Welcome back for Part Two in our August roundtable! We’re celebrating this month’s release of Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror, which made its debut last week and is already earning rave reviews. Today, I’m talking with eleven of the fabulous authors from the anthology about their favorite cult films and their best memories of the drive-in and midnight movie screenings.
So let’s take it away, shall we?
SARAH READ: My favorite drive-in movie memory is seeing Jurassic Park when I was 10 years old. It was nighttime in rural Colorado, and the only thing you could see was this giant, illuminated T-Rex stalking through the landscape. I also saw Twister at that same drive-in a few years later. There was a thunderstorm during the show, and then the scene where the tornado rips through the drive-in played (and bonus points that the movie they’re watching is The Shining–right at the axe-to-the-door scene). I guess I like it when the scene and setting blur a little and make things more immersive or scary!
I don’t know that I could pick a favorite cult classic horror movie. I like a lot of them! But the one I’ve certainly seen the most is The Exorcist.
ROB E. BOLEY: Probably my favorite cult classic is actually pretty recent. It’s the 2006 slasher mockumentary Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. It’s a crying shame that more people haven’t seen this movie, because it’s truly a brilliant balance of horror and comedy. I’d say it’s mandatory viewing for any fans of the slasher genre. Another favorite is John Carpenter’s They Live. It’s maybe more sci-fi than horror, but wow, it’s scary how the film only gets more relevant with each passing year!
I’d say my favorite drive-in memory is the time a few years ago when my wife and I took my daughter to see a special screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Dixie Twin Drive-In here in Dayton. It was her first time seeing the movie, and I’ll never forget doing the Time Warp amidst all the parked cars. Unfortunately, it rained later, so we had to watch the rest of the movie in the car.
SOPHIE LEAH: My favourite horror movie // movies seem to vary at any given moment as I constantly watch new stuff or become particularly attached to old loves. As far as more ‘culty’ favourites go, I’ve always had a soft-spot for Rob Zombie’s The Devils Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t wonder what 3 From Hell would’ve been like had Sid Haig not died. Others – off the top of my head – would be: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Terrifier, I Spit on Your Grave, Inside (2007), A Serbian Film, Last House on the Left, From Dusk ’till Dawn, The Hills Have Eyes – I could go on and on. I’m also a huge fan of extreme cinema in general, which is pretty cult-based in itself (we seem to congregate a lot over at effedupmovies.com). The nastier, the better.
Unfortunately – all that said – I have no real experience with actually going to Grindhouse, or attending a drive-in movie, as here in the UK they’re not such a thing as they are over in the US. I guess my last fond ‘grindhouse’-esque experience was a first date at London’s Prince Charles Cinema (where they sometimes do Friday the 13th marathons) where we watched Kill Bill: Volume I and the volume with all the talking back-to-back. If that counts at all? I would love to go to America one day and do various horror-related things over there (from the Saw escape room in Vegas to Hollywood’s Museum of Death and more), so hopefully there’s still time to make some more spooky memories there!
MARK WHEATON: Not sure how culty it is anymore, but I’ve always been fond of The Devil Rides Out, based on the Dennis Wheatley novel. The great twist of having some innocent kid discovering that his girlfriend is getting caught up in a cult only for his own uncle, played by Christopher Lee, to turn out to be a more powerful practitioner of magic is so much fun. As for a favorite drive-in movie memory, I grew up next to a South Dallas drive-in, so remember countless nights seeing but not hearing endless movies projected onto screens a block over once the stars were out. Everything was quiet, both audience and picture, like some mysterious communion. It’d make anybody romantic about drive-ins.
MATT NEIL HILL: In terms of favourite cult classic horror movies, I’ll always have a soft spot for Evil Dead / Evil Dead II, and John Carpenter’s The Thing is perhaps the one I’ve watched the most. But Near Dark is the one that springs to mind in connection with this story—its explosive and remorseless violence, but also the quiet, melancholy moments; the simultaneously feared and longed-for dusk and dawn, the whispering dust and the letting of blood.
Growing up in the UK I have no drive-in movie memories, but I remember signing up for an all-night movie marathon at a comic book convention in London in the mid ‘80s. They played about six or seven movies I think, although I slept through a lot of them and can only really remember Crimes of Passion, Ken Russell’s lurid neon psychosexual drama starring Kathleen Turner and Anthony Perkins. It left an indelible impression on me—as you’d hope any movie with a death by vibrator would—before I drifted off into dreamland.
S.K. CAMPBELL: Besides the ridiculous romp of Planet Terror, I enjoy campy horrors like Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. We don’t often think of horror as funny, but grindhouse movies and parodies like Young Frankenstein really take advantage of the potential there. Both comedy and horror raise tension in their viewers, and have this inherent exaggeration of their subjects. So the genres can be married with fabulous effect. To that note, some of my favorite midnight movie moments have been because the audience laughed during what was supposed to be a horrifying scene. I have a fond recollection of a close-up of an demonic eyeball in The Grudge, a lingering shot which caused an eruption of giggles in the theater.
My best memory of a midnight film was a one-weekend late showing of Midsommar Director’s Cut. I had watched the original version the prior month alone, so it was fun going with friends this time. My friends had not seen the original version so it was my job to tell them what was new afterward. The characters who were unpleasant in the original version were even more so in the Director’s Cut. This of course is a plus in the horror genre.
SCOTTY MILDER: My favorite grindhouse film is and will always be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But—like many children of the 80s—I came along just a little too late to catch it at the drive-in. Instead, I watched it on a washed-out VHS tape that I rented (way too young, thanks to the wildly irresponsible teenage clerk) at our local Safeway. I was nine or ten at the time, and the movie definitely bent my brain sideways. I made a secret dub and watched it over and over and over again until I finally got my hands on a legit copy when I was in high school. I did catch it in my late 20s during a Halloween midnight-movie showing. It screened as a double feature with Eaten Alive, and that was a truly glorious experience.
BUCK WEISS: I grew up in Southern Illinois, where Sammy Terry ruled the midnight movie every week. When I was seven, I had a friend stay over, and my mom let us stay up to watch Son of the Blob! I made it about halfway through before I was too freaked out to go on. It scared me to death and started my love of horror and grindhouse films. My favorite drive-in memory was seeing the movie Signs at a Drive-in surrounded by cornfields on all sides. Everyone was a little more on edge, knowing that anything could be standing just within the rows.
SHANNON BRADY: The cult classic that popped into my head first was Repo! The Genetic Opera. Set in a future where organ failures are an epidemic, a corporation promising cures becomes powerful enough to rule the world. If customers fall behind on payments for their new organs, Repo Men are deployed to repossess company property with lethal force. It’s one of my favorite horror musicals and by far the goriest I’ve ever seen. I think it’s very much a love it or hate it movie, and I fell instantly in love with it in high school.
My drive-in experience is sadly limited. The only time I’ve ever been to a drive-in movie was with my family in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which we were hoping for a nice time while the theaters were closed, but ended up leaving early due to the promised safety restrictions not being followed at all. The movie we’d gone to see was The Sandlot, but when we got home my brother and I watched Dead Alive in our basement instead, so it was a considerably different viewing experience than expected. I’ve never seen a midnight movie screening, either, so that and a proper drive-in are two things I would love to attend someday.
PAUL MAGNAN: One of my favorite cult grindhouse movies is Death Race 2000. I’m talking about the original 1975 movie, not the recent remakes. The movie was made by grindhouse king Roger Corman and is set (well, obviously) in the year 2000. The world economy has collapsed in 1979, and the United States is now run by a totalitarian government. A violent, televised sport is created to placate the masses (a common theme for dystopian movies during this time. Another example is Rollerball). Thus, the Death Race. Each year, a number of drivers, with navigators, drive specially designed killing machines cross country, and the more people they kill with their cars, the more points they accrue. In a charming plot twist, children and the elderly are considered extra points. Also, they are not adverse to trying to kill each other.
In this, the 20th annual Death Race, the favorite to win is a driver called Frankenstein (played by David Carradine). He is dressed all in cool black leather, with a mask that hides most of his face, with only a hint of horrendous scarring underneath. This is Darth Vader before Darth Vader. Apparently, he has survived multiple catastrophic crashes, yet keeps coming back for more. This year, however, there is a new twist: a resistance to the government has formed, and they are taking out the Death Race drivers one by one. This, according to the TV announcers covering the race, is hilariously blamed on the French (there is a lot of dark humor in this movie). Another plus is that one of the other drivers is a young Sylvester Stallone, who plays a character called Machine Gun Joe Viterbo, a ’30s type gangster with a huge knife affixed to the hood of his car, which he uses to good effect when he takes out a man operating a jackhammer. The movie does have a bit of a surprise ending, and I highly recommend it.
Drive-in movie memory: oh, so many. Yet one that has stuck with me was when I had gone with my parents to a local drive-in to see Barbarella. I think my father wanted to see Jane Fonda in a barely-there space suit, and I’m sure he enjoyed the opening credits strip sequence. As it was 1968 and I was only 6 years old, I was probably playing with my toys in the back seat of the car at the time. My mother, not a movie person and undoubtedly not having any idea what this movie was all about, was probably looking back at me to make sure my eyes were off the screen during these credits. I did watch some of the movie, which went way over my head. But there was ONE SCENE that scared the living crap out of me and gave me nightmares for weeks. Even now, over 50 years later, I remember the fear my 6-year-old-self felt quite keenly: Barbarella, in the snow, meeting up with these creepy-ass children, who place her behind steel bars. They activate a horde of porcelain-faced dolls with sharp, steel teeth in jaws that snap open and shut, who wail like the damned and walk forward as she struggles against the bars. Once they reach Barbarella, the dolls continue to wail and take chunks out of her with their teeth, as the creepy, evil children smile and look on until Barbarella is rescued by adults. Yeah, dad, thanks for bringing me to see this movie.
And that’s our roundtable! Thank you so much to this awesome group of authors, and please check out Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror, out now from Dark Peninsula Press!