JBB Featured Contributor

The Last Drive-In: Season 4, Week 10: Uncle Sam and Nightbreed

Art by T.J. Denton (@TDenton_1138 on Twitter)

In conjunction with the Fourth of July holiday, the latest season of the Last Drive-In went out with a bang similar to the one that put the producers of Uncle Sam on the front page of the local paper where the flick was filmed because its climactic explosive effect had a little bit too much ka-boom for the neighborhood they were filming in.

And for the second flick, well, after talking about how much he really didn’t usually like director’s cuts, Joe Bob said himself that if he was able to give the director’s cut of Nightbreed FIVE stars, he says he would have.

So to put a bow on the season (or to blow it completely into pieces), there was some slash and some stellar stuff as we enter what will be the LDI off-season once the festivities in Memphis wrap.

Uncle Sam, a William Lustig and Larry Cohen collaboration, was the second “psycho ex-military guy goes on a murder spree” flick we’ve experienced at the trailer. You have to go way, way back to just after the use of Dr. Pepper near the Commodore 64 at Shudder HQ was explicitly banned as a result of the first marathon in 2018. It has a few strengths and some weaknesses, but given the pedigree of Lustig and Cohen, the expectations from something special were slightly elevated.

As a late-stage slasher, Uncle Sam lacked the subtle visual touches the Master Tom Savini lent to The Prowler (and by subtle, I just mean that nobody’s head was sawed off by a bayonet in excruciatingly slow motion), although the death of the character Joe Bob’s old buddy Robert Forster played was perfectly suited for the flick. Darcy preferred the flagpole impaling. Also, we were treated to the first villain origin story in recorded history where the bad guy had to kill a voyeur on stilts in order to get his costume. An overzealous sack race participant got the heck murdered out of himself as well and a couple of people literally were turned into charcoal briquets. See the Totals for yourself:

Totals GIF courtesy of the Shudder Twitter feed.

The rant preceding the flick dealt with American symbolism — somehow an entrepreneurial military contractor cloaked in the colors of the U.S. flag supplanted the nurturing, helpful female who had symbolized the welcoming opportunity that the country presented to the world. JB went into it in a lot more detail, but it served as a perfect reminder as to how the times and iconography both have changed and not necessarily for the better.

Speaking of changed, Clive Barker’s Nightbreed is another example of how the folks who control the funds can turn a full-on artistic visions into a muddled mess. But this time, something changed for the better.

Joe Bob went into the long litany of studio meddling that torpedoed the dark, deep and wondrous world Barker created based off his novel Cabal. The screwy conduct ultimately soured Barker on making movies and messed up a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Barker and David Cronenberg (as an actor, no less). But a group of persistent, dedicated fans of Near Dark with lots of cooperation and lots of luck, were able to undo over the course of time the butchering that the masterpiece had endured.

But we’re all the better for finally seeing the vision of the 200 creatures Barker sketched and the story, so epic that it encompassed five sound stages.

Drive-In Totals GIF courtesy Shudder.

And finally, let’s go into our more dormant months keeping in mind the Great Briggsian Spectrum of Internet Research Fu, when it comes to the whole true facts thing, it’s best leaning toward the peer-reviewed side of things rather than the psychotic ravings, which you can get pretty much anywhere these days,

So the big question is — when is more Joe Bob coming? And how will fans be able to endure the four- to five-hour void in our Friday nights until Season Cinco?

There are ways.

Primarily, you owe it to yourself to check out the Lost Drive-In Patreon for your more-than-a-weekly JBB fix from the archive vault where we just upgraded the cardboard boxes containing all the tapes, and lastly, but not leastly, keep an eye out for both the How Rednecks Saved Hollywood live show and the new JBB’s Indoor Drive-In Theater tour as he runs around the county showing double features, delighting unsuspecting theatergoers and owners alike. He’s been focusing on the brain, but rumor has it that there are a whole lot of other double features that are going to be available. You’ll just have to raise heck with your local independent theater owner to get them motivated to book it. And when the inevitable does occur, the schedule’ll be up here on the JBB site and on social media so you can plan on seeing him.

And that’ll wrap up our Last Call blog posts until the next Shudder special presentation. Once I’m recovered from the Jamboree and do an update on that, I’ll be back on my regular weekly review beat in the Screening Room soon with a bunch of random flicks to tide you over until the Last Drive-In reopens for business. 

See you down the road!

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