Category Archives: Editorials

{Watch} Nightmare Nostalgia’s 10 Favorite Halloween Specials

Fruits of the loins from the late ’70s, ’80s or early ’90s, can probably remember that sweet, repetitive October television and all its glory with the magic of Halloween specials that only aired once a year. While yes, television still continues the trend of annual Halloween traditions with certain programs to look forward to such as The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, The Great Pumpkin, and the beloved repetitive viewings of Hocus Pocus with, of course,  the occasional Primetime sitcom that runs its yearly Halloween episode. However, the issue I have in the modern age of the boob tube is that most of the holiday programming, that many of us looked forward to so fondly has fallen into obscurity in regards to annual airings. There is no rhyme or reason why they have become so obsolete in the world of primetime, and I’m going to be quite frank here- I’m a little pissed off about it. The era of streaming I’m sure has a bit to do with thine predicament. But nevertheless, in so many words- it kinda blows.

During my early writing years, I had compiled a similar list that has since been swallowed by time and ugly Internets. So I’m here to remedy the situation, update the fucker, and daydream of the glory days that revolved around a disco dancing vampire and Gilda Radner as a bumbling animated witch.

And OK… my own as well.

10 Nostalgic Halloween Specials You Can Watch Right Now!

 

10. The Midnight Hour (1985)

Originally premiering as a TV movie on ABC in 1985, The Midnight Hour follows four friends who unwittingly awaken one of their dead ancestors, who just happens to be a witch hellbent on bringing back the dead. With a ’50s cheerleader ghost by their side, it’s up to the group of kids to return things to normal. The Midnight Hour was briefly released on VHS in 1999 and then on DVD in 2000. However, it has long since been out of print and is among a treasured rare film to have in your possession and highly valued among collectors. So start searching your parent’s garage, or hit up your local yard sales. If you find this gem, I suggest you snatch it up! But in the meantime, here’s a pretty clear copy on YouTube.

 

9. Halloween Is Grinch Night (1977)

According to Suessfandom.com, Halloween Is Grinch Night is actually a prequel to the How The Grinch Stole Christmas. And how this has fallen into Halloween special obscurity is about as understandable as pubic hair.  This grinchy tale premiered on ABC in 1977, played for a few years and fell to the wayside. Halloween is Grinch Night takes place one evening when a ‘sour-sweet wind’ blows through Whoville and warns the Whos’ that the Grinch is coming down from Mt.Crumpit to celebrate the much-feared “Grinch Night.” One boy, named Euchariah, is swept away by the wind and comes face to face with the Grinch himself. Now Euchariah must stall the Grinch until the wind dies down, even if he has to face the horrors in the Paraphernalia Wagon. Yeah, you read that right. Paraphernalia Wagon.

Fantastic stuff folks.

8. Mr. Boogedy

Originally broadcast as part of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Mr. Boogedy (and later sequel) was a staple of Disney’s rotated Halloween programming for a number of years up until the mid-’90s. This long-forgotten classic follows a novelty salesman and his family of pranksters that have moved to a town called Lucifer Falls- rad. And 0f course their new humble abode is haunted by a three-hundred-year-old ghost by the name of Mr. Boogedy, known in life as William Hanover before he sold his soul to the devil. With stars such as Richard Masur (Adult Stan inIT), a young Kristy Swanson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), David Faustino ( Bud from Married With Children) and the legendary John Astin (Gomez Addams), I gotta give Disney a thumbs up for this one. While this one is not available fully for free on the Youtubes, you can absolutely rent this for the reasonable price of $2.99 at Amazon

 

 

 

7. The Worst Witch (1986)

The Worst Witch is a cult fan favorite among many and in my opinion, any film where Tim Curry sings is a delight and a privilege and we should be goddamn grateful this film exists. This Halloween necessity first aired on HBO and the Disney Channel in 1986 for the Halloween season and continued into around the late 90s. The bewitching tale about, duh, a witch academy (move over J.K Rawlings) centers around Mildred Hubble, the school’s “worst witch” her misadventures within, and a scheming plot that threatens the school. Because every great empowerment story needs a touch of drama, right? And with all the Halloween splendor aside, that is exactly why I adore everything about The Worst Witch. The message of self-love and acceptance behind all the dazzling of Tim Curry magnificently banging on tambourines is a lesson that should always be taught to our children.  Based on the 1974 children’s book by Jill Murphy, The Worst Witch stars Diana Rigg, a young Fairuza Balk, the fabulous Charlotte Rae, and Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard. If you got the bones to break out of your wallet, you can get a copy here from Amazon.

 

 

 

6. Witch’s Night Out (1978)

Witch’s Night Out premiered in 1978 on NBC. And AGAIN, aired on the Disney channel in the ’80s through the late ’90s. This personal favorite of mine follows this ridiculous witch ( Gilda Radner) who feels unloved and forgotten. Upon hearing the wishes of two children, Small and Tender, who want nothing more than to scare the jerkoff adults on Halloween, the witch accompanies the pair of Halloweenies and their babysitter (Bazooey) to a Halloween party. Where Miss Witch transorms them into a werewolf, a ghost and Frankenstein’s Monster. Well, the kids get their wish and scare the crap out of the town resulting in a mob them through the night. Also featuring the voice of  Catherine O’ Hara as Malicious, Witch’s Night Out is a fun take me back for kids and adults alike. Also, you gotta love that catchy intro.

 

 

5. Vincent Price: Once Upon A Midnight Scary (1979)

My only question is, why the hell wasn’t there more of these?! I mean the master of horror himself hosting his own Halloween special. It’s a national treasure really. It sort of reminds me of one of those really cheesy but awesome after school specials. But again. VINCENT PRICE. So it makes up for the rest. Originally broadcast on CBS in 1979,  Price introduces three different spooky stories based on children’s books in his own creepy yet flamboyant way that every Vincent fan knows him for: The Ghost Belonged To Me by Richard Peck (1976), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820), and The House With a Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs (1973). It was released on VHS, but chances of a DVD release are slim to none. A shame really.

 

 

4. The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979)

Also entitled The Night That Dracula Saved The World, this gem of a tv short aired regularly on The Disney Channel until the late 90s. Notice the trend here?! Time to write a strong-worded letter to that Robert Iger fellow.  This remarkable short centers around Dracula (Judd Hirsh) and his monsters trying to stop the Halloween witch, bitter from not getting top-billing in the monster world, from destroying Halloween forever. This is one of my all-time personal favorites because of all the great monster elements it has to offer. Along with a nice little history of Halloween, it really keeps you entertained with humorous jokes and gags. Also, clearly Adam Sandler took some Hotel Transelyvania notes from the impeccable Hirsh. Although it was released on VHS, it never made it to DVD. I believe I may start a petition for this one. Complete with a monster disco attached.

 

3. Casper’s Halloween Special

I fondly remember this little diddy being one of my favorites’ to watch during the Trick or Treat countdown towards the annual sugar coma. Also, I’m being upfront with you guys here and HAD COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN about this treasured retro gem myself until I sat and thought about what I was going to put into this list.  As a lover of Wendy the Witch- I’m a little ashamed about this, (even though she has nothing to do with this Halloween special whatsoever but hey, she is connected to the Casper fellow). However, it just goes to show how these nostalgic bits of childhood can fall into obscurity. Especially with the stresses of having to adult- and stuff.

Anyways, enough rambling.

“Casper’s Halloween Special” first debuted on All Hallow’s Eve 1979 during NBC’s Halloween hour and serves as a classic Casper tale of the friendly ghost doing what he does best- you know, being friendly and shit. Casper’s fellow dead dudes, Hairy Scary, Screech Ghost, and Winifred Witch are obviously excited about spooktacular Halloween shenanigans they have planned that involve scaring the ever-loving crap out of trick or treaters and invite Casper to partake. But, of course, he declines and decides to take the opportunity to join the living in trick or treat fun. You know, denial and stuff is strong Casper. Regardless, after hitting a few bumps in the road to candy, Casper falls upon a group of orphans who see him for who he REALLY is, and invites him to hang for the night. However, the other ghosts see all this and are hell-bent on ruining the night for them.

 

 

2. Raggedy Ann and Andy in “The Pumpkin Who Couldn’t Smile”

 

Released in the same year as the above Casper special, the stitched iconic duo got their very own CBS Halloween 30-minute block on Halloween night with “The Pumpkin Who Couldn’t Smile”. Later, the Chuck Jones written special aired on Disney (of course) in Halloween syndication alongside many of these treasure troves listed here. We begin with an intro of a deserted pumpkin stand at Halloween dusk where one lone pumpkin is need of some serious Prozac. All of his buddies have been picked by the children while the Eeyore of Jack-O-Lanterns’ remains alone and in danger of becoming pig compost the following day. Across town, the Raggadies along with their pup are severely annoyed by the next-door Halloween Scrooge Aunt Agatha; who is giving her poor nephew a hard time about the glorious holiday. So, of course, they do their due diligence in wanting to cheer the kid up with the idea of surprising him a Halloween pumpkin. Well, you might guess where this going and, SPOILER ALERT, the pumpkin smiles.

 

1. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure

And here we are. In my opinion, the Holy Grail of Halloween specials; from 1985- “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure”! From the catchy tunes that relentlessly get stuck in my head contained within this national treasure, to the aesthetic ambiance of a true ’80s Halloween experience makes it a classic that will NEVER go out of style. Fully equipped with trick or treating in an endless pursuit of candy, ghost pirates, and a creepy 110-year-old man, this 30-minute piece of Halloween Heaven sets the tone for what is to become the scariest night ever for the lasagna lover and his pal, Odie. I remember being a child watching this over and over on a recorded from TV VHS tape, that the scenes with the ghost pirates were actually a bit frightening. But that also illuminates why I watched “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure many times as a kid and returned to it on a regular basis as an adult.

 

 

Well, there you have it. Nightmare Nostalgia’s most memorable and personal favorite Halloween specials! Now gather your spawns around the computer and give them a taste of why ’70s and ’80s Halloween TV was simply spooktacular. And while you’re at it, comment below with your personal favorite! I’d love to hear from you!!

Happy Halloween!

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*And no- I didn’t forget Disney’s Halloween Treat. (Insert maniacal laughter here)

 

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Adam Green Saved My Life

I’ve been suicidal since December. For as long as I can remember, the disconnect and loneliness of depression has crept in and out of my life, but this stretch has been different, its grip has been unrelenting for the past seven months. The story never changes, on its face I have nothing to be depressed about, no reason to no longer want to be here—I have great friends, am very active, go to the gym every day, make decent money—but it doesn’t change the fact that thoughts of ending it all are a part of my daily life. When you feel as though you’re trapped in a hopeless prison and derive no lasting happiness or fulfillment in the things you once enjoyed, the idea of it being over is enticing. Some days are better than others, but make no mistake, that monster lurks in the shadows each and every day, and the ideations have intensified to the point where thoughts of actually following through have invaded my mind. But when that happens, you have to find an outlet.

One of the worst days occurred a few weeks ago. I struggled through work, mentally isolating myself from everyone and everything important to me, and when it came time to clear out, the decision had already been made to skip the gym or eat healthy food and pick up a pizza and some Mountain Dew, even some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and head home to lay down and binge watch a little program I’d just discovered called Scary Sleepover.

I wondered if there were enough episodes to get through the night or if I would have to lean on go-tos like Ash vs Evil Dead or Hannibal, but I was thrilled to learn that there were two seasons to draw from, and knew I had something to distract my mind until I could go to bed.

Scary SleepoverFrom the HATCHET franchise to DIGGING UP THE MARROW to the Movie Crypt podcast, I have long been a fan of Adam Green’s work. Like me, he’s a horror freak and makes me laugh, and what’s more, it just feels like he’s one of us—a horror fan who followed his dream and made good—so we just can’t help but love a guy like that. To say nothing of the (as Tony Todd put it) “eye candy” at the ArieScope studio (circling back to Hannibal), because if there was one place I’d want to live aside from Dr. Lecter’s office, it would be Green’s studio because Mr. Todd was right, the surroundings and humor and camaraderie are a little slice of heaven.

From the moment Kane Hodder walked through the door with a goofy “Hiii!” in the first episode, I was transported to a place where my mind was calm and that feeling of hopelessness dissipated. Though momentary, for those who live with overwhelming thoughts as I do, that temporary reprieve is all we can ever ask for. Adam Green gave it to me that night.

As the episodes wore on (Season 1 in particular), however, I couldn’t help but start to draw parallels to my own life. Not making horror films or commiserating with celebrities obviously, but in the friendships that Green shared with so many.

When Kane fell asleep in the initial episode, Green tossed some unsavory comments his way to see if he’d truly nodded off, and when he directed a sped up “FREDDY VS. JASON” at the horror icon, doing the Dew nearly became a spit take. It was the kind of thing my buddy Tyler would do to fuck with me if he thought I’d drifted on him.

Danielle Harris revealed that E.T. terrified her to this day, and when she opened her eyes and saw Spielberg’s alien facing her from the next cushion over she leapt up screaming and exclaimed “Dick!” Thoughts of my friend Elle and her hilarious reactions to being scared danced through my head.

Later Sid Haig grumpily came through the door and declared “Ya know what? My pajamas are gonna be better than yours” and maintained half-smirked eye contact that kinda sorta felt like “Did I stutter, bitch?” It was exactly that playful shit-talk that my friend Erik unleashes whether we’re together or just texting. And when he blurted “Pizza and pajamas. What’s betterrr?” I knew my initial take was spot on, because Erik too can dance between intimidating and idiotic at the drop of a hat.

HaigThen it was the ridiculously cute ramblings of Laura Ortiz and her constant stream of “Hey Adams” that led to questions like “Why are stars?” Though the gag was that she wouldn’t stop talking and let Green go to sleep, you couldn’t help but smile each time it happened, which of course was the point. Ortiz and my friend Jay have effortless adorability in common.

When Zach Galligan dropped by and Green asked him if he could just talk about what “Phoebe (Cates) smells like that would be awesome,” the size of my smile nearly shattered my face because Ms. Cates being the top of the mountain has been a running inside joke between my friend Chad and I for years. And yes, “Moving in Stereo” is stuck in my head as I type this.

Brea Grant plainly stating “I grew up as a girl” before cracking up at the realization of what she’d said couldn’t help but remind me of Alyssa, who says goofy shit like that all the time. Sometimes it’s deliberate, other times not, but she always laughs it off, and it’s never anything short of endearing.

And when Bill Moseley talked about his children having sleepovers and Green wondered if he’d ever scared any of them off, Otis just replied that while he didn’t think so “I’ve never seen the same kid twice, let’s put it that way.” Me and one of my oldest friends, Dan can be having a serious conversation that quickly has us cackling, and that matter of fact exchange and the laughter it created felt very familiar to me.

The sleepovers conjured memories of an all-night, horror marathon drinking game some friends and I shared a few months back. It was just a stack of movies and laughs and beer until the sun came up, and it was as much fun as I’ve had in a long time.

OrtizIt all culminated in the first episode of Season 2, though, when Tony Todd shared the story of his brother Donald, who had passed a few weeks prior to that shoot.

Todd’s powerful voice softened and tears escaped his eyes as he shared memories of his sibling, who had been institutionalized when Todd was just four years old. The larger than life actor described the image that adorned the funeral form.

“On the cover was this horribly misshapen, man-monster with these spindly legs, accordion arms, big forehead, huge jaw—and I thought to myself ‘Oh my God, some of these monsters that I get offered to play, that’s him, that’s it.’” Todd spoke of legacy and that he was working for his unseen muse, and that his brother no longer had to struggle to walk or deal with pain, that he’d been freed of that burden, and it was more than Adam Green could take.

The host broke down and asked the crew to stop rolling. When the episode came to a close, it faded to black with a single message, “For Donald.”

When you feel like your life isn’t worth living, that you are that misshapen figure, and that you are inconsequential, empathy from others makes you emotional, and that exchange, Green’s reaction, and the lasting image of the episode’s dedication had me pressing pause and purging emotions that had been building up for far too long.

Creatures are as much as part of the horror genre as slashers and buckets of blood, and I am nothing if not a creature of habit. Comfort food doesn’t have to be pizza and Mountain Dew, it can be a series of web shorts or a film or an album that takes you to a better place. For the past few weeks, whenever I need respite, I pull up Scary Sleepover and it helps me get through the day, to get to sleep, to carry on.

But it has less to do with Green or the guests as much as what it reminds me of: the friendships that I share with people who make me smile, who help me through the tough times, who truly care about me.

And what Green said about Ortiz applies to one and all, “my life would suck without [them] in it,” because they are a reason for me to stay, and it was a reminder that I needed very badly.

I’ve made it through the past few weeks and I’m here today, and Adam Green’s Scary Sleepover has been a big reason why. I’ve never met him, he wouldn’t know me if he saw me, but the reality is that he’s saved my life more than once, and I can never thank him enough.

Hodder

Why John Shepherd is the Best Tommy Jarvis

“Let’s think beyond the legend, put it in real terms.”

Only twice since Ginny Field (Amy Steel) applied her child psychology training in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) has the Crystal Lake saga embraced those words: with Derek Mears in the 2009 reboot, and through John Shepherd’s performance as Tommy Jarvis in A NEW BEGINNING (1985).

Tackling a role that had already been fulfilled by other actors—particularly well-known actors—can prove a difficult endeavor, and Tommy Jarvis was no different. For John Shepherd in the fifth installment of the Friday franchise, that fact is and was compounded by a series of issues, not the least of which was timing.

To begin, Corey Feldman was not only the original, but easily the biggest name to have ever portrayed the character. Though THE FINAL CHAPTER opened in April of 1984, less than two months later Feldman would appear in the massively successful GREMLINS, which was closely followed by THE GOONIES, another blockbuster the following year. STAND BY ME hit theatres the year after that, by which time Feldman had become a household name and as a result, towers as the epitome of Tommy Jarvis in the eyes of many fans.

Jarvis glasses

What’s more, a large portion of those fans regard THE FINAL CHAPTER as the finest of Friday films, whereas A NEW BEGINNING is widely viewed as nothing more than the bridge between Part IV and JASON LIVES, another beloved franchise installment that saw Thom Mathews pick up the Tommy torch, and who already enjoyed cult status for his part in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985).

While one would be hard-pressed to claim that continuity has been a series strong suit, that Mathews’ Jarvis no longer appeared to carry any of the burdens of the trauma he’d endured as a child (or even shortly before the events of Part VI) is a point rarely contended. The fact that JASON LIVES moved at breakneck speed while also embracing the absurdity and humor inherent in the franchise not only endeared it to Friday followers, but made the latter point an easy one to forgive or forget—to say nothing of the fact that Jason wasn’t really even Jason in A NEW BEGINNING. In short, when it comes to the Jarvis trilogy, Shepherd suffered the misfortune of being bookended by a pair of actors seared into the minds of Friday fans as the Alpha and Omega because they happened to helm two of the franchise’s most popular entries.

Key factors all, and components that have relegated Shepherd’s Jarvis to Crystal Lake purgatory. However, it would be a mistake to overlook what Tommy 2.0 brought to the table.

One aspect of Shepherd’s performance that made it so spectacular was that it fittingly followed in the footsteps of Jason from the standpoint that every tortured nuance was offered with nary a word. Writers Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen and Danny Steinmann fashioned A NEW BEGINNING’s screenplay in such a way that the elements of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were not only on full display, but peppered throughout as though boxes to be checked off. It was in what Shepherd did with those opportunities, however, that left it feeling like anything but a laundry list put to film.

Jarvis mirrorWhat’s more, how many performances have the Crystal Lake saga really given us? For as beloved as Betsy Palmer is, her Pamela Voorhees was over the top—for effect to be sure—but over the top, nonetheless. So we’re talking Amy Steel from Part 2 (1981) , Lar Park-Lincoln from THE NEW BLOOD (1988), and Shepherd’s Jarvis from A NEW BEGINNING. So why not celebrate it?

Our first glimpse at Shepherd as Tommy found him waking in an Unger Institute of Mental Health transport van, sweaty and wide-eyed after waking from a nightmare where Jason rose once more. Unable to shake the ghastly events that led to the death of his mother and near murder of his sister at the hands of the Crystal Lake marauder, it was a re-introduction that could have easily fallen into camp, but Shepherd played it with purpose, an effect he wouldn’t relinquish for the duration of the film’s 92-minute runtime.

We bore witness to a character drowning in the symptoms of PTSD. Shepherd’s Jarvis avoided contact and interaction with others whenever possible, and suffered unwanted and intrusive memories of Jason of both the auditory and visual variety. Recurring nightmares made sleep nearly impossible and he was easily startled by nearly everything that crossed his path. Those instances of alarm led to angry outbursts of aggressive behavior because subconscious though they were, whatever figure plagued Jarvis in the moment wasn’t Voorhees, so it served as an outlet for frustration, a punching bag that could be beaten.

True to character, though, Shepherd never ventured too far and instead stayed the course, his fright morphed to resentment and finally to anger, played in such a way that outward reaction was an involuntary response. When Tommy body-slammed Eddie (John Robert Dixon) at breakfast, he was almost immediately pinned to the wall by the head of Pinehurst, Matt (Richard Young), where Shepherd brilliantly conveyed the briefest moment of recognition. As Jarvis snapped back to reality, he glanced at Matt and closed his eyes in remorse, his chest heaving as he collected himself. Later, after he went Chuck Norris on Junior (Ron Sloan) at the trailer park, Tommy was again roused back to the present by Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) and fled at the sad, desperate realization that in those moments, he was unable to control himself.

Jarvis breakfastAnd finally, when Jarvis once more found himself standing face-to-face with “Jason,” Shepherd’s Jarvis was frozen, unable to move until threatened with his own demise. Stabbing his nemesis in the leg, he made his way to the barn loft where he lost consciousness. When he came to and laid eyes on Pam and Reggie (Shavar Ross) in imminent peril, Jarvis, as though having an out of body experience, leapt to action to protect a young woman and child in danger. Thoughts of Shepherd tearfully gazing at the photograph of his mother and sister earlier in the film flood through the audience’s collective mind as they watched Tommy, in a way, save the family he had lost, sending “Jason” / Roy (Dick Wieand) plummeting to his death.

Shepherd’s Jarvis was lost and tormented, and even when his actions were heroic, they emerged reluctantly and never escaped the fractured framework of a younger self who had seen things that could not be unseen.

With the simple decision to follow the path laid by Ginny three films prior, John Shepherd’s turn as Tommy provided FRIDAY THE 13TH more than its finest achievement of the Jarvis trilogy, but the single greatest performance the franchise has ever known.

For a series short on performance, that Shepherd thought beyond the legend and put it in real terms deserves respect, and 34 years on, it’s about time he gets it.

Jarvis window

What Keeps Us Coming Back for More Joe Bob

How often do we hear Joe Bob toss a word out then immediately repeat that word and look to the crew to ask, “What does (insert word here) mean?” It’s all part of his storytelling, because he wants to be sure the audience is on the same page before he escorts them further down whatever magical rabbit hole he’s concocted for that segment.

The word I want to use is “sustainable.”

What does “sustainable” mean, anyway? It’s about upholding a rate or level, right? So, how does that word pertain to The Last Drive-In? It’s not about Shudder renewing for a second season or further marathons, because I think we can all agree they’d be fools to walk away from the gold rush of subscriptions they’ve sold because of the presence of Joe Bob Briggs. They have a very small crew that isn’t handsomely rewarded for its efforts, and they’ve already paid for the rights to broadcast whatever films Joe Bob chooses every week, so, I ask again—how does “sustainable” enter the equation?

Think about the anticipation and excitement that surrounded the long-awaited return of the Drive-In Jedi for the initial Last Drive-In marathon this past July and the holiday specials that followed. Mutants who had waited nearly two decades for so much as a morsel of drive-in totals were frothing at the mouth and it made sense because it had been so damn long. It’s no different than the fanfare that accompanied the teaser trailers and subsequent release of Blumhouse’s HALLOWEEN (2018) last October and the enthusiasm the horror community is now experiencing for IT: CHAPTER TWO. It’s easy to harbor that type of glee in the short term, even though short can mean a month or two months, and sometimes even a year. But inevitably the film drops, folks attend in droves and it’s all anyone can talk about for a week or two, sometimes more, but without fail it fades and we move on to the next thing. Time is funny that way, it always wins because that type of enthusiasm cannot be sustained for long periods of, well, time.

BeerTherein lies the answer to how the word “sustainable” pertains to The Last Drive-In. The first marathon came and went, but it didn’t peak, there was no Joe Bob fatigue. It carried into the “Dinners of Death” Thanksgiving event but didn’t plateau there either because the anticipation for “A Very Joe Bob Christmas” was even higher than the marathon that preceded it, and dare I say the original, as well.

Which brings us to The Last Drive-In’s Friday night double features that began on March 29. After 21 films and well over 40 hours, the fans still hadn’t gotten enough Joe Bob, and what’s more, their hunger had only grown more ravenous. The Last Drive-In, Mr. Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl are the television equivalent of an industrial-sized tub of The Stuff. We’ve grown helplessly addicted, desperate for our next fix, like a collective dog that just can’t wait to get at Danny Aiello’s throat.

What other horror program can compare? Very few if any are old enough to remember the original run of The Twilight Zone, so it’s possible that show generated the same visceral response from its audience, but with the lack of social media to connect every single viewer to the festivities, that’s doubtful. Hannibal is universally adored, but only lasted three seasons and clearly wasn’t must-see because the ratings dictated its end (damn you, DVR), and The X-Files enjoyed a spectacular run for a few seasons before it too lost momentum. For a show to completely dominate the public consciousness year after year is rare, and Game of Thrones embodied that for nearly a decade until we’ve all recently seen (depending on your perspective) the unfortunate end to that story.

But not The Last Drive-In. Now, before anyone goes off about the fact that The Twilight Zone and Hannibal and The X-Files aired for years when Shudder’s extravaganza hasn’t even existed for 365 days, I’d ask that one not forget part of it is the mystery of what films will be presented, what guest might pop up, or what Felissa Rose has to say about the male anatomy–but more importantly, that word–“sustainable.”

Stuff

The buzz for Joe Bob and The Last Drive-In has not only failed to level off, it’s intensified, and the reason for that is that this crop of Briggs disciples has been blessed with social media. While that may seem obvious, take a moment to truly think about what that means. The number of people who would watch regardless may not be affected by Twitter or Facebook, but how many tune in because of social media? Because they can keep up with Darcy (@kinkyhorror) on Twitter or interact with fellow fans who are engaged in real time discussions? The days of viewing MonsterVision on TNT in what often times equated to solitary confinement are long dead. Whether one is having a party or quietly watching alone at home, we are all-in together. The pictures, the videos, the GIFs, the art, the clever observations are all captured minute-by-minute, film-by-film, night-by-night, and can be kept on phones and computers and pads to relive and share from Saturday to the following Friday when it all begins again.

It’s an event. Every week.

As Briggs said in the press release that announced the renewal of The Last Drive-In for a second season, “it’s about something larger than horror. Don’t ask me what that thing is, but it’s a source of great joy to me.” So, you see, the fans may come for Joe Bob, but they stay for each other. It’s that shared experience—the commentary, the new friendships, the laughs, the memories we know will last a lifetime—which make The Last Drive-In “sustainable.”

Perhaps things will change if Shudder renews beyond Season 2, but I doubt that very seriously. Sure, we’ve seen it before, but have we seen it with an insatiable army of Mutant minions armed with interweb devices counting the seconds to 9 o’clock every Friday night? I think not.

Speaker

A Year after ‘Ash vs Evil Dead,’ That Scene Still Resonates

“That’s the key,” Bruce Campbell noted on the DVD commentary of the Ash vs Evil Dead series finale, “give the actors something appropriate to do.” In the end, the lasting image of the EVIL DEAD franchise was not a one-liner or practical effect or or even gallons of blood, but the connection shared between a handful of performers and the audience which followed them on a journey that came to an end one year ago today.

Ash vs Evil Dead offered a surplus of splatstick, but over 15 hours of series life, it also provided a peek behind the curtain at who Ashley J. Williams (Campbell) truly was. Perhaps its greatest achievement, though, was getting a die hard fan base to fall in love with characters it had never known before 2015.

THE EVIL DEAD premiered in Detroit, Michigan on October 15, 1981, with origins that stretched back even further, but didn’t introduce Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago) and Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) for 34 years, and it would be another two before Brandy Williams (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) entered the fray. By the time “Mettle of Man,” came to a close, however, they were just as beloved as El Jefe, a testament to the writing team that brought the show to life.

James Eagan was responsible for 11 episodes, while Nate Crocker, Zoe Green and William Bromell all had a hand in penning 10 chapters. DeLorenzo was and continues to be a champion of the team effort responsible for making Ash vs Evil Dead what it was, and never was that more evident than the series finale. Campbell, Santiago, DeLorenzo and Carver-O’Neill assembled in the back of a military truck, armed only with Rick Jacobson’s words (Jacobson wrote and directed the final two episodes), and provided EVIL DEAD fans with the farewell we needed, but didn’t deserve.

On that same commentary track, Campbell said “This is very potentially the last time you will ever see these characters, and story-wise, we’ve been through too much to give them short shrift, as they say.” A concept Jacobson understood as well as the most ardent of AVED fans.

With a six-story, Kandarian demon looming in the distance, the Ghostbeaters all remained true to character.

Amid chaos and gunfire, Pablo rushed to rescue a frightened little girl cowering on the street, Kelly picked up a weapon and defended the soldiers facing off with oncoming Deadites, and Brandy held tight to the ride or die stance that put her firmly at Ash’s side.

Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 2017And as the Godzilla-like monster roared and the blades of a helicopter whirled overhead, the Prophesied One glanced at the faces of his family and “finally, for once, own(ed) up to who the hell [he] was.”

Brandy questioned what he was doing and Kelly barked “Ash, come on. Get in the fucking truck!” but Ash knew that nearly four decades on, the time had come. And Campbell, along with his partners in crime hit every note Jacobson had poured onto the page.

“My father always said I ran from my fights, Brandy. I’m not runnin’ from this one.”

As NYPD Blue methodically unveiled the soul of Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) over 12 seasons, so too did AVED reveal that Ash was not only the hero we always believed him to be, but that he was no longer a caricature, rather a human being willing to lay down for those he cared about.

As Jacobson commented, “[Ash] knows that most likely, [his decision] was going to be a one way trip.” For the first time, it was not one-liner that left tears in our eyes, but the heartfelt emotion Campbell exuded saying goodbye.

Like a father stingy with a compliment, Ash picked the perfect time to show the Ghostbeaters how he truly felt about them.

“Kelly, people are going to need a strong leader. Someone they can depend on, someone they can believe in. That’s you.” Maxwell, the focused leader to Ash’s reluctant, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Chosen One, finally knew that she didn’t have to be like Ash, that who she was was exactly what the world needed.

PabloTurning to El Brujo Especial, “Pablo, you’re the Jefe now.” A quick cut to Ash’s right-hand man found his orbs moist with sentiment, but he said nary a word, just pursed his lips with a pained smile and nod of understanding. Nothing needed to be said. Perfectly written and perfectly acted. I’m not ashamed to admit that for all the times I had to pause Ash vs Evil Dead because I was howling with laughter, that reaction shot was the only time I paused it because I was overwhelmed. It was a good minute or two before the tears had stopped.

“You save them.” Once more, it was no longer about Ash or even those he held most dear, but the citizens of Elk Grove and the world at large, because the savior of humanity was finally ready to fulfill his destiny.

But not before parting ways with the daughter he’d only begun to know, but loved deeply.

“You said you wouldn’t leave me.”

Holding back tears, Ash responded “I’m doin’ this for you. I’m doing it for all of you.” Brandy placed her hand on the window, and Ash answered in kind, his head bowed, and a gentle, loving double tap of his fingers on the glass. As the truck pulled away, we saw Ash standing alone as the camera widened the distance between them.

“Now Rick, you know I’ve butchered dialogue before, I’ve butchered mercilessly,” Campbell said. “I didn’t change anything in that dialogue because I really liked it.”

It’s been a year since we said farewell to Ash vs Evil Dead, but much like Ashley J. Williams, those final fleeting moments when Rick Jacobson’s words were shared between the Ghostbeaters will stand the test of time.

DeLorenzo silhouette

 

 

 

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 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 directed 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 Mutant Fam, 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 of 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, and offered 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 too 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 appreciation, 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