Recently, the independent horror film scene has experienced an explosion of anthology films with notable entries such as the V/H/S series as well as The ABC’s of Death and its sequel. Anthology films present their own set of challenges – telling short, engaging stories that are able to develop characters and scare viewers all within a concise fifteen minutes. However, when done well, anthology films provide an exhaustive assault on audience’s fears. With multiple shorts, anthology films can introduce a wide array of ghouls, murderers, monsters, and psychopaths, all without ever becoming stale.
In the tradition of Tales from the Crypt and Creepshow, Michael Neel’s 2009 film Drive-In Horrorshow seamlessly blends contemporary fears with a retro style of filmmaking to provide ample scares, buckets of blood, and a thoroughly entertaining experience. The film takes place in a post-apocolyptic world where the only surviving relic from the days gone by is an old, abandoned drive-in movie theater. Each night The Projectionist (Luis Negrón) and his loyal servant Billy Troll (Bill Gage) serve up a variety of horror films to their ghoulish guests who range from skeletons with an ample amount of sass and murder victims with axes still in their backs. These interludes featuring The Projectionist offer some of Drive-In Horrorshows biggest laughs, with its black humor harkening back to the anthology films of the 1980s.
The first story, “Pig”, follows two college students, Roseanne (Judith Kalaora) and Tim (Matt Catanzano), the morning after a huge frat party. Instead of a few embarrassed remarks and the standard “walk-of-shame”, Tim wakes up glued to his bathtub with industrial strength plumbing glue, his teeth knocked out, and Roseanne standing above him holding a hammer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It’s safe to say that Tim was not exactly an angel the night before and Roseanne is not the kind of girl that you want to mess with.
“The Closet” tells the story of a young boy named Jaime (Chris Fiddler) who’s parents (John Cleary and Elizabeth Rose) just don’t get him! Constantly in the shadow of his perfect, honor-roll, older sister Christy (Michaela Reggio), Jaime does what any angst-ridden young boy would do – gruesomely feed his family to the monster that has taken up residence in his closet. However, life without his family isn’t exactly how he envisioned it (cue to Jamie pulling his hair out while looking at the mortgage payment and taxes). “The Closet” provides some of the best writing throughout the whole film and the retro style of storytelling feels like this short was taken directly out of an episode of Tales from the Darkside.
The next two stories, “Fall Apart” and “The Meat Man”, are the goriest stories in the anthology and provide some of the most brutal images of blood and guts, even David Cronenberg would cringe. “Fall Apart” tells the story of a small-town doctor (Larry Jay Tish) who catches a mysterious disease and descends into a The Fly-esque transformation into a pile of guts. We’re talking about sheets of skin peeling right off the muscle, eyeballs falling out, and buckets of oozing pus – NICE! “The Meat Man” tells the story of two, young brothers who suspect that they’re meat-loving father (Jonathan Donahue) might just be the main character from their small-town’s particularly gruesome urban legend (he’s always taking about getting the freshest cut of meat and what’s fresher than recently-murdered human flesh?!).
The final story in the anthology, “The Watcher”, might seem like the standard, lost-in-the-woods-with-a-psychopathic-slasher tale, but the filmmakers are able to build such a palpable amount of tension, that this story becomes a cut above the rest of its competitors. This tension combined with the extremely realistic gore, will be sure to bring out anyone’s fear of being alone in the woods.
Despite being shot on a low-budget, Drive-In Horrorshow illustrates the strengths of indie-horror films – heart, creativity, and the ability to zero-in on audience’s fears without relying on high-cost production. The films are able to combine the retro style of filmmaking with contemporary fears – being taken advantage of, not living up to parents’ expectations, a lying loved-one, and of course, TAXES. The love of horror-films is felt in every frame of Drive-In Horrorshow and its ability to pay homage to classic horror films without becoming oppressively nostalgic, makes Michael Neel’s Drive-In Horrorshow a must-see for all lovers of horror films.
Review by: Alex Schultz