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The Last Drive-In | Season Three-o, Week Eight-o: Sledgehammer and Things

Do not adjust your tracking (actually you should) — Joe Bob had VHS Night on The Last Drive-In. (Art by T.J. Denton @TDenton_1138 on Twitter)

The shortest episode of this season of The Last Drive-In was the one that may have tested the constitutions, attention spans, eyeballs and, verily, the souls of Mutants everywhere the most.

And it also tested their skills as essayists.

VHS Night was a throwback in more ways than one. The flicks that were shown, well, it didn’t much matter whether those big surround sound systems were set up right except, perhaps, for when John Brennan was doing the song “You Got Yourself in a Tailspin” at the end. And that 4K setup with the 96-inch screen didn’t much matter when the source material you’re watching was shot on a hulking camcorder or on Super 8/16 mm film.

What did matter (beyond the fact that it was also Drywall Destruction Night in both features)?

Commitment.

A bunch of committed Mutants hung in there through both flicks even when the plots defied logic, the actors denied Stanislavski and Things defied a champion pro wrestler. Those hardy souls’ll be rewarded with a certificate from JBB and Darcy after submitting detailed dissertations on the first double feature in LDI history with a sub-two-star combined rating (1.75 to be exact).  (Be patient with em, they’ll get mailed).

It took an iron-clad commitment to sit through a slasher flick with a transmogrifying masked killer who could teleport himself and his blunt titular implement of devastation that he used thrice (that we saw).

It took commitment for native Canadian and AEW star Chris Jericho to be reminded that Things was a product of his native land and to return as a special guest and revisit what, to him, was an unpleasant viewing experience.

But the greatest commitment of all was by the filmmakers themselves — David A. Prior and Andrew Jordan — who put a few bucks together, got some people together, made a movie, put it on tape and actually got it in the rental shops for people to see back then and, lo and behold, decades later after all but a hardy few video stores (including Darcy’s beloved Blockbuster) remained, their flicks become the talk of the Internet for an evening.

And let’s talk about Sledgehammer, with perhaps one of the least-dynamic love scenes in history, the magical sledge that impales people rather than caves in their chests and more padding than the interior of a capsule designed to go down Niagara Falls through the repetition of scenes, the use of slo mo and so, so many static shots of the same house.

Here are your totals, for the 2 1/2-star feature 1, courtesy of Shudder Twitter:

The padding went beyond the flick itself – Prior even made the credits longer to make it look like more folks worked on the movie than actually did. And so much synthesizer…

Ted Prior, the body-building brother of the director who took some acting lessons from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2-era Eric Freeman (or vice versa) was our hero. We had a bad Bill Murray impersonation by John Eastman, but above all, we had the first earnest example that showed that hard work could get a DIY flick made in two rooms and a kitchen of an apartment into video stores back in the 1980s.  

But, while a trendsetter, Sledgehammer was nothing compared with the second feature if you like your brain melty like the Milk Duds JBB used to leave on the dash of the Toronado.

The experience of watching Things, the film that “defies the laws of physics, logic, cinematography, common sense and art itself,” according to Joe Bob, launched 34-page essays and exercises in the kind of pretzel logic that should have stayed in the Historia Discordia where it belonged.

With totals like these, I like to refer to the great quote from Luciano Pigozzi, aka Alan Collins, aka Pag from Yor, Hunter From the Future — “We’ll need a lot more hemp before we’re through.”

The aforementioned Chris Jericho could not hide his level of detest for the film, which didn’t bother Things star and co-producer Barry J. Gillis too much. He was really active on Facebook during the show because Producer Rule Numero Uno is any publicity is good publicity, especially if your flick is more than 30 years old.

My interpretation of Things is thus: It all happened in Don’s mind, and the bears and rattlesnakes got him. See, he had just finished watching a Doctor Who episode, It’s AliveThe Evil Dead and an Amber Lynn flick, let’s say Miami Spice, all in a row before staggering into the Canadian wilderness in search of beer. Regrettably, he got lost in the river and passed out. The plot of Things and his delusions that there was a whole search party and national network news worried about how he and Fred had gone missing were his last thoughts before succumbing to his fate.

Tailspin, indeed.

And will the Last Drive-In crew be able to pull out of it with just two episodes to go while cooped up in the cabin?

We’ll see next week!

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