Starring Leighton Meester, Nicholas D’Agosto, Melora Hardin, Lola Glaudini, Larry Joe Campbell, Morgan Spurlock
Directed by Brendan Cowles & Shane Kuhn
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
About a month ago I did a story about the upcoming DVD release of Drive Thru, a fast food-themed slasher flick that has been highly anticipated by many thanks to its great trailer showcasing strong production values and a wonderfully costumed killer. In the article I mentioned that, unfortunately, the movie (already released in parts of Europe) has thus far been greeted with many very negative reviews. A few days later, one of Drive Thru‘s directors fired off an e-mail to Dread Central thanking us for the plug and noting that not all of the word-of-mouth has been negative. This is true. You will find some glowing praise on IMDB and I suspect many non-discerning slasher movie fans will sing its praises to come. Now I can chime having seen it and, alas, must put myself strongly on the side of the haters. Drive Thru is quite simply an awful movie.
How awful? It’s so awful that anyone that ever praises it should have their license to mock Uwe Boll revoked. Yeah, it’s Boll bad. Things often feel like they’re being made up as it goes along; aimless set pieces, often feeling like stuff is happening at random, occasionally falling into something that feels like a cohesive narrative. It’s just not any damn good.
Good reviews? I’d love to drug test the people that actually enjoy this movie to know what substances they were on at the time. Hell, I’d like to drug test the filmmakers. I find it hard to believe this movie was made by people of sound mind. Given the number of drug references in the film, maybe they intended Drive Thru to be viewed through a pot-smoked lens. I was not on any drugs as I watched the movie but afterwards I certainly felt the need to take something for the headache it had given me.
To be fair, there are some positives. There’s absolutely no denying that the film looks great. We’re talking theatrical quality production values here. Kind of hard for me to rectify in my mind that the same guys who co-directed this movie with such professionalism from a technical standpoint also manufactured a screenplay that’s every bit as bad as any you’d find in so many of the amateurish slasher flicks that litter DVD shelves these days.
There’s also no denying that the film’s villain has one of the coolest slasher identities to come along in a long time. You got this sinister clown mask designed to look like the clown-headed drive thru speaker of the fast food restaurant it’s the mascot of, right down to having the holes of a drive thru speaker for the mouth and his voice even sounds distorted like a drive thru speaker when he speaks. From the neck down it looks like the killer’s wearing some sort of space opera costume. Put it all together and you have a slasher that looks like a Killer Klown from Outer Space if it were the lead singer of KISS. Pretty cool looking if you ask me.
Credit is also due to lead actress Leighton Meester. She’s a very pretty girl and a pretty good actress too – maybe too good since I found her character to be utterly detestable. I suppose making the lead heroine in a slasher flick an unpleasant, foul-mouthed, drug-taking, non-virginal, raging bitch on wheels could be considered bucking traditional slasher movie conventions.
And here in lies the beginnings of the film’s problems. Every single character in this movie is irritating, obnoxious, loathsome, and/or unbelievably stupid. I found these people to be such wretched human beings that I didn’t care if they lived or died; I just wanted them to go away. So unlikable are these dregs of humanity that I was wishing that instead of a homicidal maniac in a clown costume they were actually being stalked by Dr. Phil swinging a Singapore cane.
Speaking of loathsomely stupid, the dialogue, specifically the one-liners, is painfully bad. Much of the witless banter seems to have been written with the mindset that just being vulgar or coarse is funny in of itself. It’s the kind of stuff that you’d expect to hear someone completely plastered out of their gourd spouting off in a room full of people and then laughing at their own joke while everyone else in the room stares at that person unamused and rather annoyed by the obnoxious twit who isn’t anywhere near as funny as they think they are. Non-sequitors like “Fast food kills, fucker!” is what counts for clever here; or having a cop with the last name “Crockers” that everyone keeps pronouncing “Crackers.” Laughing yet?
Having Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock appearing in a fast food themed slasher flick sounds like a clever bit of stunt casting, huh? Not when you relegate him to doing his worst Eddie Deezan impression in a throwaway scene that plays like a bad skit from an old USA Network “Up All Night” stoner comedy. A commercial for the fast food joint spoofing Japanese monster movies was the only time I genuinely laughed at anything in all of Drive Thru and even it wasn’t that funny.
Oh, yes, I’ve thus far neglected to spell out the plot. You see there’s a bunch of obnoxious SoCal emo kids being hacked up by this demonic clown based on “Horny the Clown,” the mascot of a local fast food joint called Hella-Burger. At first it seems the killings are completely random, but then wannabe rocker and all-around teenage bitch queen Mackenzie begins putting the pieces of the puzzle together, realizing that all the victims are children of her mom’s friends from back when her mother was a teenager herself in the 1970’s. Basically, it all boils down to a Freddy Krueger scenario – sins of the parents coming back to haunt them by having their teenage children murdered – played out in a woefully routine and rather poorly plotted slasher flick.
Thrash metal during stalk & kill scenes substitutes for suspense. Though the killings are gory, often you see the gruesome aftermath of the kills and not the actual kills, which are mostly of the gutting and decapitation variety with his big gothic-looking meat cleaver; a few spectacular yet still not anything you haven’t seen before in better slasher flicks. Worst of all, the actual motivation for the killing spree and the man behind the mask isn’t even delved into enough to make Horny a compelling slasher (as if the uber lame one-liners weren’t bad enough) and definitely not effective enough to make you believe this person would return as a psychotic, knife-wielding, clown from hell.
Just like Freddy, Horny the Clown is a supernatural slasher and that entails the script’s most mind-boggling failure. Horny keeps taunting Mackenzie with cryptic messages sent to her through a Ouija board, Magic 8 Ball, Etch-A-Sketch, and later another character will have Horny magically appear on their television screen to taunt them. There was even a scene that appeared to show Horny literally materializing out of thin air. Clearly, this killer is a phantasm of sorts. Never mind the fact that we never get any hints as to how or why the killer gained these demonic powers, I’d rather an explanation as to why is it that the undead killer seems to become all-too-human come the film’s climax and even meets a demise that doesn’t seem like it should have been all that fatal for what’s supposed to be a demonic entity.
That ending is a triple decker crapburger, not only because of the undead killer dying a particularly human death, but also because of a befuddling “it’s not over” plot twist to follow, which is then followed up with another “it’s not over” plot twist of a more traditional slasher movie variety with a scene that felt both tacked on and really like a great big “screw you” from the filmmakers given how terrible the movie preceding it had been.
Then again, maybe I’m looking at this movie from entirely the wrong perspective. Maybe I should be complementing the filmmakers instead. Maybe they set out to make a truly terrible movie. Maybe it’s all intentional. Even if that were the case, doesn’t change the reality that even an intentionally bad movie should be enjoyable. Drive Thru left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a case of mental indigestion.
1 out of 5
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!
Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey
Directed by Alan Lougher
The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.
When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”
Ultimately chilling in nature!
DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!
Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon
Directed by Adrian Corona
I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.
Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.
Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.
Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.
If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.
Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form
Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes
Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace
“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.
That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.
Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?
At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play
second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?
These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.
Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?
It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.
If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.
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