9/15/11

The Bugg Goes to The Drive-In Horror Show (2009)

There are things that I always tend to lean toward, Drive-Ins, anthology films, and people with whom I have shared Shiner Bocks. So let it be known, that one evening after the events of days at Horrorhound Weekend Indy 11, I did find myself sharing aforementioned beer brand with Micheal Neel, director of the anthology flick, Drive-In Horror Show. During the course of quelling our thirst, Micheal asked if I'd gotten a chance to see his film, and sadly I had not. Now that situation has been amended, and call it preferential treatment if you will, but I owe Mr. Neel another round or two.

Anthologies are a tricky thing. Some, such as Creepshow, Black Sabbath or Trick 'r Treat , go down in the books as horror classics. Then there's flicks like Grim Prairie Tales and Tales from the Hood are better left both forgotten and unexamined. The trouble tackling an anthology film is that each separate piece needs to be strong on its own so the viewer is left with an impression of each story, but there must be both balance and build or the dynamic of the film is skewed well away from point. Thankfully, first time feature director Micheal Neel, whose previous credits include three documentary features, one self produced and directed, knows his stuff and, as an avid horror fan, he must have know the traps to watch out for because he made out like Pitfall Harry swinging over a lake of 8 bit crocs.

Drive-In Horror Show is divided into five segments linked via a post-apocalyptic drive-in where the old horror classics just "won't stay dead." Manning the reels is The Projectionist (Luis Negron) with his sidekick Billy Troll, and you can't hate on segments where you learn important lessons like "the undead are so hard to please". Negron is suitably hammy as a temporary horror host, and I really enjoyed  his interplay with his supporting cast of a lolling zombie, an ax murdered concession stand girl, and a pair of griping skeleton patrons (one of which is voiced by director Micheal Need.)

The first segment Pig goes right for the audience's throat and their endurance for realistic gore. It's rape-revenge in the correct miniature proportions 5 seconds of off-screen raped and twenty of bloody, bloody, bathtub revenge. With only two emotionally charged (and gory) performances to start up the film, Neel and co-writer Greg Ansin took a big chance, and it pays off. Actress Judith Kalora is outstanding, and I would not be at all surprised to hear her name again someday.

Then in The Closet we see what happens when a literal monster in the closet gets sway over an unhappy middle schooler who has it out for his family. Let's just say the results aren't pretty, but they'd sure make Rod Serling smile. While some of the family interactions are stilted, Chis Fidler impresses as young Jamie, and watching the young actor slip from horrified to gleefully excited during his character's predicament is well worth the story's few foibles.


Fall Apart is the first story to feature a sympathetic character as the main focus, philanthropic Dr. Patrick Mazursky. The Doc does all the pro-bono work he can, but after encountering a mysterious sore on a patient, he starts down the road to a killer Frank Cotton cosplay. While I think the story almost gets away from itself, it is saved by its brief running time and ends up being both thought provoking and touching.

The Meat Man stars two young kids with wild imaginations and a BBQ loving dad they suspect might be the titular cannibalistic serial killer. My dad can beat up your dad kind of pales in comparison when one suspects that pops might be pals with Dexter Morgan. I believe this segment was the shortest, and it was a wise decision. While the premise was cute, it was the weakest story overall.

The Watcher takes us on a hike straight into slasher territory. In a third of the Friday the 13th remake's running time, it provides a better example of how to pay homage to the classics, bring the genre into the present, interesting cinematic dynamics, and create  a suspense build which executes into a perfect final climax for the film. The greatest asset this segment holds is the shooting style. Every frame has a point-of-view feeling from beginning to end,and it creates a hell of a mood.

Drive-In Horror Show is not a perfect anthology film, but even among the good ones, I can think of none that would get top honors no matter how much I favor the sub-genre. That being said, Micheal Neel's homage to drive-in horror hits all the bases. Cannibals, monsters, serial killers, revenge killers, and crazy infections (complete with shady government agents) are all staples of they drive-in's heyday. While there's precious few places you can still experience the thrill of the drive-in theater,  Horror Show is a great way to get a little of that at home. It also managed to gross me out, and so I have to give a big shout out to the folks in the special effects department. I'm not usually one to have to turn away from anything, but one portion of Pig made me nauseous. So my hat is off to you (also just in case I need to toss cookies.)

There will surely be critics who would come down harder on this film, and yes there is more I could pick apart. However when it comes to any film, and an indie especially, heart goes a long way. It came through loud and clear that everyone in this film had tons of heart. In fact, I saw a few of them get ripped out. I also saw a first genre feature from a talented new director. Sure, I might have met Micheal Neel, and you might think I'm biased toward Drive-In Horror Show, but my bias lies with things that are good to watch. Earlier I said  that I owed Mr. Neel another drink. I think as more people see his film he's going to have more and more glasses hoisted his way.

Bugg Rating 

Check out all things DRIVE-IN HORROR SHOW here! Including where to get your very own copy! Netflix users please save it to your queue and let's see if we can help Micheal get 'Flix to carry his flick. 

2 comments:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 17, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Creepshow 3 was ludicrously under-rated, i thought it was superb.

    ReplyDelete
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