And last but not least – the final entry in this year’s SUMMERTIME SCARES! is from my buddy Barry. Like me, he too is a lifelong horror nut and appreciator of all things nostalgic and trashy (and those precious gems that meet somewhere in the middle). So who better to wrap this thing up than him? Barry shows his love for a couple of perfect summertime flicks: a Drew Barrymore one-two punch of Motorama and Far From Home. Without further ado…take it away, Barry!
Growing up, summer vacation always signified freedom and adventure. Those precious few months of sunshine were what every kid dreamed about. I would fantasize all semester about the kinds of crazy adventures I would have during summer break. Of course, those hot and sunny days were normally spent sleeping in late, mowing the lawn, eating junkfood and watching way too much daytime tv, but I was convinced that I would have one of those life changing summers that would define my existence. Everyday I had the feeling that today was going to be THE day that something REALLY exciting was going to happen and that I would have the best “how I spent my summer vacation” essay. Summer is supposed to be magic for kids but like everything else, summer vacation loses its luster and boredom quickly sets in. This isn’t any type of boredom, but the type of boredom that pushes you to seek out danger instead of harmless adventure. The type of summertime boredom that forces you to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and sex. The type of summertime boredom that turns you into a jaded adult. The type of boredom that forces you to see behind the curtain that separates childhood from adulthood.
The two movies that I chose to write about each feature a discontent youngster that finds themselves caught in that harsh and unforgiving landscape of an adolescent summer. Both of these movies defy genre conventions and mix comedy, drama, and horror and like an awkward teen, these movies don’t really fit in anywhere.
In the late 80’s/early 90’s, Drew Barrymore found herself in a slump that closely mirrored the career path of Linda Blair. Both were successful child actresses that had a string of popular performances but both quickly fell into drug addiction and B-grade movies. It is hard to imagine that Drew Barrymore, the romantic comedy star that audiences love today, used to be an underage bad girl with a substance abuse problem. Because of these issues, Drew was forced to accept roles that exploited her developing body and Lolita-esque sexuality. Drew would appear in these types of roles (Poison Ivy, Gun Crazy, The Amy Fisher Story) until she became a hot mainstream property again thanks to The Wedding Singer, Never Been Kissed and Ever After. The first of Drew’s jailbait movies was 1989’s Far From Home (not to be confused with Far From Home The Adventures of Yellow Dog). Written by Tommy Lee Wallace (director of Halloween 3, Fright Night 2, and Stephen King’s It) Far From Home is part horror movie, part black comedy, part coming of age story, and part independent drama. The plot is centered around father and daughter Charlie and Joleen Cox (Matt Frewer and Drew Barrymore) who are on their way home from a tedious road trip. 13-year-old Joleen is eager to end the trip with her boring father and get back to the excitement of her friends in L.A. She is angsty, naïve, and unaware of the power that her female body possesses.
She channels her frustrations into her journal which is used as voiceover narration to show how lonely and desperate she is for affection. The movie starts to get tense when Charlie and Joleen stop for gas in the desert town of Banco, Nevada. They find a dead body in the gas station and begin to meet a variety of strange characters. With no gas available for a couple of days, Charlie and Joleen rent a trailer in the Palomino Ranch Trailer Park. Joleen unknowingly ignites the passions of two local boys who both become dangerously possessive of her. More dead bodies surface as the father and daughter anxiously wait for gas in the deserted town. The movie is full of great scene stealing actors that make the most of their limited screen time. Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood, Gremlins) plays the suspicious sheriff, Andras Jones (A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl A Rama) is the creepy teenage predator, Susan Tyrrell (Andy Warhol’s Bad, Cry-Baby) is outstanding as the bitchy trailer park landlord, Richard Masur (The Thing, Stephen King’s It) is great as the rough and tumble gas station owner, Karen Austin (Summer Rental) and Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky) play a pair of sexy females that are also stranded, and Anthony Rapp (Adventures in Babysitting) plays the red headed boy next door.
I am not sure what it is about Far From Home that I love so much. Despite a predictable plot, I think the movie captures the feeling of that summer boredom and apathy that can lead to danger. The movie is tense and creates a strange atmosphere that is slightly surreal. For me, you can really feel the heat and the desolation of this small town. Drew is basically playing herself but manages to create a character that is believable and unaware of her cherubic beauty. She looks effortless in her early 90’s fashions and I love that she is wearing 3 swatches throughout the entire movie. Joleen unknowingly stumbles into her summer adventure but the main character in our next film doesn’t wait for adventure to find him, he goes out and finds it for himself.
Gus (Jordan Christopher Michael) is a 10 year-old kid whose only crime is that he’s underage. Gus steals a vintage cherry red mustang and takes off across the country. With no destination in mind, Gus aimlessly drives through the desert landscape of abandon and freedom. When passing a sign the reads “MOTORAMA” he is inspired to make his roadtrip a quest to collect all 8 MOTORAMA cards. The purpose it to collect all the letter cards that spell out MOTORAMA from participating Chimera gas stations. Once you collect all 8 cards you are eligible to win $500 million. With Gus’ new purpose in life, he sets off to find the cards. One would think that the premise is a little hokey and juvenile but what makes Motorama so great is that it is rated R and not really a kid’s movie. Despite the fact that Gus is 10 years old, he seems to get himself into one dangerous adult situation after another. Most of the characters don’t even realize that he is a child. Gus starts off as a sassy Bart Simposn type but by the end of the movie he has more in common with Escape from New York’s Snake Plissken.
Motorama is part Odyssey part Alice in Wonderland, part Pete & Pete, part Willy Wonka and part David Lynch. Written by Joseph Minion, the man who wrote Martin Scorsese’s underappreciated After Hours, Motorama features a bevy of hilarious and over the top situations. The cameos are endless and feature some of the same actors from Far From Home like Drew Barrymore, Susan Tyrrell, and Dick Miller. Some of the other notable cameos include Martha Quinn (MTV VJ), Jack Nance (Eraserhead, Twin Peaks), Mary Woronov (Eating Raou, Rock N Roll High School), Meatloaf (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Fight Club), Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde, House of 1000 Corpses), Garrett Morris (Saturday Night Live, The Stuff) , Robert Picardo (Gremlins 2, The Burbs), John Diehl (Jurrasic Park 3, Stargate), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) , and Irwin Keyes (House of 1000 Corpses, Friday the 13th).
Motorama is essentially a story of lost innocence. What I love about the movie is that the whole plot seems like one of those daydreams that a kid would have about what they are gonna do during summer vacation. The movie is a kid’s fantasy that is anything but whimisical and childish. Gus longs to be an adult and throughout the course of the movie learns what it is like to be jaded and disenfranchised. While his ultimate adventure ends in disappointment he realizes that it was the journey not the destination that was most important.