro. The real fun begins after Elizabeth is reanimated, with Patty Mullen giving a really great performance as the title character. I just loved her character, and couldn’t stop laughing at her mouth twitches and catch-phrases: “Wanna date?” “Got any money?”
I also have to give Lorinz high marks, since he spends most of the movie chattering away with no one else present. That had to be a really demanding role! He joined writer/director Frank Henenlotter as special guests for the second half of Heartbreak Trailer Park, and their conversations were nothing less than entertaining.
Back-tracking to season 2 of The Last Drive-In, my favorite campy offerings included Troma’s War (my first Troma film) and Shudder Original Scare Package. Troma’s War is more of an action parody than it is horror, but it included enough blood and guts that it felt right to include it.
The surviving passengers of a plane crash are trapped on an island, which turns out to be populated with terrorists, and must arm themselves with anything possible in order to stay alive. There’s plenty of action and violence in this one. In fact, Troma’s War was originally deemed too violent for an R rating, and underwent major cuts in the material before finally receiving a limited release in 1988.
Lloyd Kaufman himself (the co-founder of Troma) appeared as a guest on this episode of The Last Drive-In, and his comments proved once again that Joe Bob knows how to pick the right guests for the show.
Scare Package feels like a campy 80s horror film, making it a great fit for Joe Bob and Darcy to present. It’s an anthology of horror shorts, most of them funny, gory and highly original. Practical effects are heavily utilized, and I really enjoyed myself during Scare Package. Best of all, Joe Bob Briggs is featured in a small but important role, playing himself!
The last pick for my favorite campy movies featured on The Last Drive-In takes us back to season one’s Deathgasm, another one I had never heard of, and probably would not have watched without the accompaniment of Joe Bob and Darcy.
The 2015 film is another that feels exactly like an 80s flick, and Deathgasm, much like Black Roses, uses heavy metal as a plot device. A group of high school outcasts form DEATHGASM, a metal band. They end up connecting with Rikki Daggers, a metal musician, and he passes them a record album that contains sheet music. This is no ordinary sheet music, though, it’s the Black Hymn, and it possesses the power to summon evil demons.
Deathgasm, like all the best horror camp, is both gory and amusing, and the storyline is just plain fun. I was surprised to find that it is still available to stream on Shudder, so I suggest jumping on it (and the other films featured in this article) right away.
Fans are looking forward to (hopefully) another special before season four of The Last Drive-In premiers, probably sometime in April or May. Shudder hasn’t yet announced the debut date, but 1428 Elm will let you know when we find out!
What are your favorite campy films from The Last Drive-In? Tell us all about them in the comments section.