Before Halloween and Friday the 13th there was Drive-In Massacre
Boutique media imprints like Arrow, Synapse, Code Red and Severin are constantly combing through the sub-basements of horror and exploitation film’s past to find valuable trash and treasures that they think might yield an excited fan response. It’s partly a nostalgia trip, with downmarket titles fondly remembered by adults who rented or watched these spotty entertainments when they were at a simpler and far less discriminating age. The beauty of this is that the aforementioned labels don’t just drag up these titles and throw them out there, naked, butchered and battered like they used to be treated in the old days, but they re-frame them in the context of history, showing respect to that which has been largely disrespected and creating fully functioning film schools embedded on tiny, shimmering discs.
Previously, Severin set a new standard for this sort of thing when they released Frederick Friedel’s Axe and Kidnapped Coed in a deluxe double feature that, with the aid of a wealth of remarkable, creative and in-depth features, instantly re-positioned the legacy of an obscure failed hack to that of essential indie auteur. And while their release of porn director Stu Segall’s 1976’s video store eyesore Drive-In Massacre, doesn’t quite manage the same feat, it’s still a marvel of reverence for a movie that time has rightfully forgotten.
The pre-slasher boom slasher movie — which was shot at an actual crumbling drive-in — sees the usual carloads of horny adults (oddly, most of the patrons of this drive-in are mature with nary a teen in sight), enacting their various passion plays before being butchered in cheap and graphic ways by a sword-wielding psycho. In the opening scenes, we are treated to a man reaching for the speaker, getting wetly and unconvincingly decapitated while his pregnant mistress gets her throat opened and she dies screaming. It’s fantastically cheap and tawdry stuff. This sort of budget gore action goes on throughout the film while two pudgy cops that seem teleported out of an H.G. Lewis movie try to figure it all out. The red herrings pile up and the atmosphere is thick with concession stand grease. And you really do feel like you are there, back in the waning days of the 1970s, sweating in the fetid, accidentally-romantic world of the American drive-in.
No one will mistake Drive-In Massacre for an important or even particularly well-made horror movie. It’s just a fun, a quickly shot, padded out, often fascinatingly dull and endlessly tacky D-flick goosed with some amusing moments of DIY gore. But it’s not the movie itself that makes this release so fantastic, it’s the aforementioned stuff behind the movie that rocks. Director Stu Segall sits down for a wonderful, almost melancholy look back at the making of the movie and supplies an equally informative and detailed commentary; star and co-writer John F. Goff (so amazing as the incestuous dad in The Witch Who Came From the Sea) has a blast remembering how the movie came to be while marveling why anyone in their right mind would even care about it today and co-star Norm Sheridan has a few laughs recalling what a trip it was playing the nebbishy voyeur in such an impoverished work.
In order to really love and embrace Drive-In Massacre, it’s essential to book 3 hours with it: 75 minutes to watch the movie, 75 minutes to watch it again with the commentary and half an hour to absorb the charming supplemental interviews. You’ll emerge from the experience a more powerful, informed cinephile, we promise. And no one is more astounded by this fact than us.