All posts by Landon Evanson

“Got Some Mail For Ya”: An Interview with ‘The Last Drive-In’s’ Darcy the Mail Girl

Sometimes in life the stars align and magic happens. That was the case for Diana Prince, known to the Drive-In Mutant Family as Darcy the Mail Girl.

She was part of a contingent who regularly encouraged Joe Bob Briggs to make his triumphant return to television, and when Shudder decided to make it happen, Briggs remembered Prince, offering what can only be described as the gig of a lifetime for a horror fanatic.

From the first marathon last July through a pair of holiday specials and now weekly double-features, Drive-In fans everywhere have gotten to know the new Mail Girl, who has quickly found a special place in our collective heart, thanks largely to the fact that no one is a bigger Joe Bob fan that Darcy, herself. Whether the show is streaming live or not, Prince tirelessly tweets to promote The Last Drive-In and the man none of us can get enough of.

“The love that he gets makes me so happy. He still doesn’t get it, he’s just super humble. But he literally never understood how much he meant to us growing up,” Prince said, continuing, “You have no idea, man. You raised us.”

On Friday afternoon, Nightmare Nostalgia spent a few moments on the phone with Darcy to discuss her escape from Twitter jail, what the future holds for the show, a flick and guest combination she’d like to see happen that will blow your minds, and what being a part of the Joe Bob renaissance means to her.

Darcy 3NIGHTMARE NOSTALGIA: How does it feel to be out of Twitter jail? 

DARCY THE MAIL GIRL: [Laughs] It was actually really frustrating. I sent all these texts to anyone who would listen “They won’t let me tweet!” because I couldn’t tweet to anybody and all The Last Drive-In people panicked and were like “What are we gonna do?!” So Joe Bob was trying to figure out his password to let me tweet from his account, and he was like “I don’t know it. I don’t know how to do that [laughs].” It was actually really sweet how quickly they got it fixed, because so many people atted them and it got a real person’s attention and it made them look to see that I wasn’t a bot. So it was sweet and I hope that it doesn’t ever happen again [laughs].

NN: While we’re on the topic of Twitter, if you had to guess (and maybe you know), give us an estimate on the number of messages you receive from the mutants each day? And how much does that number balloon on air dates?

DMG: [Chuckles] Lord, I would have no idea how to guess that. I know the week before last Twitter sent me a message saying you’re getting a ridiculous amount of of messages, we need to compartmentalize or something, but I was like eh, just let ’em keep coming in [laughs]. It’s cool, I’m so happy everyone gets involved, but Lord I have no idea. Hundreds, hundreds, hundreds [chuckles].

NN: Sounds like you didn’t believe Joe Bob when he first offered you the gig, so that has got to be a good story. How did you land the role of Mail Girl?

DMG: I was one of several of his die hard fans who just really wanted him to come back and we kept encouraging him even though he insisted he was done, there was no place for him anymore. We were like that’s just bullshit, you have no idea how bad we need you and two of them, who are now the producer (Matt Manjourides) and director (Austin Jennings) said “If we can get somebody to do this will you just give it a shot?” and [Joe Bob] was like “Well, whatever.”

They took it to Shudder and Shudder was like “All right, we’ll do it” and Joe Bob said “Well, you believed in me forever, do you want to be my Mail Girl?” and I was like “Whaaa? [Laughs]” He said to me “You’d be doing me a huge favor if you would,” and I said “(Shocked sound) Okay, I’ll give it a shot” [laughs].” So, I guess that’s kind of how it worked out, just friends banding together and [Joe Bob] just being an amazing person saying “We’re all in this together. Let’s go.”

NN: For someone who’s a huge horror fan—and gets nervous on camera anyway—were you losin’ your s*** before the cameras rolled for the first time?

DMG: The first time was fucking ridiculous! I was a wreck. I actually didn’t leave on the plane the first time, I was like I’m going to mess up his show, and I know it’s going to be a pain in the ass to replace me last minute, but there’s no reason I should be doing this. I thought I was doing them a favor like “Sorry, I can’t make it.” They said “Get your fucking ass out here now [laughs].”

So I got another flight, went out and when it was time to actually go on camera I just couldn’t. They had Felissa Rose and I was like “You be the Mail Girl. You’d be amazing.” And she was just being so supportive and pushed my ass in front of the camera, but I was worried I’d have severe stage fright and not be able to speak, it was just a mess [laughs]. But once again Joe Bob was just very kind and understanding, like “You’ll get it. It’s going to be fine, don’t worry.”

And literally, I remember crying to him during the marathon “If this messes up it’s ’cause of me, because everyone’s going to love you and you’re doing everything great. The only thing people can hate is me, so I’m really sorry if you don’t get picked up because of me,” and he was like “That’s just nonsense.” His confidence made me feel a little bit better, but it was hard. It has gotten much easier, but the last few times it was really scary. You go out there and he’s just so Joe Bob-y, the set and everybody watching, and he nails everything like it’s nothing, and then I come out there like “Wha? Whaaa? [laughs] What am I supposed to say? Where’s the camera? I don’t know, can I go back to the Twitter now? [laughs]”

It’s been a challenge and interesting, but it helps me grow as a person and that’s one of the things that he’s great about, just encouraging people to believe in themselves and be more than you think you can.

NN: Your take on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) led to the Joe Bob reaction of all-time. It’s been since Thanksgiving, but that moment still has life doesn’t it?

DMG: Yeah, people have definitely not let me forget about that [Laughs]. I think some people were using that as why I shouldn’t be Mail Girl, like “She doesn’t even respect the first CHAIN SAW! You’re terrible! [laughs]” But I like different opinions and I know Joe Bob loves it, and that’s great, but I like the remake better. And a few people have signed up saying they feel the same so, alright [laughs].

Darcy 5

NN: Let’s talk cosplay. First, what’s been your favorite so far? And perhaps more importantly, when are you going to get the Drive-In Jedi into an outfit that isn’t jolly St. Nick?

DMG: [Laughs] I am trying so hard, trust me. He’s just a very stubborn little man. I’m grateful for the Santa Claus, if he hadn’t done that, it wasn’t even Christmas, come on! [laughs] But every time I say “How ’bout you wear this?” And he says “How ’bout I don’t? [chuckles] My favorite so far, I don’t know, I never feel complete because I have to travel and I don’t have all my stuff. I would love to do it in L.A. sometime where I could do really good effects makeup and stuff, so I could of feel like it’s half cosplay [laughs].

I really liked the pilgrim version of the condom salesman because I don’t know that people would have paid as much attention to Ted Raimi’s part if I hadn’t [chuckles], so it’s kind of cool to remind them that he’s there, and that’s a thing that happened. Although I forgot my machete with that. See, that’s the problem. I forget half my pieces before I go out on camera all the time [laughs].

NN: There have been so many, but for you, what’s been the moment of The Last Drive-In so far?

DMG: A bunch of [Joe Bob’s] speeches, I think this is the most ultimate thing that could ever happen and then something else happens [chuckles] and it’s like no, this. He’s had some really great speeches, but the one that sticks out the most, just because I didn’t know what was going to happen after, was when he was saying goodbye at the very end of [the original] The Last Drive-In where he was like “Thanks for having me back.” We worked so hard just to have this one moment of his just saying goodbye to people if nothing else happened, and then he was and it was like “Oh, no! [sad chuckle] Don’t say goodbye like that,” he walks away and left his hat and literally we were all crying. It was like, no [chuckles], we have to figure something else out for you, sir. That was probably the moment for me, and I’m so glad it wasn’t the end, but in the moment [chuckles].

NN: You’ve got to have a behind the scenes story.

DMG: There’s definitely a lot of behind the scenes craziness [laughs]. The first thing that pops into my head is Felissa Rose, the first day I met her she was so encouraging and she just has so much personality, she was trying to coach me up to be comfortable in front of the camera. We were having a blast, until I had to go on camera [laughs], but behind the scenes it was all jokes. “Oh, we’re going to be twins and blah, blah, blah,” and I was like “Oh, this is fun [chuckles].” So that was cute.

And then last week, everyone trying to blow up the blow-up doll really quick was very funny, have some good behind the scenes footage of that where we were like “We’ve gotta get the doll blown up! Hurry! [laughs]” And a lot of my costumes, it was like a group effort trying to put on my PHANTASM balls [chuckles], “I can’t get them to stay, man!’ We were trying glue and to staple them [chuckles]. Yeah, I cause drama, I think [chuckles].

NN: Yeah, the blow-up doll was fantastic. I didn’t see that coming and then you walked out with it and I was like “Oh, boy. Here we go!”

DMG: We film on a set where, I can’t remember his name, but some CNN guy or whatever, but it’s his place and sometimes they’re doing stuff at the same time and everybody from his camp was trying to come and be like [whispers] “That’s the room with the blow-up doll” and trying to see what was going on [laughs]. Like “Don’t mind us, this is work [laughs].”

NN: What movie are you really pushing for to be featured?

DMG: Oh, Lord. I have a whole frickin’ list of like please, please, please, but number one easy, is HALLOWEEN III (1982). It’s just sitting right there and it would be amazing, and I definitely want to debate [Joe Bob] because he’s so wrong in his hatred for it [laughs]. Plus, what is we had Tom Atkins on? That would be just fucking iconic. So I would love to share that, so easy, but he’s stubborn so we’ll see [chuckles].

But FRIDAY IV (1984) needs to happen. He did the whole marathon but [Briggs] had to leave that one out and he’s never done it before, and that’s one of my favorite movies ever. So, we have to figure out a way to do FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV.

NN: That’d be a hell of a double feature, a couple of huge franchise films like that, but I agree HALLOWEEN III is fantastic. And I hadn’t even thought about the idea of maybe Tom Atkins being a guest, that would be unbelievable. 

DMG: Right?! It would be amazing, and we can so do it. Ugh, get your shit together, Joe Bob [laughs].

Darcy 1

NN: Give us a HOGZILLA (2014) update.

DMG: [Laughs] HOGZILLA was never actually released. SYFY was talking to them about buying it, but they didn’t show enough of the hog so they bowed out and then they just said “Oh well, fuck in [chuckles].” There’s two people I know that have copies. One is the cinematographer or something but it’s on QuickTime or some weird thing, but our biggest lead so far is the director (Diane Jacques), who has it, and she’s just very difficult to keep in communication with.

She’s like “Oh yeah, we’ll figure it out,” so I think she wants to maybe release it if she can show it on The Last Drive-In if I can get everyone to agree to that. And if I can’t, I have to convince her to just “Let me have it, man! [chuckles]” We just have to show it somehow, but it’s kind of all in her hands, she’s like the sole HOGZILLA owner at this point. We’ll get it, though. I’ll get somethin’, man, even if I have to QuickTime it together [chuckles].”

NN: What can you tell us about VENGEANCE (2019), the FRIDAY THE 13TH fan film you’ve been working on?

DMG: It’s just a really amazing project from a bunch of really die hard FRIDAY THE 13TH fans that they’ve been trying to put together for a long time. I first shot a little bit for the trailer like a year ago, then they did a Kickstarter, and now it’s finally filming and coming together.

It’s different because they’re bringing in people who sincerely love it, all the kills are homages to other famous kills from the series, like the sleeping bag kill and mine is [short pause] an iconic one. I guess I shouldn’t say [laughs], but you’ll recognize it for sure. And it’s an actual sequel to PART VI (1986), the people involved loved that so much that they’re just continuing that story. (JASON LIVES director) Tom McLoughlin is a consultant I guess you could say, and then we have C.J. Graham and we have Steve Dash’s last appearance, Amy Steel’s coming in and it’s just like wow, what an amazing little thing to be a part of.

And everybody is giving up their fees to donate to a leukemia charity because one of our actresses (Chalet Brannan) was battling with that but she’s good now, so all the money that we don’t have to spend on production is going to that cause. We’ve got $15,000 raised so far, so it’s just a really neat little thing. They built this whole Camp Blood, very detailed set and it’s amazing to just be up there and shoot and walk around in Jason’s territory [laughs].

NN: Any new twists or expanded role in the works for you as we get more and more of The Last Drive-In?

DMG: [Laughs] [Joe Bob] is definitely trying, like with SOCIETY (1989), “Hey, you have knowledge in this. We’re gonna need you to come talk about it.” Like, “Okay [laughs].” He’s changing more and more as he gets to know me more. The first marathon was kind of like a written out character who was just being annoyed by Joe Bob and shit, and I was just like this is not at all what’s happening with me here.

So [Briggs] is like “Just be you,” so now I don’t have anything written, it’s just like “Darcy talks [chuckles]” and he brings me out. So that’s interesting and cool and he wants to do that more and more, and we’ll see how that goes [laughs]. ‘Cause I’m always like “I’m good, you’re nailing it. You can talk to yourself. [laughs].”

But some of the movies, I definitely love being able to represent. Like we have one for the finale, it’s one that I want to say, it’s one I’ve been pushing for forever and I can’t believe we get to do it, so I think he wants me to be out there because I just love it so much to talk about it, so yay! [chuckles] I’m excited for that one.

NN: And you can’t tell us what it is.

DMG: I can’t! But God I want to so baaad! But that last week, I will just shout it “You guys have to watch this! [chuckles]”

NN: First, we had the hilarious Mail Girl v. Male Girl showdown from the original marathon, and now Felissa Rose is the show’s go-to mangled dick expert. How much more can we expect to see or hear from the SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983) star?

DMG: As many dicks as we can bring out, we’ll bring her [chuckles]. Any way we can bring in Felissa it’s always gonna be a party [chuckles]. And I’m always pushing [Joe Bob] to pick movies that have dicks anyway for equality, so it’s like we need dicks, and we need to talk about dicks [chuckles].

NN: We’re about to embark on Week 3 of a nine-week run of double features, but many are wondering, are there any marathons lined up for later this year?

DMG: We are hoping to. I know that we all love the marathons, it’s not Shudder’s favorite [chuckles], but we love doing them. They’re actually renegotiating everything now and figuring that out so none of us know for sure what’s going to happen after [the nine-week double feature run], but I’m hoping and Joe Bob’s hoping that we can do holiday marathons. We have Friday the 13th coming up, I want to do a proper Christmas [laughs], and I hope we get to. It’s just the vibe of a marathon is so frantic, hectic, and it’s such a party atmosphere. The weekly shows, people know that they can watch it later in the week or whatever. It’s cool, it’s still fun, but the marathons are such a different little monster [chuckles].

NN: You don’t have a lot of down time, but have you had that moment where it hit you and you realize what you’re involved with?

DMG: The second I walked on set the first time, I did. I was like “Holy fucking hell, this is Joe Bob and he’s back and I’m part of this somehow. That’s fuckin’ weird! [chuckles]” I’m so happy for [Briggs] to be back, and any way I can support him and the people who put this on, I’m so happy to be able to.

Darcy 4

The Antithesis of Pennywise: An Interview with ‘Terrifier’s’ David Howard Thornton

It takes something truly special for a new character to take the horror world by storm, but Art the Clown is special personified. From stark makeup that demands your attention to the dichotomy of silly and sinister, writer / director Damien Leone’s creation has quickly become the latest obsession of the clown subgenre.

Though TERRIFIER (2016) wasn’t the first time we’d set eyes on Art, it was an experience that won’t soon be forgotten. David Howard Thornton has cemented himself as one of the most indelible villains in recent memory, and with TERRIFIER 2 looming, the eagerness of its star to get back into character is palpable.

“It kills me that I can’t tell people about some of the kill scenes that we have because they’re going to be so much fun to film.”

Nightmare Nostalgia caught up with the 40-year old actor for a telephone interview to discuss what makes Art so unique, filming that scene, the sequel’s challenge and hope to up the ante (keep the word Empire in mind), that Art (like the Joker) needs his Batman, and just where Thornton believes his prankster ranks among the pantheon of horror clowns.

David Howard Thornton

NIGHTMARE NOSTALGIA: Following the TERRIFIER short (2011) and ALL HALLOW’S EVE (2013), Damien Leone needed a replacement for Mike Giannelli, so tell us how you came to land the role of Art the Clown.

DAVID HOWARD THORNTON: I randomly came across a casting notice online, a website called Actor’s Access looking for a tall, skinny guy who had clowning or physical comedy experience for the “role of a lifetime.” (Laughs) I noticed it was Art the Clown and I had seen ALL HALLOW’S EVE a year or so before, so I was familiar with the character and already liked the character. I was like “Oh my God, I can totally play that role.” (Laughs) So I told my agents to contact them and get me an audition, I’m like “I can knock this one out of the park, guys. Please send me in.” And that’s what happened, so I went in there, knocked it out of the park, had probably one of the weirdest auditions I’ve ever had because they didn’t give me a script because Art doesn’t talk and I didn’t realize that I was not going to have a script. So I get in there and I was expecting to be there for me, and I’m like “There’s no script. Uhhh.” All these other people had scripts and I’m like “Oh nooo. (Laughs) I came unprepared. Oh shit.” (Laughs) I go in the room “I’m so sorry, but I don’t have a script” and they said “Oh, you don’t need one,” and I’m like “Oh?”

“Yeah, Art doesn’t talk. You don’t need a script,” I’m like “Sooo, what do you want me to do?” (Laughs) They said “Just come up with a scene where you stalk a guy and decapitate him.” I’m like “Okay, cool. I can do that. Can I have a few minutes to think it out?” and they said “No, just go ahead and do it off the top of your head, we want to see what you come up with.” So I just came up with this scene where I snuck up behind the guy very cartoonishly, knocked him out, then cut off his head, tasted the blood from the head, didn’t like the taste of the blood so I salted it. You gotta add seasoning, ya know? Enter Julia Child. Then I liked it and skipped out on my way and that’s what got me the part. I think they could see that I was just playing around and doing all this crazy stuff just right off the top of my head and they’re like “We want him.” So they asked me right there in the room “Can you come in for a makeup test?” and the rest is history.

NN: Art has really taken on a life of his own since TERRIFIER dropped. Have you been at all taken aback at the we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore reaction to your character?

DHT: It’s starting to slowly sink in. (Director) Damien (Leone) and I talk about that all the time because we’re at these conventions together, because if I do a photo op he comes and does my makeup and he’ll sign autographs, too. We get to experience a lot of this together and it’s pretty surreal still for us. I was down in Orlando and had a girl come up and she had a tattoo of me on her leg and she wanted me to sign the bottom of the tattoo so she could get my signature tattooed on her leg, too. I was like “Wowww!” (Laughs) It’s pretty surreal walking around and seeing the different vendors that have unofficial merchandise that they’ve made themselves that they’re selling. It’s bizarre for a little independent film that was only the first real big film in the franchise and it’s already exploded like that, we did not expect this at all.

It’s really weird because we don’t just get adults, but we get little kids who’ve seen the film and they love the film and we’re like “What?!” (Laughs) It dawned on me, I turned to Damien at one of these conventions after one of these kids left and I said “Damien? Dude, I think I’m going to be this generation’s Freddy Krueger.” And he’s like “Oh wow, you’re right.” When we were kids, that’s when Freddy and Jason and Mike Myers were big, and these kids don’t have that right now, and I’m like “Oh wow, maybe that’s what we’re going to be.” That was a weird thing, so basically how Freddy and Jason and all those guys were the new Wolf Man and Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster, that’s kind of what Art might be, a new generation of horror starting, I hope.

NN: As opposed to Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgard with Pennywise and Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding, your makeup conceals your face to the extent that it doesn’t look like you at all. Outside of conventions, can you walk around and go relatively unrecognized?

DHT: For the most part, but people are now starting to know what I actually look like, but I don’t mind, it’s kind of cool having a little bit of anonymity, but it’s often cool being recognized, too. I went to a preview of PET SEMATARY last week in New York and I’m out at the concession line and some people actually recognized me from TERRIFIER in the line and I was like “Holy crap!”

NN: Though Art the Clown is very expressive in a mime-like way, the character is completely bereft of dialogue as you talked about. As someone who’s done extensive voice work, how challenging was it to attack that role, and how much of Art’s personality came from you as opposed to the page?

DHT: It definitely was challenging, especially being a voice over guy because all the characters I’d ever played before, even on stage, I would use a totally different voice, I just never wanted to use the same voice twice if I could help it. That helps me become the character is the voice, I guess that’s my process is first discovering the voice and then everything builds itself off of that. With Art I was like “Oh, Jesus. (Laughs) This is more complex.” So I basically tapped into my extensive knowledge of great physical comedians and actors from cinema going all the way back to the silent film age of (Buster) Keaton, (Charlie) Chaplin, all the way through (Jim) Carrey and Doug Jones and my good friend Stefan Karl who was Robbie Rotten in LAZYTOWN.

I was his understudy for five years on the national tour of (Dr. Seuss’) How the Grinch Stole Christmas The Musical, and he kind of took me under his wing and helped me fine tune physical comedy abilities because he was a trained clown and all that kind of stuff, so he really helped mentor me. So, I put that into Art and for what was mine and what was on the page, I would say about 50 /50 because Damien, of course there was no dialogue written, so most of it was just descriptions of what was going on in the scene. So, there would be times when Damien knew exactly what he wanted me to do down to what angle I would cock my head at or what expression I had on my face, and other times he would just say “Go ahead and play.” Like the diner scene, he said “Just play around and see what you come up with.” It was really nice having that collaborative relationship with the director where we had a lot of give-and-take with each other, it was fun.

So writing the script for the sequel, now he knows what my style is like so we kind of collaborated together and came up with some fun ideas. There are a lot of moments in this new script where he’s like “Okay, I’ve given you some ideas, but this is a scene were I just want you to go crazy again and play, and play, and play, and see what you come up with.” And I’m just like “Awesome!”

Art DawnNN: Talk to us about that scene. Catherine Corcoran and the saw. For shock value, that may be the most intense kill of the flick. What were your initial thoughts when you read that scene, and then while filming it?

DHT: When I first read the scene I was like “Holy crap. (Laughs) I’m going to do this?! To wha? Wowww! Okayyy. Wow, what am I getting myself into here? This is dark.” I was expecting also your typical horror film where they kind of cut away from the violence, but nooo they don’t. (Laughs) Not at all, you see all of it happen. So, I was like “Geez, that’s brutal.”

When it came to the night of filming, that was probably the most serious night we had on set because that was such a dangerous stunt we were pulling, because that was very dangerous for Catherine hanging upside down like that, that’s not good for the body. We would only let her hang upside down for 30 seconds at a time, we had this apparatus that was built to swing her back up so she wouldn’t have to lay upside down for that long. Still she even got sick after all that, she had some inner ear problems for a little while.

Plus, it was 20 degrees in that room that night, too. It was cold. I was cold, so she was definitely cold covered in all that fake blood and hung upside down like that in a very uncomfortable position. Sometimes the blood would go in her eyes or in her nose and it was hard to breathe because her mouth was duct taped shut, but she never complained except like “Ow, it’s in my eye,” typical stuff that of course you’re going to complain about.

But she was totally gung-ho for the scene. She knew what scene was going to become, she knew. She was like “This is going to be the scene that everybody talks about.” I think she was excited to do it because of that, she said “This is going to be one of those scenes in movies that people are going to talk about for years to come.” She was just happy to be part of it.

NN: You touched on the set, and every picture has behind the scenes tales worth telling, so give us a hilarious or even poignant moment from your time filming TERRIFIER.

DHT: Oh yeah. The one I love to tell was this one night when we were filming the scene with Jenna (Kanell) and I with the gun, and she was on set filming one of her reaction shots or something like that, so I’m waiting in the waiting / makeup room. And it was in this very dangerous part of Trenton, New Jersey where we were filming, it’s late at night and I hear these two women have an argument on the street below me. I’m bored so I was like I might as well go watch what’s going on over here, and I forgot I had all my makeup on, I had blood all over me, so I’m just watching this argument happening about 10 feet below me (laughs), and one of the women looks up and sees me looking down at her from the window and I just did a little wave, totally forgetting how I look and was like “Hi!” (Laughs) They freak out and go running off screaming and about 10-15 minutes later our producer Phil (Falcone) and Damien and our Director of Photography (George Steuber) come in like “Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave. We’ve got some people out here who want to meet you, just don’t come out till we tell you to.” I was like “Okay, cool. I wonder who’s here to meet me? Cool, I’ve got fans!”

There was this roll-up garage door where we were filming and I’m on the other side of the door and I hear “Dave, come out!” So I roll up the door, go under and I look up and there were like 10-15 of New Jersey’s finest in full riot gear. I mean they’ve got the shields, the grenade launchers, all that kind of stuff and I’m like “Ohhh.” I just felt my ass tighten up (laughs) and my voice just squeaked out (high pitched) “‘Sup guys?” (Laughs) And there’s this pause and then they all just start laughing their heads off. I was like “Oh, my Goddd” And one of them said “Dude, be glad you didn’t come out here first because we would have shot you on sight.” And I was like “I. Believe. You. (Laughs) Oh, my God, I think you just took five years off of my life.” (Laughs) Because we didn’t have running water in the building so we had a porta potty out there, so if I had been out there taking a leak when they first arrived I would have been dead. (Laughs)

They were in really good humor about it, taking pictures with me and stuff, except there was this one cop who was deathly afraid of me, which I found funny because he has an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. I was like “Dude, you’ve got the gun!” And he said “You’re probably the nicest guy, but no, no I can’t get near you, man.” (Laughs) And I was like “I will let you do you.” Of course all of his buddies are just raggin’ on him “Oh, you can shake hands.” And I don’t know if they were joking or not, but they said “Hey, if you need any bodies we’ve got one down at the precinct right now you can use.” And we were like “Ohhh, no we’re fine. We’re fine.” We were like “Was he joking?” and I said “I don’t know!” (Laughs)

NN: So you’re sitting in a chair prepping for full Art makeup at Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, North Carolina this past February while Sid Haig was getting the Spaulding treatment just feet away. How surreal was that experience?

DHT: That was extremely surreal. Damien and I are just geeking out the entire time like “Yee yee yee!” (Laughs) And one random part of it was when Sergeant Slaughter just walks through the room to get to the back hallway to get to his table, and it was just like “And there goes Sergeant Slaughter.” Didn’t bat an eye. So you have two clowns getting made up and he just looks at us and nods his head and keeps walking (laughs). We were like “This is so bizarre what’s going on over here right now.” And then Bruce Campbell’s about to do his photo op in the next room and we actually had to vacate my photo op because we had something smoking in the light fixture for a second, so I was able to poke my head into his photo op and photo bomb him for a second, so that was kind of fun. I’m like “This is weird. This is my life right now. I’m photo bombing Bruce Campbell.” (Laughs) I didn’t just jump in front of the camera or anything like that, but I was just poking my head into the room, messing around with people. I didn’t want my first experience with Bruce Campbell to be me just being a total asshole and jumping into a photo and him being “What the hell are you doin’, man?” (Laughs)

Art smileNN: Every character and performance are different, but in terms of sheer terror, where would you rank Art the Clown among horror’s beloved jesters?

DHT: (Long exhale followed by a laugh) I think he’s probably at the very top if not right under Pennywise. And I’m talking about the Tim Curry version.

NN: Not as big a fan of the Skarsgard version?

DHT: No, I liked Skarsgard’s, too (laughs). Tim’s is the one everybody thinks of, the one everybody thinks of first, I think. That was my introduction to the character. And Art was kind of born off of Pennywise, the antithesis of Pennywise. Damien created him to be the total opposite of him–he’s bald, he’s silent, he’s black and white, not colorful at all.

NN: We know your hands are tied, but what can you tell us about TERRIFIER 2. And perhaps the better question, how can you up the ante?

DHT: That’s the real challenge there, upping the ante, especially with the hacksaw scene. We realized that and we’re like “We’ve got to write the sequel now. Oh God, how are we going to top that scene? (Laughs) Oh crap, did we set the bar too high?” We have some ideas that we hope will be on-par with that one, we don’t know if they’ll surpass it but I think some of these kills will be right up there with it.

As for the sequel, I like to say that TERRIFIER, the first one’s kind of the audience’s introduction to Art the Clown as well as the universe he inhabits, so everything happens in real time in that movie. No one knows what’s going on, they just know there’s this clown killing people. Now this one we get to explore more of what’s really going on with him. We’re not giving everything away, but you’re seeing a little more machinations behind the clown in this one, I would say, and we’re building the world around him more. We wanted to bring in a really good protagonist, so now we’re introducing this character into this one that we want to build more on top of.

I remember talking to Damien and saying “Art needs his Batman, the Joker needs his Batman. Someone who can actually go up against him.” So, we’ll see how that plays out, but it’s definitely going to be a bigger movie in scale, too.

NN: You probably can’t answer this but I’m going to ask it anyway, you talk about a protagonist–do you have someone who’s accepted that part or do you have someone that you’re looking at for that role?

DHT: Ohhh, we don’t have anybody that’s accepted it yet, but we have someone we’re thinking about at least for the role. We met this person at a recent convention and we were like “Oh, this person might work.” We’ll see how things are negotiated and stuff like that, but if we can get this person that might help us get more money (laughs). We’ll see. That’s what we’re doing right now, we’re looking for backers and stuff like that. I don’t know if we’re going to get big studio support or anything like that, we hope so, but at the same time there’s that fear that if a big studio took us on they would make us pull back on things that we want to do, and we don’t want to do that, I don’t think that would be fair to the audience to pull back from what we did in the first one. We want to keep going forward, we want to keep pushing boundaries, we don’t want to play it safe.

I think that’s the big problem with a lot of horror films right now, trying to play it safe instead of taking risks. They’re more worried about being PG-13 than rated R because they want to put more butts in seats. Especially with slashers, it’s kind of weakened the genre in that regard. I remember seeing HELLFEST (2018) recently and it had such promise because it’s a slasher film set in an amusement park that’s all horror oriented and that sets it up for some awesome kills, and they just kind of poo-pooed them, they didn’t really show anything. They showed a head being smashed in but that was about it, everything else just showed the stab and then cut away, it’s like “Ahhh!” Especially when you say that the villain disembowels people, then show it don’t tell. If you say that, I want to see Drew Barrymore hanging from a tree with her intestines hanging out, not just someone getting stabbed and you see a little blood go around the wound and you cut away immediately, like “Grrr!”

CochranNN: Sounds like a third is also in the works?

DHT: It’s in the very, very, very, very beginning stage (laughs), because we haven’t even started filming the second one yet. Damien this whole entire time has had in his mind at least a trilogy, especially the second one setting stuff up for what’s going to happen in third, so it’s a continuous thing. I guess he’s taking the George Lucas approach, he wanted to see if his NEW HOPE worked first and he’s like “Okay, we got NEW HOPE, so let’s do EMPIRE and JEDI now.” (Laughs) Hopefully TERRIFIER 2 is going to be the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (laughs) of horror. Who knows, that’s a high bar to set for ourselves. Oh God!

NN: It is, but we’re hopeful that’ll be the case.

DHT: That’d be a miracle. (Laughs) This script has got me so excited, the things that we’re going to be doing. It’s great because we’re adding more story to it this time, because that was one of the things that people had problems with, that there was very little story, it was basically just one big, huge cat-and-mouse game. Yeah, we did that on purpose, that’s how a lot of the original slashers were. Even look at the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies, they had very little story, it was just Jason killing a bunch of counselors. (Laughs)

Like I said, we do want to flesh out the universe more and build more character development type of scenarios and stuff like that for this next one. It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be fun, I can’t wait. (Laughs) It kills me that I can’t tell people about some of the kill scenes that we have because they’re going to be so much fun to film. (Laughs) That’s what I love about this character, he’s just fun. All his mischievousness that’s behind him, he loves what he does. He’s not like Jason where he just kills someone and he’s on to the next kill, Art revels in what he’s doing, he plays around with it all, he’s not just stab, okay moving on to the next, stab move on to the next one. That’s what I love about the character so much, he has fun.

NN: Whether it’s at a convention, a random encounter, fan mail or otherwise, what is the strangest request you’ve received from an Art the Clown fan?

DHT: Hmmm, I’m trying to think. I haven’t really gotten anything too strange yet. Yet. (Laughs) That’s the operative word, yet. (Laughs) It’s pretty much been pretty normal, “Hey, can you sign this” or “Hey, can you give a shout out” or do a birthday video, which I’m happy to do from time-to-time. I know even Mark Hamill can’t do all that stuff now (laughs), but I haven’t really gotten anything that’s too, too crazy yet. I’ve had some fans who have gotten a little obsessive but that goes with the territory. I’d say the craziest thing that’s happened so far was signing that girl’s leg and having my signature tattooed on it. That was a cool kind of crazy, like “Wow, someone really wants this on their body for the rest of their life, so okay wow, cool.” I’m sure given time there are going to be a lot crazier things. (Laughs)

NN: Finally, when Farsighted stated that “Art makes Pennywise look like Krusty” they spoke for horror fans everywhere. What does it mean to you that your character has become so exalted in such a short period of time? 

DHT: Oh, it means the world to me, I mean we didn’t expect that at all. We thought we had something cool, but like I said we were just this small, little, independent, low budget film that not many people knew about. I mean, we didn’t really get any real press coverage from mainstream media–we still haven’t–it’s basically from all the horror websites that have been saying stuff about us. Stuff like IGN, Vanity Fair, Hollywood Reporter, none of them have said bupkis about us.

Buzzfeed has helped spread the word, which is great, and I think that’s what amazes me so much, the following that has come around this film that wasn’t even released in theatres is just astronomical. I think Netflix really helped us a whole lot, but it’s because the fans just keep on talking about this film, and they tell their friends about this film and it just kind of snowballs from there. It’s been absolutely fantastic, we didn’t imagine any of this was going to happen, we just thought we had a fun little film that we liked. We did this because we enjoy slashers and we want to make the type of slasher we wanted to see. We were like, “You know what, yeah, we think we have something cool but we’re being realistic.”

One of our producers came in one night, it was his first time seeing me in makeup, and he just stopped “That’s really cool. That’s something that’s going to stand out to people. You guys don’t realize it but you’ve got something special on your hands here. This is going to go somewhere.”

NN: You talked about the playfulness with the character, reveling in the kills and all he does, and that’s true, but it was those moments when you would stare. The scowl and the look in your eyes, that counterbalance to the goofiness, but it’s absolutely terrifying with the makeup and the look on your face when you stare someone down. It really has an effect. 

DHT: That’s something I like about the character too, he shows his emotions. When he gets mad he gets mad and you can see it, when he’s disappointed with something you can see it. I love that the makeup gives me that ability to express as much as I want to. It’s not just somebody behind a mask and all you see is their eyes and no other expression on their face. I love having that ability to actually act. (Laughs)

You think about Robert Englund, he was able to actually act as Freddy, which I think is why Freddy stood out to so many people because you could kind of relate to the character in a way because you saw those emotions that he was going through. I think that’s why people relate to Art, like “Oh wow, there’s a human side to him.” He’s not just 100 percent kill, kill, kill / angry, angry, angry the whole entire time.

Thornton

It’s Time to Show Some Love to Darcy the Mail Girl

After Shudder raised the curtain on the first of The Last Drive-In, Friday night double-feature extravaganzas this past Friday, we are now twenty-three films deep into the return of Joe Bob. In other words, we mutants are invested in the Briggs renaissance, but for all the love we bestow upon the drive-in Jedi, it’s probably about time we offer some love to Darcy the Mail Girl.

This recognition is long overdue, but necessitated in a way because of a rather upsetting tweet that I noticed this morning. Granted, I’ve not seen any such tweets myself, but that someone else has noticed a few left me feeling compelled to address the matter.

Darcy (Diana Prince) handled the message that brought it to her attention with class, but let’s face it, it’s Twitter, so I’m sure she’s had more than her fair share of hate tweets and DMs since assuming the role of Mail Girl. However, as a lifelong Joe Bob disciple and avid fan of her role on The Last Drive-In, I wanted to review just a handful of ways that she kicks all the (as Joe Bob would say) heinie.

To begin, every job is more difficult that it appears. We have no real idea of the responsibilities Briggs and Shudder have bestowed upon Darcy, but rest assured, it’s far more than just sitting at a table next to the trailer and scrolling through social media and having the occasional conversation with Joe Bob.

That said, let’s stick with what we know.

Never has Briggs had a more knowledgeable Mail Girl. It’s been obvious from the beginning that Prince has a passion for and vast understanding of the genre we all know and love. While every Mail Girl has been tasked with tongue-in-cheek eye rolls toward our beloved horror host, I would venture to say that few if any have had the type of chemistry and rapport with him than we’ve seen from Darcy through the initial Friday the 13th marathon, or subsequent holiday all-nighters, nor the first double-feature.

We’re not allowed to forget Darcy’s delightful composure whilst conducting her “Stump Joe Bob” segments from last July. Even when Briggs wondered aloud if it would be impossible to answer one of her queries correctly, she shot back “Not if you know your horror,” which left Joe Bob looking to the crew and offering a dismayed “When did we start hiring intellectual Mail Girls?” And it’s impossible to forget how Darcy befuddled the host of hosts and mutants everywhere (to say nothing of the incredible GIF it created) when she admitted that she preferred the CHAIN SAW remake to the original on Thanksgiving.

Mail Girl v. Male GirlAs per usual, Prince chuckled but held her ground, all the more impressive because she’s made it quite clear that appearing on camera is still something that rattles her nerves because such endeavors rest outside of her comfort zone.

Her banter with Briggs is never lacking for humor or enthusiasm, and it’s clear that she is thrilled and honored to have been chosen for the gig by Joe Bob himself. And oh-by-the-way, that’s a little nugget of truth that should never be overlooked.

Never mind the fact that Prince tirelessly promotes the show on social media and at horror events throughout California (and the country), as well as while the shows are streaming. How many mutants have actually stayed up for the duration of each marathon? Because Darcy has. She tweets all night long, but more than that, she interacts with the fans. Not only does she retweet observations and funny takes from the fans, she responds to as many messages as she can. And if we take a moment to truly consider what that means, it deserves our respect because we’re talking thousands of messages coming in, not only every minute the show is streaming, but the next day. And the day after that. Three days later. It never stops. She doesn’t complain, she doesn’t say she needs a break, she just keeps on. Happily, enthusiastically, with a smile on her face. Every day.

And we haven’t even touched on her cosplay, which Joe Bob has mentioned loving numerous times. Prince is playing a character, yes, but the cosplay just adds an element to the part that makes The Last Drive-In that much richer. Which character will she choose? What spin will she come up with to represent a film or character? Again, take a moment to consider the amount of time that level or preparation and creativity requires.

Then remember the way you smiled at the Fouke Monstress and the Ted Raimi condom vest, or her hilarious “got some mail for ya” interaction that gave us Mail Girl v. Male Girl from SLEEPAWAY CAMP, which if we’re honest about it, is one of the moments of the show thus far.

Darcy

And for The Last Drive-In’s recurring communal theme, it was Darcy who shared a bunch of @thestichkeeper’s crocheted figures lovingly constructed from flicks featured on the program, or offering a Michael Berryman figure to auction off to help raise money for Florida’s Seacrest Wolf Preserve, a place near and dear to Berryman’s heart, which had suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Michael.

For as invested as we are in Joe Bob and The Last Drive-In, so to is Prince. As she mentioned in her Twitter response, she’s just a fellow mutant who has been blessed to be a part of the magic, and her heart is in it, every second of every day. And that deserves our respect, because for as much fun as it is, it’s also far more work than any of us realize.

Darcy’s knowledge and banter, unrivaled cosplay and inclusiveness, and devotion to Briggs, the show, and the fans are a far bigger part of this than we often give credit for.

So if you notice a negative remark directed toward her on social media, don’t get into an argument because that’s silly and not worth your time, but do offer this simple response and leave it at that: The Last Drive-In is better because of Diana Prince. She is our Mail Girl, and we are damn lucky to have her.

Darcy support

Kim Greist: MANHUNTER’s Burning Source of Light

“What are you dreaming?”

Audiences spend the entirety of MANHUNTER (1986) in the wake of a dream world conjured from the imagination of a man who housed a genuine taste for killing, with only the briefest of glimpses at what danced before the closed eyes of his purposeful pursuer sprinkled throughout. Make no mistake, however, the dream world of Will Graham was every bit as integral to Thomas Harris’ story as the Tooth Fairy’s.

Francis Dollarhyde (played to steely perfection by Tom Noonan) envisioned the Leeds and Jacobis, Reba McLane (Joan Allen), and a third family who would never know they were spared; but for the fascinatingly intense Graham (William Petersen), it was a beautiful blonde sipping a Dos Equis on a boat deck in Florida.

Both needed their dreams to survive—to exist—but despite our long enchantment with the Harris universe and the exploits of MANHUNTER’s characters, the time has come to celebrate the incredible performance of Kim Greist, who was far more than just a beautiful blonde whose sole purpose was as muse for her husband.

Director Michael Mann has a history of devoting far more time, attention, and development to the men of his pictures, and MANHUNTER was no exception, but on its surface, it would appear that Molly Graham was nothing more than someone for Will to live for. While that’s true to an extent, one must delve deeper into the quiet strength Greist injected into the character despite limited screen time.

Though our first cinematic exposure to Will Graham didn’t find him manipulated by Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), the man was driven by empathy, his conscience unable to erase the images of the Leeds and Jacobis, factors that allowed Graham to—as Dr. Sidney Bloom (Paul Perri) would say—“do a good job of getting [himself] all bent out of shape.”

Enter Molly.

Greist dreamTo say she was Graham’s moral compass would be an over-exaggeration because Graham held clear perspective on right and wrong, but he respected his wife’s enough to discuss helping Crawford on the case. Molly called Graham’s bluff—a recurring theme—pointing out that he had already made up his mind and wasn’t asking. When he posed it as a question, though, Molly responded that he should stay with his wife and son, but quickly noted that such a sentiment was selfish, and she knew it. However, Molly did offer that “we have it more than good,” planting the suggestion that there was not only more to life than hunting killers, but that once more immersing himself in that world could pull him away from all that mattered, his family.

Though Graham held tight to that family, his empathy had a tendency to plunge him into a sensibility where Molly and Kevin (David Seaman) fell into the landscape of his consciousness, so driven that he would lose sight of what it would mean should he never return home.

The beauty of Greist’s performance, the glowing intensity of her quiet strength, was that she never passed on an opportunity to jolt Graham out of his dream-state and back to reality.

Though Graham flirtatiously joked that hotel rooms “elicit romance” and “we have to stop meeting like this,” in MANHUNTER such locations also dripped of symbolism. An unfamiliar place one inhabits for a short while, just as Will found himself entrenched in the world of Francis Dollaryde, and to an extent, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox) throughout the bulk of the film.

The first time we see Graham in a temporary home, he’d grown weary of watching home videos of the families slaughtered by Dollarhyde and moved to the phone to make a late-night call to Molly. Despite the fact that his wife was groggy (for the record, no one plays half-awake like Greist) and doesn’t even engage in a real conversation with his partner, just hearing her voice, reacquainting himself with the warmth of his love as she dreamed was all it took for Graham to have an epiphany about what fueled Dollarhyde’s fantasies, foreshadowing to “smell yourself.”

“What are you dreaming?”

Greist blue

Later, this time Molly sharing a room with her husband, she stared into his eyes with an intimacy and understanding that only those who know someone completely are capable, and declared “Time is luck, Will.” Molly sensed that her partner was losing the battle with his imagination—the empathy of his dreamscape—and needed a reminder that risking his life to find one man would come at an expense that they couldn’t afford to pay. The ferocity of Will’s gaze communicated that the message had hit home. Graham was once again centered, if only momentarily. Molly was that magnet to Graham’s core which drew him out of depths from which he would otherwise be helplessly confined, without whom he would be doomed to nothing more than the task at hand.

Attributes that culminated in the couple sitting on a dock to discuss what came next, where Graham revealed that he would go to Atlanta, alone. Molly again called him out, this time for doing exactly what he said he wouldn’t. Though Graham was forceful in sharing that the killing had to stop, Molly didn’t storm off or become demonstrably upset because she knew that Will’s heart was in the right place, so she simply poised herself in thought, eyes searching for words that would resonate. Disbelief, disappointment, and fear radiated from Greist’s expression before she opened her mouth, but in the end, she countered with a jab which she knew would register, “William, you’re going to make yourself sick or get yourself killed.”

Molly had a foot in each plane—the dream world and physical—and it was Greist’s character who fueled all things Will Graham. She provided him with nourishment of the body and soul, but also incentive and inspiration, and the one thing which no one else was capable: telling Graham what he needed to hear and immediately putting whatever chaotic situation he found himself into real terms, a much-needed reminder that decisions and their subsequent actions had consequences.

Molly was the antidote to the “ugliest thoughts in the world,” and the reason Will returned home—not as a shell of himself—but the same man as the morning he departed.

Kim Greist’s abbreviated yet amazing performance as Molly Graham was a dream realized.

Greist beach

Why 2018 was the Year of Joe Bob

I bought a bolo. That’s how much I adore John Bloom, affectionately known as Joe Bob Briggs. I’m old enough to (at least vaguely) remember his diatribes on The Movie Channel and wondered who the hell was this guy who could rant and ramble about obscure films at the drop of a hat. I was fascinated.

And then he took over MonsterVision on TNT, and I was hooked, completely taken. So cool and composed, funny and intelligent, he made spinning a damn fine yarn seem easy, when I know good and damn well it’s anything but.

He made good movies great and bad movies worth your time. He seemed to know every detail about production and the cast. With stories and experiences that took place in Texas and Arkansas and New York and everywhere in between, it seemed as though Joe Bob was the Alfred Pennyworth of the horror universe—a man who has lived what seems a thousand lifetimes.

Briggs was apt to say that when the network cancelled MonsterVision, the people must suffer, and he was right. For 17 years we missed him and yearned for someone to resurrect the finest of drive-in hosts. What did it matter that he was the only one, we never needed to lay eyes on a competitor to know that he had none.

JBB WhoaWhile Joe Bob still roamed the countryside doing film presentations and conventions, it just wasn’t the same. For all his travels, it would be impossible for one man to hit every town, or even come near enough for everyone who wanted a Briggs fix to get access, so still we suffered.

Then Shudder swooped in, the Jesus to Joe Bob’s Lazarus, and scratched that itch which had been tormenting us for nearly two decades.

The Last Drive-In fittingly arrived on Friday the 13th this past July, but for all the anticipation and publicity, no one could have expected what happened. Joe Bob broke the internet. Now, he commented at the time (a stance he still maintains) that the show didn’t work because there were so many who were unable to see the open or much of the first portion of the marathon as it was happening, but it was truly a moment where the communal experience wasn’t necessary to fully appreciate the magnitude of the event.

The Commodore 64 servers simply proved insufficient for all those who wanted Joe Bob. Though we knew he was loved by horror fans everywhere, it was the first time that we truly realized just how much Briggs means to so many. The demand was simply overwhelming.

The stories were as brilliantly weaved as ever, the jokes were fresh and just as funny, and the knowledge once again left us shaking our heads in disbelief, while we shared our observations and laughter and discussed it in real time on social media.

And that was before he asked Felissa Rose if her dick was deformed.

Briggs RoseIt was hyped as the ultimate last call, that the 13 flicks that began with Tourist Trap and ended with Pieces would be the final opportunity for us to share such time with Briggs. That we obliterated Shudder’s servers, however, and offered so many messages of joy and love and thanks (to say nothing of our Billy Idol-like cries of more, more, more), was all it took for Joe Bob to tweet through Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) that “The people have suffered enough. Assemble the squad. We’re gonna need more servers.”

Shortly thereafter came the announcement of a pair of holiday marathons—Dinners of Death for Thanksgiving, and A Very Joe Bob Christmas—and if that weren’t enough to leave us collectively giddy, word dropped that there would be a regular show sometime in 2019.

Dinners offered a glimpse of Briggs’ otherworldly appreciation for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and a passionate defense for its director Tobe Hooper, who horror fans are well aware has never gotten his due outside of our little community. Next was an incredible conversation with Michael Berryman that once again left us wanting more, and resulted in a signed figure that Prince auctioned off to raise money for Florida’s Seacrest Wolf Preserve which had been decimated by Hurricane Michael. Darcy even brought out some of the crocheted figures passionately assembled by Twitter’s @thestichkeeper, further demonstrating that the horror community is as tightly woven as one of Joe Bob’s stories.

BerrymanAnd this past Friday, we sat with drinks in hand and smiles on our faces as the Drive-In Jedi guided us through the Phantasm franchise, complete with an interview with the Ice Cream Commando himself, Reggie Bannister, as well as the oddest and most awesome version of the 12 Days of Christmas any of our ears have ever had the pleasure of hearing.

Before Briggs dug into Pieces for The Last Drive-In, he lovingly spoke about late and legendary horror host John Zacherle. Voice cracking with emotion, Joe Bob said “he knew the journey was not about the stage, it was about the life and the joy that you create while you’re standin’ on that stage.” Briggs added “So John Zacherle, I never got to say this to you, but wherever you are, this one is for you.”

For all the smiles and the laughs and the composure, that was the first and only time we’ve seen that type of sentimentality from Briggs. Though he was speaking about Zacherle, it was obvious to all watching that Joe Bob was also referring to himself. Clearly the joy that Briggs has brought to millions over the course of 30-plus years has never been lost on him, and the love he’s received from us has been heartfelt and appreciated. In that moment, Joe Bob truly believed that he was about to embark on the final film of his television career, and he—like us—was lost in the moment.

Thankfully, we (at least in part helped to) change his mind.

The absolute perfection of Briggs and Prince and Shudder will begin its regular program early next year, which is mercifully just around the corner. For this year, though, the glory that was Halloween (2018) and Mandy, the Oscar-worthy performance of Toni Collette (Hereditary), Robert Englund’s turn as Freddy in an All Hallow’s Eve episode of The Goldbergs, Jordan Peele’s victory for Best Original Screenplay, and The Shape of Water capturing Best Picture, the horror story of the year is, was, and ever shall be the return of Joe Bob Briggs.

And for someone who idolized the man growing up, and later got an opportunity to host an ode-to-Joe-Bob horror movie program for a television station, nothing could be better.

SignSo at the end of November when I traveled north for Briggs’ How Rednecks Saved Hollywood show at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis, I did so wearing that bolo. The only other thing I had with me was the piece I’d written thinking (at the time) that The Last Drive-In was a farewell.

When my turn finally came to meet the only other man rocking a bolo, he smiled and shook my hand. We made small talk, and I asked if he’d be good enough to sign my article. He glanced at it and asked if he had read this before, to which I simply replied “You shared it on your Facebook.” He smiled and said, “If it made it to Facebook, I definitely read it.” As he leaned down to scribble a message, my heart soared at the memory of that share, because it was done with just a single word: “This.”

Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, and in that moment, I knew that what had come from my heart had resonated with a man I’d adored my entire life, and had received the seal of approval from Joe Bob Briggs.

This is just one story, and one reason, why 2018 is the year of Joe Bob Briggs. All the other stories, shared and unshared about three marathons, 21 movies, and countless laughs and memories that brought us all together are why no other event from this year can offer even a meager challenge if you know what I mean…and I think you do.

Santa

Still Hooked on Teri McMinn Four Decades Later

It is perhaps the most iconic scene from one of the most iconic franchises horror has ever known. Yet the lasting wound inflicted upon TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE audiences forty-four years ago had more to do with a meat hook than a chainsaw.

While director Tobe Hooper and stars Marilyn Burns and Gunnar Hansen have enjoyed most of TCM’s notoriety since 1974, the most indelible images (and sounds) came not from Leatherface, but Pam, a character created by a then 22-year old actress from Houston, Texas named Teri McMinn.

What McMinn was able to accomplish in less than one minute is by any standard, underrated. McMinn went from sheer dread at the sight of Leatherface (Hansen) to crazed desperation in efforts to escape his clutches, before the horrified recognition of what was to come and finally (and as odd as it may seem to say), the subtle performance which followed Pam being plopped onto a hook designed for slaughtered animals.

That fleeting minute offered much to digest, and because its intensity was so unrelenting, it felt like a landed sucker punch that to this day, still takes this writer’s breath away.

Rather than over-the-top writhing shrills, McMinn communicated what our collective imagination was too frightened to conjure—incomprehensible pain—and as such, her reaction was almost one of disbelief.

McMinn hookDisbelief of what was happening to be sure, but also the agony that would have undoubtedly been coursing through Pam’s body. Truly study McMinn’s face and the whimpers which emanated from her throat and you won’t witness a contrived portrayal of misery, but rather an honest performance from an actress who dared to take a momentary glimpse at torture.

Hooper’s decision to deliver a quick, almost home movie style shot of McMinn’s feet as they hovered above a bucket to collect droplets of blood, then quickly panned to capture Pam’s excruciating and immobilized terror served as the icing on the proverbial cake.

It was heart-pounding and almost too real, and we have McMinn to thank for that.

For as much as Leatherface means to horror, memories of McMinn’s minute are what flood through this writer’s mind when conversations turn to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.

That we’ve lost Hansen and Burns over the past few years is all the more reason to embrace the fact that McMinn owned a scene like few before or since.

McMinn German

Joe Bob and ‘Dinners of Death’ Redefined Family

Before signing off on The Last Drive-In for what we believed to be the final time this past summer, Joe Bob Briggs noted that the Shudder marathon, as well as his Drive-In Theater and MonsterVision programs “tried to be the place to hang out for the weirdos and the misfits, and the people who felt left out of mainstream culture,” before touching on the myriad people who had shared tales of how he had saved their lives by giving them something to look forward to.

Some of it had to do with “horrible home” lives, and the ability to “lock the doors of their room when our silly show came on, and it would make ‘em feel able to face the next week.” Ever the gentleman, Briggs added that it was a “wonderful by-product” of shows intended to make people laugh and expose them to forgotten films. He then added, “I can’t take credit for that.”

I’m here to stump Joe Bob by saying yes. Yes, he can.

A common theme of both The Last Drive-In and Dinners of Death was the idea of communal experience, that stories were intended to be viewed together, to be shared and discussed with friends and strangers alike. In other words, like family.

The horror community is a small one, in many ways like a family, and that is exactly what I want to discuss here.

Be it because of depression or absence of actual family, the holidays can be a difficult time for people. I know—I fall under each category—and also know that I am not alone, not by a wide margin.

Whether direct or extended, Thanksgiving is a day for family, to gather around a table for a meal, to talk and laugh and love. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that opportunity. Maybe they’ve moved and can’t return home for the holiday, they don’t want to burden their friends by “tagging along,” or their loved ones have passed away, or they simply don’t speak with family members anymore. Whatever the reason, it can leave people feeling worthless, and very alone.

But that’s where Dinners of Death and Joe Bob Briggs and Diana Prince come in.

DarcyThe concept of giving folks something to look forward to still rings true, because for many (myself included), waiting for the clock to strike nine and Shudder’s Thanksgiving marathon provided those who were feeling alone something to hold onto, something to share.

As soon as Joe Bob opened the festivities with a crack about Wild Turkey only needing to be aged eight years and “do not make me tell you this again,” a smile found our lips, perhaps for the first time all day, and the stress of said day began to fade.

And as the drive-in Jedi began to regale us with tidbits about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and vehemently defended the career of Tobe Hooper, we felt connected to what he was saying (not just because it was true goddamn it), but because we too felt discredited and forgotten. All it took was a few short minutes of impassioned twang from a man we all adore to feel peace for the first time all day.

And it was shared. Not only on the screen, but on Twitter and Facebook. Not just with fellow fans who may or may not have been or felt alone that day, but thanks largely to Darcy the Mail Girl, otherwise known as Kinky Horror. She spent the entire marathon, nearly 10 hours, interacting with us as we watched. She laughed at our observations, shared images and stories (even the Drinking Game Fu I came up with while downing a turkey dinner at a restaurant by myself), answered questions, and just…kept us company as we enjoyed what was unfolding in and outside of Joe Bob’s “trailer.”

Many felt alone for most of Thanksgiving, but from nine o’clock on, we were anything but. Briggs and Darcy made sure of that. They gave us something to look forward to. Joe Bob and Prince gave us something to share. With a Drive-In Mutant family. They made what would have otherwise been a sad day one to smile about.

Briggs had said he couldn’t take credit for such things back in July, but to be honest, that burns my bacon. Yes he can. And he should. As should Prince.

A professor of mine once said that when it comes to art, if a person takes something away from it that its creator had never intended to be there, it’s still real. It still matters. Briggs and Diana gave something to all of us that can never be taken away, intended or not.

Maybe Joe Bob and Darcy hadn’t set out to give folks who were feeling alone a sense of inclusion and peace and family on Thanksgiving, but that’s exactly what they did. Something for which I, and many others shall be forever thankful .

For all those who feel as I feel — please — take credit for that.

JBB

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

The first time I watched HELLRAISER (1987), I actually blurted, “Looking forward to whatever happens to that fucker.” Julia Cotton’s pool of loathsome deeds ran deep—a strained relationship with her daughter-in-law, unfaithful to Kirsty’s (Ashley Laurence) father with her uncle Frank (Sean Chapman), luring numerous men to their death—all so that she could help said uncle return to form after his dance with the Lament Configuration. To say nothing of plotting to murder her husband so that his brother could inhabit his skin and they could live happily ever after.

In short, Julia was deplorable. And played to poisonous perfection by Clare Higgins.

When summoned back to Earth in HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II (1988), Julia quickly proved that old habits die hard, leaning on murder and mayhem as means to an end. This time, she led Dr. Phillip Channard (Kenneth Cranham) and his morbid curiosity around by the nose, to say nothing of his psychiatric patient who possessed an aptitude for solving puzzles. The good doctor simply felt compelled to understand the secrets and power of the box, and the hidden world it housed.

Nearly two feature films in, Julia had a moment of redemption.

Not that she had an epiphany or did the right thing. No, no, no, Julia finally embarked on a mission so deliciously sinister that I couldn’t help but smile at the similarities between her endeavors and the story I hold most dear, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.”

Dr. Channard’s thirst for knowledge and power were the elusive barrel to Julia’s impunity; and much like poor Fortunato, by the time the physician realized that what he desired wasn’t worth the asking price, it was too late.

“But this is what you wanted! This is what you wanted to see. This is what you wanted to know. And here it is.”

Higgins 2Julia, in full, smirking Montresor could not help but point out that what her lord required was souls, and she had brought him one to celebrate the symbolic retribution of hell—a doctor to impale with needles and probe with disgusting tentacles.

Backing the doctor into a box where immediate invasion was met with screams, Julia smiled “And you wanted to know.” Moments before razor-sharp wires wrapped themselves around Channard’s skull, digging deep into his skin, again Julia delighted “Now you now.”

Though she stopped short of imploring the doctor to touch the damp nitre, Julia couldn’t help but taunt the fettered Channard with the painful reminder that he had found exactly what he’d been seeking.

With a grin, Julia offered “Goodbye, doctor” as the box began its descent, hauling the doctor away for eternity.

Not unlike my reaction to Melisandre (Carice van Houten) resurrecting Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) in Game of Thrones, all was forgiven.

For as despicable as Julia was, I couldn’t help but smile at the parallels between Poe and Pinhead, and revel in the powerful arrogance of Higgins’ performance.

If you’re going to be evil, at least do it with a little flair. For one delectable moment in HELLBOUND, Clare Higgins was downright flamboyant.

And I kind of loved it.

Did You Guys Here the One About: Joe Bob’s Best Jokes from ‘The Last Drive-In’

We’re all sad that the blissful days of October have once again come to an end, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find something to smile about.

HALLOWEEN (2018) is still ripping it up in theatres everywhere, SUSPIRIA (2018) opens tonight, and we’re not allowed to forget that Joe Bob Briggs returns to Shudder with the Dinners of Death Thanksgiving marathon on November 22, “because there are two things in life you should always binge on, horror flicks and Wild Turkey.”

See? Plenty to be giddy about.

We don’t need to remind any of you that no one spins a yarn quite like the drive-in Jedi, and with that in mind, it’s time to revisit some of Briggs’ best jokes from July’s The Last Drive-In.

Get ready to laugh. And when you inevitably share one or five of these with friends or co-workers later today, don’t thank us, thank Joe Bob.

TOLD AT THE CONCLUSION OF BLOOD FEAST

“So did I tell you guys the one about the history professor and the psychology professor at the nudist camp? The history professor and the psychology professor are sittin’ on a sun deck at a nudist resort, and the history professor turns to the psychology professor and he says ‘Have you read Marx?’ And the psychology professor says ‘Yeah, I think it’s from the wicker chairs.’”

THE PROWLER

“That actually reminds me of the one about the man who comes home from work and he’s greeted by his wife, and she’s dressed in spiked high heels and lingerie. And she says ‘Tie me up, sweetie. You can do anything you want.’ And so he ties her up and goes golfin’.”

Crew

SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA“evidence that in the ‘80s you could basically write a script on Tuesday, film it on Wednesday, and have it in the video store by Thursday.”

“Alright, man goes into a bar (laughs), man goes into a bar and he orders a drink. The bartender’s a robot, so this robot serves this perfectly prepared cocktail and then the robot says ‘What’s your IQ?’ and the man says ‘150.’ And so the robot proceeds to make a conversation about global warming and quantum physics and nanotechnology and string theory and Jungian psychoanalysis. And the customer is very impressed, but he decides, ‘Ya know, I’m gonna test that robot.’

So he walks out of the bar, turns around, comes back in for another drink. Robot serves a perfect cocktail and then he says ‘What’s your IQ?’ This time the man says ‘About 100,’ so immediately the robot starts talkin’ about football, NASCAR, baseball, supermodels, fast food, guns, and enormous hooters. Now the guy’s really impressed, so he leaves the bar again and he turns around and he decides to test the robot one more time.

So he goes back in, gets the perfect cocktail and the robot says ‘What’s your IQ?’ ‘Uh, it’s only about 50, I think.’ Robot says ‘So are you gonna vote for Trump again?’”

DEMONS

“I was watchin’ The Bachelor the other night, and it reminded me of this guy in Arkansas who was wantin’ to get married but he was havin’ trouble choosin’ among three likely candidates to marry.

So he decides to give each woman a present of $5,000 and watch what they do with the money. So the first woman does a total makeover, she goes to a beauty spa, she gets her hair done, new makeup, buys several outfits, joins a spa, gets toned, tells him she’s done all this to be more attractive for him because she loves him so much, and he’s fairly impressed by that.

Second woman, she goes shoppin’ to buy him a bunch of gifts. She gets him a new set of golf clubs, walk-in humidor for his cigars, some expensive clothes, and she presents all this stuff to him and she says she spent all the money on him because she loves him so much, and he’s fairly impressed by that.

The third one invests the money in the stock market, she earns several times that $5,000 back. She gives him back his $5,000, she re-invests the rest in a joint account, and then she tells him she wants to save for their future because she loves him so much, and the man is very impressed by that.

So he thought for a long time about what each woman had done with the money, and then he married the one with the biggest boobs.”

JBB Bowling

TOURIST TRAP

“Did I ever tell you guys the one about the Irish girl who runs away from home? I feel like we need an Irish joke in honor of Chuck Connors, this is Chuck Connors’ night. So, this Irish guy’s daughter disappears, she doesn’t come home for five years. She finally comes home and her dad cusses her out, ‘Where you been all this time? Why didn’t you write? What were you doin’? You know what you put your mum through?’ They call it ‘mum’ in Ireland.

Well, the girl’s cryin’, she says ‘Dad, I’m so sorry. I became…a prostitute.’ And the dad says ‘What?! Go back where you came from. I don’t ever wanna see you again.’ And the girl says ‘Okay dad, I will, but I’m gonna leave all this stuff I brought for you. I have some fur coats for mom and I have a deed to this mansion I bought, and I have a savings account for five million euros, and I also got a gold Rolex for my little brother. And for you there’s a limited edition Mercedes outside, and if you want it, there’s a yacht, I parked it on the Riviera.’

And so her dad thinks for a minute and he says ‘Tell me again how you got this money,’ and the girl says ‘I became a prostitute.’ And dad says ‘Oh Jesus, you scared me for a minute. I thought you said Protestant. Come give you old man a hug!’”

BASKET CASE a film presentation that remembered Gerald the security guard, who was released on weekends to work (at the Highway 183 Drive-In in Irving, Texas), and would always have words of drive-in wisdom like, ‘Never walk up on a baby blue El Camino with two men inside unless you wanna see things described in the Old Testament.’”

“Girl goes into her doctor’s office for a check-up, as she takes off her blouse the doctor notices a big red ‘H’ on her chest. He says ‘How’d you get that mark on your chest?’ She says ‘Oh, my boyfriend went to Harvard and he’s so proud of it that he never takes off his Harvard sweatshirt even when we make love, so I guess it leaves an impression.’

Couple days later, another girl comes in for a check-up, takes off her blouse, there’s a big ‘Y’ on her chest. ‘How’d you get that mark on your chest,’ asks the doctor. ‘Oh, my boyfriend went to Yale and he’s so proud of it he never takes off his Yale sweatshirt, even when we make love.’

Couple days later, another girl comes in for a check-up, as she takes off her blouse the doctor notices a big green ‘M’ on her chest. So the doctor says ‘You have a boyfriend who went to Michigan?’ and the girl says ‘No, but I have a girlfriend at Wisconsin, why do you ask?’”

THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK

“Did I tell you the one about the husband and wife don’t trust each other? So the woman doesn’t come home one night and her husband wants to know why, and she says well, she slept over at a girlfriend’s house. So, the man calls his wife’s ten best friends, none of ‘em know anything about it. So he cuts her off, he calls her a liar, he makes her suffer for days.

Little while later, the husband doesn’t come home one night, so in the morning the wife wants to know why not. He tells her, ‘Well, I slept over at a buddy’s house.’ So, the woman calls her husband’s ten best friends. Eight of ‘em confirmed that he slept over, two of ‘em claimed he’s still there.”

Maple syrup

Postmortem and Pulled Pork: A ‘Saw’ Story

For fans of horror, it always comes down to a single film or franchise. You can love them all, most of them, or even just bits and pieces, but in the end, it boils down to the one vehicle that drives that affection. I plan to be a six-foot Billy the Puppet this Halloween, adore Tobin Bell, and have a soft spot for Shawnee Smith. For me, it’s all about SAW, but above all else, the world of John Kramer has always been about friendship.

Each October for seven years, my best friend and I would make our way to the theatre for the latest installment of Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s creation, strengthening a bond already more than three years in the making. While my boy Dan dug the traps—and got a chuckle out of how much they made me squirm—I was happy to lay money down to get the latest dose of Bell, which is always worth the price of admission.

Both of us fall under the massive fandom umbrella of THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987), and while many a laugh was had at the beauty of Westley book-ending the initial seven chapters of the saga, often times we found ourselves defending our SAW obsession with friends who were not of the horror persuasion. “It’s basically the same movie over and over, why do you keep going?” Our stock answer became a running joke, “We’ve come this far.”

Part of that journey came in 2007, when we met right after work for SAW IV. For as much as I love the genre of blood and guts, I’ve never been big on gore, especially when I’m eating, but my old pal thought it would be fine to pick up some sandwiches, sneak them into the theatre, and get dinner out of the way.

I was a bit hesitant—like I said, the traps are Dan’s thing—and let’s face it, SAW films usually start with a bang. He quickly shot back that we’d most likely have the sandwiches eaten before the trailers were over, but even if we didn’t, it wasn’t like someone was going to have flesh peeled from their skulls right off the bat.

With sandwiches discreetly tucked into our jackets, we took our seats, and dug in.

Saw IV

With a few bites remaining at the close of said trailers, I was hopeful that I’d gobble them down before anything heinous turned my stomach. Moments later, the autopsy of John Kramer began unfolding on-screen, and wouldn’t you know it, Jigsaw’s scalp was being removed from his cranium like a bloody wet suit.

I shot a death stare and “You motherfucker!” in my buddy’s direction to find him doubled over in laughter just one seat over. Safe to say, the sandwich met the theatre floor and those last few morsels went uneaten.

Dan denies it to this day, but I’m still not convinced that he hadn’t seen it already and thought he’d have some fun at my expense.

A friendship that began over a mutual love of movies continues 17 years later, but no one film or series represents our bond more than SAW. Nearly a decade after our shared disappointment with what was supposed to be THE FINAL CHAPTER (2010), both of us were missing our October tradition, unable to believe or accept that 3D was truly the end.

But then JIGSAW was announced for last fall. The franchise we had shared for seven years was returning after seven more, and when I found out, I giddily texted “I want to play a game. Again.”

His response was simple, “We’ve come this far.”

Dan and I have been all-in since SAW debuted on this day in 2004, and we’re willing to go much, much further. Just…without sandwiches.

Whannell Adam