Tag Archives: double feature

SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Alexa Loftus)

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As I’ve mentioned before, this Summertime Scares feature was directly inspired by the recurring guest-submitted pieces I ran last summer, a collection which I called Drive-In Double Feature. (Itself, directly inspired by Shit Movie Fest‘s wintertime-themed 25 Days of Shitmas.) I received a decent amount of submissions considering I was relatively new and no one owed me any favors, and I was so elated with the response that I decided then and there to give it another shot.

A handful of the people who submitted last year returned this year, and it’s clear that Summertime Scares wouldn’t be nearly as padded if those people hadn’t, thankfully, come back. (They gotta be some kind of masochists or somethin’.) In fact, if I didn’t have those return writers, I probably would’ve scrapped Summertime Scares entirely.

With all that said, welcome back to the stage Los Angeles comedian Alexa Loftus. After you finish reading her thoughts on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, be sure to check out her Drive-In Double Feature piece on Practical Magic and Suspiria. Thanks again, Alexa!

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When the idea of summertime favorites came to mind, I immediately thought of classics like The Sandlot, The Sandlot 2: The Sandlot Continues, and most importantly, The Sandlot 3: Heading Home.

But then I thought about the true meaning of summer. Traveling, hanging with friends, trying new things, and looking for answers in an abandoned hospital. And there’s really only one television show that captures all of that and more: Ghost Adventures.

Yes, this show is bad. But that’s also why it’s good. I hate it, and yet, I love it. Why? Let’s try and investigate.

Ghost Adventures follows host Zak Bagans, a buff dude decked out in Ed Hardy and Oakleys, and his two friends/camera operators who both have goatees. This ain’t your Ed and Lorraine Warren ghost hunting crew — these fearless bros are going to come into whatever place you’re haunting and demand that you tell them what the fuck is going on, or else they are going to be fucking pissed!

And let me tell you: they always find something. Literally every basement/cabin/bar/catacomb they spend a night in, they always have some sort of altercation with a spirit. Now, I’ve ouijied in a lot of places and most of ‘em are a total bust. But I’m not bringing the fierce attitude. The shit talking. In one episode, after taunting the ghost, Zak mysteriously get a scratch on his back and calls the ghost “a piece of shit”. He’s also got the right technology. One device they use is a box that records those hard-to-hear ghost voices and they record one saying to Zak, “Fuck you”. Zak has also been possessed. In the movies, getting possessed generally involves deep voices, maybe an ancient language, and levitating furniture. But apparently in real life, it looks like a fit of roid rage.

Sure, I’ve got questions. In one episode, Zak tries to communicate with a family’s daughter who passed away. They light candles on a birthday cake and hang out in her old bedroom while the ghost voice box (which could potentially be made of cardboard) records a mumble that is subtitled as saying, “Hi Dad.” Somehow, I’m still on board, and I finally start to get skeptical when I see the unphased reaction the parents have to all of this. Are they so used to hearing this ghost that it bores them? Are they actors, too busy thinking about when lunch is? Are they just really tired? I don’t know! That’s part of the mystery! Maybe a spirit should tell Zak to leave these people alone!

Also, when the crew investigates The Clown Motel, all of a sudden Zak reveals he’s “terrified of clowns.” This, coming from the guy who tries to get demons to come up from hell to punch him in the face? Maybe I just don’t understand the clown thing.

Also, every time Zak goes to a new town, they always show people on the street running up to him like he’s a superstar. How large is the viewership for this show? I really thought I was the only one watching it, but apparently everyone who is outside is a major fan.

I wish I knew how much of this show was real. I have a feeling if I ever asked Zak, he would tell me 100% of it, which is just not possible. But even if I knew that it was 100% fake, I would still watch it. So maybe that’s where the answer to my question is. Ghost stories don’t really rely on facts. They just need a compelling narrator. And ideally, one that will call a ghost a piece of shit.

 

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SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Jeff Wolfe / Secret Transmissions)

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I say this without any pretension: I really have the greatest readers. It’s true! Sure, the number of CV readers may not be as high as some other low-level sites, which will go unmentioned *grumble, grumble* – but what CV lacks in readership volume it more than makes up for in quality readership. They engage, they support, they respond, and they’re ardent when they do so.

This is a long roundabout way for me to say what a crappy website-runner-dude I am. Jeff Wolfe (long time listener, first time caller) submitted this awesome, thorough piece on Bill Lustig’s ’96 schlocker Uncle Sam long before the due date I’d set – but I am just now getting it up. No excuses; I’m just tardy. I explain all this because his piece focuses on the July 4th holiday, so I didn’t want you (faithful, diligent readers) to think Jeff was off his rocker still talking about Independence Day a week into August. With all that cleared up, please enjoy Jeff’s awesome piece on Uncle Sam! Continue reading SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Jeff Wolfe / Secret Transmissions)

Drive-In Double Feature: BEETLEJUICE & THE FRIGHTENERS!

Choosing which two movies I wanted to talk about for my Drive-In Double Feature wasn’t easy. As all the entries this past month have shown, there are endless combinations — none of them wrong, each one utterly singular and wonderfully creative. I had a couple ideas bouncing around (ones I’ll save for next year, or maybe before then) but I finally decided on Beetlejuice and The Frighteners since Beetlejuice — more specifically, its potential sequel — has been in the news lately.

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See, for years now, people have been clamoring for a Beetlejuice sequel — but what they don’t realize is they’ve had a Beetlejuice sequel for years already: The Frighteners. Let’s look at some of the obvious comparisons:

  • Both are about the dead interacting with the living, specifically the dead helping the living accomplish a goal.
  • Both are about a living person using the dead to dupe other living people.
  • Both feature smart-assed ghosts.
  • Both prove that even the dead can still die again.
  • And perhaps most damning of all: both were scored by Danny Elfman! I mean, c’mon people!

The similarities don’t end there.

The catalyst in both films is a car wreck: in Beetlejuice, a car accident kills the Maitlands, which allows them to interact with the dead. In The Frighteners, Michael J. Fox and his wife are also in a car accident; the crash kills the wife, but near-death experience allows Fox to — you guessed it — communicate with the dead.

Plus, look at this car chase from The Frighteners. Everything is very lush and green, hills are winding, homes are painted white and almost look like models. Tell me these locations don’t look exactly like the model set Adam Maitland builds of the little town in Beetlejuice! The car crash at the end of Beetlejuice (the one that takes place on the miniature model) looks identical to the one that happens in The Frighteners. Hell, they even both involve antique model vehicles!

Both also have interesting MPAA ratings: Despite the violence being comical in nature or happening offscreen entirely, The Frighteners was deemed far too violent, and the board forced an R-rating on an unhappy Peter Jackson despite him making as many cuts as he possibly could. Yet Beetlejuice — which features a perverted ghost marrying an underage girl, corpses who talk about suicide, one crotch grab, and one use of “fuck” — snuck by with a harmless PG.

And there is one more loose, tenuous parallel: in The Frighteners, Michael J. Fox lives in an home he never finished building, and it’s in need of major repairs; in Beetlejuice, after the Maitlands die, the Deetzes move in and make major repairs and changes. The homelife in both films, the disarray — it’s too blatant to ignore.

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But despite their numerous similarities, the reception to either film couldn’t have been any different. While Beetlejuice became a smash hit and an 80s classic, and probably the most memorable film production for all those involved, The Frighteners failed at the box office and became a mere footnote in Peter Jackson’s filmography. It was also Fox’s last leading role in a live-action feature film. However, in recent years, people seem to be coming to their senses and have now realized what a goddamn gem The Frighteners is, and it has developed, as the cool kids say, a “cult following”.

I remember seeing The Frighteners in the theater with my folks when I was 12 years old. It blew me away. I’ve always been into two things: scary stuff and funny stuff; The Frighteners knocked it out of the goddamned park with both! Aside from just being incredibly fun and well written and beautifully shot, it has tons of incredible special effects. In fact, it required more digital effects shots than almost any movie made up until that time (thanks, Wikipedia!)

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I originally saw Beetlejuice as a small child, most likely from a video store rental. I don’t remember when I saw it I just remember being so young that stuff about the film didn’t make sense to me until years later. Like when the Maitlands drown; I didn’t realize they were dead. When Geena Davis trots the horse statue in front of the mirror to show she has no reflection, I had no goddamned idea what was going on. When the Maitlands possess the Deetzes and force them to dance to calypso music, I couldn’t have been more lost — but damn if that wasn’t a great scene to a toddler!

A double feature of Beetlejuice and The Frighteners makes more sense the longer I sit here and type (also, the more beer I drink.) Beetlejuice is a wonderful ode to the practical effects of 80s horror — even utilizing ‘old-school’ stop motion animation in several scenes. The Frighteners shows the turning of the tide, blending both practical effects and digital effects but leaning more on the latter. Both films would be nominated for and win several Saturn awards. Beetlejuice would even win an Academy Award for best make-up!

Both films also have huge, colorful supporting casts — Beetlejuice with Sylvia Sydney and Dick Cavett; The Frighteners with Dee Wallace, John Astin, and Jeffrey Combs!

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It feels silly summarizing both films, especially Beetlejuice since it has become so embedded in the pop culture collective consciousness — so I’ll skip the summations. But trust me: these movies are the perfect double feature, not simply because they compliment each other, but because one feels like an extension of the other. Go watch both…now!

Drive-In Double Feature: CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON & JAWS!

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Mike and I have known each other for many years. At times, it feels like we were torn from the same cloth. Both lovers of horror movies and comic books, both fond of the drink, and we both love antagonizing a mutual friend we share. But with this Drive-In Double Feature, I can add a new trait we share in common to the list: being delinquent! I’m glad Mike did finally turn a piece in, because the Drive-In Double Feature wouldn’t feel complete without his inclusion. 

When I was asked to do a Drive-in Double Feature, I thought to myself “Fuck I gotta write something for another website”.  But the more I thought about it, I figured this would be a great way to show off my love of two of the best horror movies of all time with Creature from the Black Lagoon and JAWS.  Now many folks will say neither of these are horror movies and more monster movies, but come on those are one in the same, and you can’t tell me a movie (JAWS) that scared people enough to not swim for years isn’t a horror film.  Plus I would envision these movies being shown somewhere where the audience can be in the water while they watch these films to add to the scariness of the features.

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First I want to start with Creature from the Black Lagoon.  This movie is on my list of favorite movies of all time and I feel it’s the best Universal Monster movie as well.  This movie was introduced to me as a kid, probably around 6 or 7, by my father who is a huge fan of the franchise as well.  Watching it, something about it sucked me into the world this movie was in.  Not only did we get an elaborate and beautiful jungle setting, which is amazing since this was filmed in Florida and the Universal back lot, but we got a colorful cast of characters that I wasn’t used to seeing in movies made in the 80’s. We were given the strong confident man of the 50’s in Richard Carlson’s “David Reed”, the business man in Richard Denning’s “Mark Williams”, the know if all rugged boat captain in Nestor Paivas “Lucas” and the smart/damsel in distress with the beautiful Julia Adams portrayal of “Kay”.  Along with the wonderful location, the film was shot beautifully as well as the underwater scenes were captured wonderfully, especially considering the technical limitations at the time, and the great score added to the tension of each scene where we thought the Gill-man would show up.  Add to that the need for the actor in the Gill-man suit to hold his breath for long periods of time underwater, and you know this movie was a tough one to film.  One can’t forget that this was also filmed for a 3-D release so we got some great 3-D gags that if you can see it in a theatre today, you will not be disappointed.

Not only does Creature continue the great legacy of Universal Monsters, but this also offers those great moments where you never know if the Gill-man will show up.  A small swim by Kay makes you think her life is in danger, even when nothing is close to her.  That and the Creature, like most Universal monsters, is a tragic character that in the end was just trying to protect his home from those stupid humans.  Plus, and I’m not sure but it makes sense, I believe Julia Adams portrayal as Kay started my love of ladies with the classic pin-up look, that was luckily brought over by Jennifer Connelly in The Rocketeer, but that is a story for another day.

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Next up is the 2nd best movie ever made in my opinion, (The Empire Strikes Back obviously takes the top spot) and that is JAWS.  Now not much has to be said about how great this movie is as we all know that already, plus knowing all the trouble the movie had getting made is also common knowledge.  But even not addressing any of that, and really we should but whatever, this movie is still one of the most enjoyable and scary movies out there.  With a superb trio of stars, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and the wonderful Robert Shaw, Steven Spielberg was able to create a fantastic film that featured all three men equally while giving us three completely different characters to all work off each other.  Add to that we get a giant killing machine stalking Amity Island creating much havoc and were in for an exciting film.  With all the problems the shark had, as we know, is why we barely see the thing until the climax of the film.  And of course, tossing John Williams’s score on top of shots makes things even scarier, as we never know when an attack will happen.  Much like in Creature, a simple swim by someone has us on the edge of our seats wondering if this is when the monster will attack.  Lucky for us we get plenty of carnage even without seeing the shark.

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See that image above?  To me this is still one of the scariest scenes in movie history.  A combination of how it is filmed, done on Spielbergs dime to get one more big scare out the audience, and the shock of seeing Ben Gardners head appear out of nowhere, gives you a jump each time.  Whenever I watch it, the scene still gives me chills and fear even though I know exactly what will happen.

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So yeah, we get it all with this film…gore, laughs, great film work and a wonderful score.  On top of that you get a great cast of main and supporting characters as well and you’re in for a great flick.
So there you have it kids, two great movies that would play perfectly together and I’d highly recommend viewing this summer….or really anytime you get the chance.

Mike can be found (and contacted) via Nerd City, both on its website and its Facebook. He provides Nerd City’s most popular recurring piece, Wrasslin’ Wednesdays.

Drive-In Double Feature: GHOSTBUSTERS & TEEN WOLF!

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My buddy Trent would give even the best nostalgist a run for their money. His interests seems to exist within a small window of time, maybe 1980-1985. Maybe 1978-1987 if I’m being generous. And I don’t blame him: movies, music, hell even quirky foodstuff was more enjoyable then (Ecto-Cooler, anyone?) So it was my hope that Trent would use his knowledge of the arcane to summon a Drive-In Double Feature of childhood favorites, and he did not disappoint.
Drive-in theaters, you may have heard, have become a dying breed. In their 1950s heyday, locations for seeing the latest film (and in a lot of cases, a pair of films) numbered in the tens of thousands, and accounted for one-third of theaters in the United States. Now, we are at about 350 across the country.
I was near one today, and that seemed somewhat remarkable to me. Now when I see a drive-in, I make a mental note of it and try whenever I can to make it there. It’s one of the few vestiges of pure Americana we have left.
So let’s say I pull up to one, and they are showing a double feature in honor of me (maybe I’m dying or I’m the president or something). I get to pick – which two movies would I want to see in the best setting for the viewing of movies that remains?
I looked at this question from dozens of angles and tried to avoid the following conclusion because since I was five or six years old, I have not been able to shut up about –
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I’m leading off with what remains, 31 years later, as my favorite film of all time – Ghostbusters. I’ve seen it on televisions, computers, movie screens, tablets, phones, gaming systems, apartment walls. But to see it in the great outdoors at a drive-in movie theater with my fellow Americans? I would be so happy I’d be eligible to be busted before the theme song kicked in.
I cannot say enough good things about this film. The perfect cast, in their prime, with the perfect script working with possibly the greatest film comedian of all-time in Bill Murray.

It’s not only a great, and hilarious film, it is also a marvel to behold and its huge (and occasionally dated) effects lend themselves to a huge and occasionally dated setting. It’s a film to share in the hot and sweaty company of others, and it puts us halfway through the perfect summer night. So go take a whizz and buy another 6 dollar popcorn and settle in for –
Teen Wolf 1985

To show you I’m a reasonable man, I cannot laud Teen Wolf the same way I did the previous film. But I don’t care. It’s an even better movie for an old-school drive-in setting than its predecessor, and it’s a fuckin’ hoot. Ever wonder what would happen if you pretended to surf on top of a moving van while your friend blasts “Surfin’ USA”? Nothing, dude. You’d be fine.
Fresh off of Back to the Future (my runner-up, by the way) Michael J. Fox makes you believe a teen could also be a wolf, and use that quirk to his or her advantage, suddenly excelling at basketball and becoming wildly popular.
Playing the son of a hardware store owner (and fellow wolfperson), Mike Fox crushes it as Scott Howard, a teenager who suddenly realizes an ability to become a wolf almost at will (though sometimes against it), and with the help of his enterprising best friend, Stiles Stilinski, capture the school’s attention and takes his basketball team to dizzying heights.
Typing that out loud it sounds a little crazy, but it is, and that’s the point of drive-ins. You go to escape, because making sense isn’t always fun. You go to be with other people, to let your imagination run wild, to immerse yourself in a world where things work out in the end.
Short of finding this perfect pairing at the drive-in, I will keep searching for the next best thing this summer at my local drive-in, in the dwindling moment where seeing a film outdoors from a car is still a thing that can happen on the planet Earth.
Trent spends most of his free time talking about old episodes of Saturday Night Live, reading Kurt Vonnegut, and hustling little kids at the local arcade with his Tommy-like Ms. Pac-Man skills.

Drive-In Double Feature: RIVER’S EDGE & PARENTHOOD!

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Jimmy is a man of many talents: musician, comedian, and he can toss pizza like a goldurn pro! And now he can add “movie reviewer” or “blogger”, or whatever he wants to call it, to the list. The irony of his picks is that he embodies them both perfectly: a punk rock exterior with a heart of gold and great sense of humor. Jimmy’s inclusion of Parenthood may be a controversial one for a horror site, but his love of Keanu Reeves, well, that’s a universal love, and love conquers all. Enough of my rambling: take it away, Jimmy!

I feel like a fun Double Feature would be the film River’s Edge followed by Parenthood. One is a totally twisted bummer fest; the other a sarcastic, coming-of-age comedy. A little sour. A little sweet. Both great movies. And both also happen to star/feature the timeless Keanu Reeves. Yep, you read that correctly. KEANU. REEVES. Two totally different movies. What, you did not realize that he was such a diverse act-OR? Welcome to reality. Wipe your feet. Enjoy your stay.

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Keanu’s role in River’s Edge is one of his greatest performances. In this film we see a confused, cynical and slightly nihilistic Keanu. And rightfully so because just after the opening credits, his buddy “wastes” (murders) his own girlfriend. Yikes! Should Keanu help Crispin Glover(!!) cover up the gruesome death? Should he snitch? Should he smoke weed and listen to Slayer while pondering these questions? Yes, lotta Slayer. This movie is filled with grey skies and a dark, brooding score; but also it contains nuggets of some of the most hilarious dialogue in cinema history. Oh! And the part where Keanu orgasms in a sleeping bag with Ione Skye is pretty, pretty funny. (Spoiler!)
Parenthood is kind of the opposite of River’s Edge. Gloom and graininess is replaced with a bright, crisp picture and setting. Sunny-time suburbia. Diane Wiest. The struggles of balancing work and family. And instead of Slayer for the soundtrack, we have Randy Newman. Now, Keanu Reeves (while not really the star of the movie) is peppered nicely throughout and breaks up some of the more tense moments with some classic Reeves comic relief. His character is still confused (not unlike River’s Edge), but this time in more of a “love struck, naive, stupid, stupid dumbass” kind of way. Naysayers might claim that this movie is kind of cheesy, but I really like it. And Parenthood would certainly be a nice palate cleanser to the bitterness of River’s Edge. So fuck you, naysayers.
Jimmy is a human being from planet Earth, but he resides in New Jersey specifically. You can find him on Twitter and you can listen to his amazing band (just one of the many he’s in) on Bandcamp.