The Last Drive-In | Summer Slumber Party: Victor Crowley

Victor Crowley, numero four-o in the series of Hatchet films, had the largest collection of special guests in the history of The Last Drive-In. (Art by T.J. Denton @TDenton_1138)

Victor Crowley, numero four-o in the series of Hatchet films, had the largest collection of special guests in the history of The Last Drive-In. (Art by T.J. Denton @TDenton_1138)

Fear in Footie Pajamas

Ain’t it grand when fear makes you feel warm and fuzzy – like a pair of classic flannel PJs, the kind Joe Bob sported Friday night, not once but twice, surprising us with the kind of wardrobe change that Darcy is famous for. Yes, for we horror fans, fear is our security blanket. It might not be true in life, but it sure as hell is on a Friday (or any) night when we turn off the lights, crack open a Lone Star, and willingly subject ourselves to flickering images of blood, breasts and beasts – the more of em, the better.

Speaking of more, feature number two of Friday night’s Summer Sleepover saw a packed drive-in with special guests Kane Hodder, Felissa Rose, Brian Quinn and Tiffany Shepis – all stars of Victor Crowley, a Shudder premiere written and directed by Adam Green who was also on set for the mayhem. Victor Crowley featured some of the most original Drive-In Totals of any Joe Bob feature. (That’s what having Felissa in a film can do for ya.)

  • 13 Dead Bodies
  • 2 Breasts
  • 1 WhangDoodle, Whipped Out
  • Phlegm Kissing
  • Eye Gouging Dismemberment
  • Head Stomping
  • Head Chopping
  • Head Scalping
  • Prolonged Drowning
  • Airplane-Window Suck
  • Felissa Rose Mangled-Arm Vaginal-Penetration Oral-Fisting Cell-Phone Evisceration
  • Claw-Hammer Face-Destruction with Neck Evisceration and Cranium Removal
  • Gratuitous Water Snake
  • Heads Roll
  • Fingers Roll
  • Arm Rolls
  • Belt Sander Fu
  • Hatchet Fu
  • Jet-Engine Fu

It was a great film and a great night. But probably not even Victor Crowley’s blood-spattered totals can give us a real rise anymore. Why is that?

In his great book Screaming for Pleasure, S.A. Bradley describes horror like a first kiss. Recalling his experience of watching Don’t Look Now in 1973 as a mere eight-year old, he writes:

I was shaken to my core…I had nightmares. I was terrified to walk upstairs in my house alone at night because of the full-length mirror at the end of the hallway. I couldn’t stare at my reflection because I was afraid I’d see the monster from the movie appear out of one of the dark rooms behind me and advance on me while I was paralyzed with fear. My first horror movie traumatized me. And yet, I found myself attracted to that strange feeling (p. 2).

That kind of fear has even inspired famous horror directors. In Michele Soavi’s classic 1985 documentary Dario Argento’s World of Horror, the Italian Hitchcock recounts the childhood experiences that gave birth to the nightmares he would later put on screen:

I was six years old. Every night after supper, I’d say goodnight to my parents and go to bed. My room was at the other end of the house. I had to go all the way down a long dark corridor lined with doors on either side. I used to be terrified. Every half-open door I passed was a threat, concealing obscure dangers. That’s probably where my nightmares were born.

The kind of visceral fear we experienced from horror as kids and younger adults is rarely there. We’ve all been there, done that, and seen just about every special effect you can imagine. Familiarity and formula have replaced fear, and with them the strange comfort that comes from seeing body parts separated from one another in the most imaginative ways possible.

But in addition to familiarity and formula, there’s also always hope – the possibility that we might see something we’ve never seen before, that we’ll be caught off-guard by a really great jump scare, that there will be a reflection in a mirror and something behind the door. It keeps us coming back for more through infinite sequels and every new release that’s billed as “the most innovative horror film in decades.”

Finally there is community. Mutant Family, Horror Family – whatever you want to call it, it’s added something special to watching scary movies. I still love my “horror alone time,” and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with running commentary on Twitter when you’re actually trying to watch the movie, but communal watching has brought watching movies in the dark, well, into the light.

Watching horror is still a great gig. It’s even better when Joe Bob, Darcy, Yuki, John and a crap-ton of really special guests cue it up for us. A spring and summer of COVID, protests and long-overdue attention to this country’s systemic racism, and the election cycle – when we’re not engaged, we need to disengage. And for that and a million other reasons, we turn to The Last Drive-In.

Until next time Mutants, stay spooky!

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