Welcome Brain Destroyers to the first edition of what I’d like to call HorrorFAIL, where I brave some of the god-awful drek ever put on celluloid and share the experience with you, the valued reader. Also please keep in mind that I am an unabashed spoiler, so read at your own risk if you don’t want to know how this one ends. Today we are looking at the 1977 slasher film Drive-In Massacre. Before we begin a definition:
mas·sa·cre (Verb) – to kill unnecessarily and indiscriminately, esp. a large number of persons.
Keep that in mind as we continue on this review. Especially the key phrase “large number”.
Drive-In Massacre was directed by Stu Segall (not relation to Steven) who eventually went on to do mostly porno films like Spirit of Seventy Sex, Teeny Buns, and Up ‘n’ Coming, before finally settling into producing work on mostly television. He also co-wrote the film with John F. Goff and George “Buck” Flower (the latter keen eyed people will note had a cameo appearance in almost every John Carpenter film of the 1980′s) It was a low budget slasher film that was filmed in the San Fernando Valley in LA.
The film follows two police detectives Mike Leary (John F. Goff) and John Koch (Bruce Kimball) as they try to track down and catch a killer who is using swords to murder patrons of the local drive-in theatre. As it turns out the theatre is on the grounds of a former carnival that the owner took down and built the drive-in because it would make more money, he would put some of the former carny staff in positions at the theatre.
The detectives prime suspects are the slow-witted Germy (Douglas Gudbye) who was a former sword swallower at the carnival; his asshole boss Austin (Newton Naushaus) who was also a sword swallower; and lastly Orville (Norman Sherlock) the local pervert who likes to go to the drive-in and peep on the couples making out.
The film follows our detectives as they attempt to track down the killer, with each lead themselves getting killed on by one.
The biggest problem I have with this movie is the production values: I don’t mind the sub-par film stock, but the entire thing is filmed in mono audio and it sounds like they never took the microphone out of the box. Their sound guy must have excelled at finger-painting in high school because it sounds like utter shit. They also didn’t take ambient noises into consideration. Many times through the course of the film, the dialogue is drowned out by running engines, folly sound effects, and other noises (such as drink machines in the concession stand)
Problem number two is lighting. The majority of the film is dark and almost impossible to see. I get it that your filming at a drive-in movie theatre and it’s supposed to be dark, but cut your audience some slack – you could have done a better job with the lighting. But instead, you find yourself in a dark unintelligible sea of cars
The first thing I got to point out about the cast is the fact that our two main heroes, the police detectives both kind of have that doughy Joe Don Baker look to them, that you figured they casted ol’ Joe Don himself as both using the magic of cinema. These two guys do not make convincing cops, and it doesn’t help that the few times they flub their lines it’s kept in the movie, like they couldn’t afford to do a second take. Half the movie they spend sitting that their desks questioning people – could they not have these characters move around or what?
The performance by Douglas Gudbye starts off kind of charming and you figure – okay, this guy is going to be the lovable kind-of-retarded guy, that is going to be the comic relief in the film. But he’s not. Once he starts talking about how his only friends were two elephants and begins popping up to help out our two detectives, he just becomes more and more annoying.
I also really have issue with movies that use the word massacre. Because it’s usually a very liberal interpretation. Massacre, to me, better mean that you’re killing at least 15 people before the end of the movie. The total body count in this film (by the killer) is eight. That’s not a massacre. While I will point out that it’s a little better than some other films (Woodchipper Massacre comes to mind with it’s whopping two kills) but there should be a law against putting the word massacre into your film title with such a small number of kills (Oh, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Slumber Party Massacre are not exempt from this list either, great movies that they are)
The kills are all very generic, which can be expected when your killers MO is going at people with a sword to either decapitate them, or impale them. I will have to commend the special effects guy, because for a low budget film made in 1977, there gore effects aren’t hat bad. There’s a really good decapitation scene at the very beginning of the film. Which the only thing I have against that is the fact that I have to sit through the rest of the movie now that they used their best special effect early on.
The idea is your basic psudo-moral killings (I guess), because the killer mostly goes after couples who are making out in their vehicles. The first pair are a young couple that are planning to have a baby and they get scragged; the second pair a man cheating on his wife with his mistress who is now pregnant; the third pair is a woman and her horny husband who she denies sex, he leaves and she and the local pervert Orville get murdered instead.
Some of the more laughable scenes in the film are when the two detectives interview Orville before he gets killed. When they are playing good cop bad cop he suddenly blurts out “I just wanted to jerk off!”, also he does pull off a good creepy pervert. There’s a bad read where one of the detective flubs his line trying to show off Orville’s wrap sheet – which they don’t explain what he’s been in trouble before. Also when they investigate his car they find a bloody – something – in the car and instead of doing an establishing shot of the object, they just cut away to a pretty bad chase scene.
Then later on in the film, the detectives decide to do a stakeout of the scene, and one of them dresses up as a woman. Now, I have to stress that both of these guys look kind of like Joe Don Baker, WHO WOULD FIND THIS CONVINCING? Well apparently they are able to fool Austin, who later on thinks that it was one of the detectives sisters.
The movie also tries to feed you a lot of red herrings to try to make you guess who did it: Was it Germy? Was it Austin? Is it Orville the pervert?
They even toss in a hostage situation in a warehouse where a crazy man with a machete holding a little girl hostage. When the cops shoot him dead, they find out he’s just an escaped mental patient who busted out of the institution that very day.
Well as it turns out, none of their suspects are the killer who manages to get away. This film suffers from what is probably a loss of funds because they had to do a quick rap up. What better way to wrap up your film then with a freeze frame of the last victim (Grimey) followed by a caption telling the audience that the killer got away and that he has been going from town to town killing at other drive-ins. Then a voice over comes on pretending to be coming over the PA warning the audience that a killer is in the theatre but not to panic because the police are out side. This is even more laughable beacuse this sort of lame gimmick only worked back in the 1950′s, and here they are deploying it in 1977. I wonder how many people would have been spooked by that. They would have been better off warning people that the theatre was being invaded by demons or something.
Well this all said, Drive-In Massacre is a ridiculous little pain parade that – ironically – belongs in the same sort of trashy drive-in theatres of yesterday that the film was set in.
Hiring Porn Actors: A+