Tag Archives: The Last Drive-In

Our Need for Joe Bob is Unmistakable

Folks of a certain age understand compulsion better than anyone. And I’m not talkin’ about overindulging in food or alcohol or even aardvarkin’. No, this is far more specific: an absolutely animalistic compulsion to see a film based entirely on its video store cover art if you know what I mean, (and if you grew up in the eighties) I think you do.

As a lad I just had to know what treasures lay beneath the fascinating covers of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) and THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976), as well a film that for whatever reason always caught my eye but my family had never rented.

For years as a child I spent weekends at my grandparents’ house. It was in the country, I could grab my baseball glove and tennis ball and toss it against the house steps and visualize owning my friends the next time we squared off (it never worked, by the way), and my grandpa would always let me drive the John Deere riding mower while their dog Pete followed me around the expansive yard. It was comforting to be there with them and the hound, an unmistakable slice of heaven.

Neither of my grandparents were movie buffs, but my grandma always made a point to grab a bottle of Pepsi and glass of ice during the 10 o’clock news so she could get caffeinated and stay up with me.

Like clockwork, my grandpa would turn in right after that broadcast, then she and I would settle in to watch whatever B-movie fare the local affiliate had secured for that week. The only one I remember, however, was the one repped by cover art that had caught my eye but eluded my view — IT’S ALIVE (1974).

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I remember leaning in as the screen transitioned from the WKBT nightly news to a quick preview for Larry Cohen’s weird tale of a killer baby. Thoughts of that cover art’s cradle with and a claw peeking out played through my mind as I watched in riveted terror (for perspective, I wasn’t quite 10 years old). But there was an odd comfort in that fear, because I knew that my grandmother was right there beside me and grandpa was sleeping in the next room. Though frightened, I was safe, and that sense of security was unmistakable.

In that moment, I knew that a lifelong devotion to horror was set into motion, which led to THE SHINING (1980) and FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) and later, midnight soirees with a cowboy hat-wearing, beer-guzzling smartass on The Movie Channel.

Drive-In Theater turned to MonsterVision and when I found myself working at a television station years later, I asked the high sheriffs if I could resurrect their collection of public domain films into a B-Movie homage to Joe Bob Briggs. They said yes, and for three years my delight was unmistakable.

As Briggs is apt to say, movies are intended to be enjoyed with an audience, a communal experience. A stance proven time and again through the connectivity of The Movie Channel and TNT and the fact that two of the people I worked with at the TV studio had previously labored at another — WKBT.

So, when Joe Bob made his triumphant return to Shudder with The Last Drive-In just shy of two years ago, that unmistakable sense of safety and the nostalgia that came along with it flooded over every nerve in my body.

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What was supposed to be a last, 24-hour hurrah for the Drive-In Jedi quickly turned into Friday night double features that not only obliterated Shudder’s server but unwittingly triggered a silent alarm that drew every Drive-In Mutant who had watched Briggs alone in their youth into a larger family that they never knew they had. That communal sense of acceptance and love was also unmistakable.

Shortly after the death of IT’S ALIVE’s writer and director Larry Cohen last March, Joe Bob selected Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982) from the Shudder library to celebrate the life and talent of one of the most uniquely talented filmmakers to ever walk the Earth. But before the picture rolled, Briggs shared something that has stayed with me every day since:

“You can be half-drunk and just woke up and turn on the TV and if it’s a Larry Cohen movie you instantly know it,” continuing “the characters talk in this rhythm, it’s just unmistakable.”

Unmistakable.

Cohen’s singular skill and the gorilla filmmaking that brought it to fruition, to say nothing of the millions who believed they were alone in their love for films like Cohen’s only to find that they were part of something much bigger years later. The experiences may have been individualized in our youth, but we later discovered that those memories were unmistakably shared.

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From a late night horror film on WKBT to working with friends who’d called that station home, from the compulsion of video store cover art to the Drive-In Theater to MonsterVision to Shudder, all experiences that were part of something much bigger, a larger safety net that only togetherness can create.

And now we find ourselves firmly entrenched in the quarantine-shelter-in-place-social-distancing of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of us find ourselves ripped from loved ones and the routine of our daily lives, feeling lost and lonely. We need our safety net now more than ever, and just as we feel our sanity starting to slip, we are less than a fortnight from the fright.

Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl will give us Season 2 of The Last Drive-In on the evening of April 24 and it could not come at a better time. We need family, we need friends, we need the safety net of the loving acceptance that only a Briggs-led communal experience can provide.

When the curtain goes up on that first episode, whether it serves as a distraction or makes you feel normal again, however momentary, we will all be reminded of our own similar but unique late night horror movie experience that set our collective journey into motion.

We will be compelled to watch. It will be much needed. It will be therapeutic. But above all, every emotion it evokes will be unmistakable.

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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.”

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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.

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Shudder Greenlights Another Season of “The Last Drive-In”

Though it seemed a foregone conclusion, ardent followers of Joe Bob Briggs, otherwise and affectionately known as the Mutant Family anxiously sat on the edge of its collective seat with just one week remaining of the Friday night double features that began on March 29.

Today, Shudder put those fears to rest with the announcement that The Last Drive-In had been renewed for a second season.

“From our first marathon and subsequent specials in 2018, through this year’s series, Shudder members have been loud and clear: we can never have too much Joe Bob,” said Shudder General Manager Craig Engler. “We have read every tweet, every email, and every Facebook comment crying out for more. Message received. Joe Bob will be back.”

The Drive-In Jedi himself weighed in on the outpouring of support and love received from that #MutantFam.

“It hasn’t even been a full year since the 24-hour Last Drive-In marathon, but since then I’ve made thousands of new friends and reconnected with thousands of old ones,” said Briggs. “The main reason I’m coming back to do another season is that this community of horror fans is greater than the sum of its parts, and 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.”

The initial Last Drive-In marathon streamed on Friday, July 13 of last year, and was followed by a pair of holiday events–“Dinners of Death” on Thanksgiving, and “A Very Joe Bob Christmas”–and the weekly program began a little more than three months later.

From cult films like C.H.U.D., WOLF COP and THE STUFF to classics like THE CHANGELING and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and eclectic titles like A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, The Last Drive-In double features have dominated social media, with the likes of Larry Cohen and CASTLE FREAK trending on Twitter.

A date for The Last Drive-In’s second season is yet to be determined, but will continue its double feature live stream format when the series returns.

More information to follow as it becomes available.