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Captain Canada’s (Cult) Movie Rodeo / Time to Hit the Drive-In / November 2018


Last month, I had it in my head to do a horror marathon for Halloween. The fearless Drunk Monkeys EIC Kolleen said that was fine. She added that we were also going to do a horror theme for November. That’s fair. It’s not on the books, but I think you could make a case that November is pretty fucking horrifying. Elections. Thanksgiving. Roseanne Barr’s birthday. It goes on.

At any rate, I said I was down with the theme issue, as it related to Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo. I just wanted to make sure I could do something different from the month prior.

So, we’re heading to the drive-in, so to speak. I guess I just can’t shake that Joe Bob Briggs comeback. I think I also just can’t think of anything else I’d like to do for a horror theme. Still, this is could be fun. We’re going to take a quick look at five of my favorite drive-in/exploitation movies of all time. The criteria for a movie to meet those requirements is simple:

  • Lots and lots of violence

  • Nudity (any gender or species is acceptable)

  • Some quality that made the film too weird to truly succeed in traditional movie theaters.

It is worth mentioning that many of these films feature subjects like rape, violence against men and women, and other subjects that may not work for you. If you’re going with my recommendations here, make sure you know what you’re signing on for.

For everyone else, if you want to watch stuff that’s fun, probably offensive, and fucking nuts in equal measures, here are some classics you’ve hopefully never seen. Barring that, think of this top 5 exploitation films list (of sorts) as the lineup for your next marathon.

Next month, I promise we’ll be back to the usual mix of whatever-the-hell-I-watch-to-whittle-away-the-desperate hours.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Image: Bryanston Distributing Company

Image: Bryanston Distributing Company

At this point, most of us would like to see this franchise die with dignity. We probably passed that mark after letting Michael Bay’s production company make two financially-successful, effortlessly-hollow of its own chapters.

Nonetheless, at least the original is pretty close to perfect horror. Few films have truly succeeded in recreating the tense, hopeless madhouse atmosphere that starts early in TCM, and only picks up more momentum as it goes on. One of the greatest things about Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the fact that it isn’t even really that violent. It has a couple of rather brutal moments, but that’s more or less it. Even contemporaries of Tobe Hooper’s most successful movie had more savagery. Certainly, we’ve topped the brutality meter in the decades since.

So why does this movie endure? For the same reason it developed a cult following blended with urban legend in the first place. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an exploitation classic. One of the reasons for that is because it exploits first and foremost our imaginations. What we imagine adds considerable volumes and discomfort, and eventually fear, to what Hooper presents on screen. It is a flawless mix of genuinely distinctive visuals and intensity with what we imagine goes on behind that infamous metal door.

Pink Flamingos (1972)

Image: New Line Cinema

Image: New Line Cinema

Pink Flamingos might just be the wildest fucking trash masterpiece of John Waters’ illustrious career. If you start your John Waters education with this movie, and you like it, you’re going to be a fan for life. Trust me. You’re good to go on pretty much the man’s entire filmography.

Pink Flamingos is a great overview of Waters’ love of perversity, weirdos, and weirdness. Once again, we have an exploitation movie that doesn’t exploit the cast members themselves. Rather, the audiences of the day were the ones exploited. As Waters’ regulars like Divine, Edith Massey, and Mink Stole compete for the honor of being the “Filthiest Person Alive”, Waters straps us in. He then goes to work on seeing how much we can truly handle. Rape, murder, incest, cannibalism, and other topics are assaulted with such reckless, joyful fascination, you may not be able to absorb everything this movie offers the first time around.

Ms .45 (1981)

Image: Image Entertainment

Image: Image Entertainment

Of the many, many rape-and-revenge films of the 1970s and 1980s, Abel Ferrara’s Ms .45 is probably my favorite. The truth of the matter is that I’ve never had a strong stomach for these. Too many of them hang everything on the rape scenes. At best, that gets really boring very quickly. The movies in this category that are worth watching today contain the core elements of a story in which a woman is brutalized, before seeking the most vicious form of vengeance available to them. They just also feature other qualities that make them worth watching as more than just curios of a type of movie which has thankfully stayed more-or-less in the past.

Ms .45 gives you the basic requirements of the genre. A woman (Zoë Tamerlis Lund) is attacked and sexually assaulted, twice in the course of a single day. Abel Ferrara would go on to a long career of violent stories. His kind of violence is blunt, free or pretension, and deeply unsettling. With a dismal 80s New York background and low budget, Ms .45 is probably Ferrara’s blackest offering.

Ms .45 goes beyond your basic requirements for several reasons. First and foremost is Zoë Tamerlis Lund Thana/the titular character. The script is tight, and free of fetishizing the horrible things that happens to Thana. It also trusts Thana to make such moments about more than getting some sexual violence on the screen. Thana is more fleshed out as a character than most in films such as these. It makes the revenge aspects admittedly more satisfying. It gives the violence a lasting impression.

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Image: Turtle Releasing Organization

Image: Turtle Releasing Organization

While not his most famous exploitation movie by a long shot, Assault on Precinct 13 is John Carpenter at perhaps his most entertaining. The film was remade in the early 2000s with a much bigger budget, and a cast of familiar names. It didn’t have a tenth of the charm of the original. It might just be my favorite Carpenter film, which is saying something.

Assault takes a small cast (including such great character actors as Tony Burton and Carpenter regular Charles Cyphers), a battered police station on its last operational night, and the faceless hordes which descend upon them. These figures are here to break a comrade out of prison. We see a few of them, but countless more are suggested with finesse and genuine suspense by Carpenter. It is still one of the most effective and satisfying action movies of all time. Certainly, it also counts as an exploitation classic.

Frankenhooker (1990)

Image: Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment

Image: Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment

I have to once again choose a less-famous work from one of the legends of cult cinema. You won’t get any argument from me that Frank Henenlotter has three true drive-in classics with his Basket Case trilogy. I just think Frankenhooker all on its own is ultimately more fun. This very loose, completely deranged adaptation of Frankenstein has a premise that has to be seen to be believed. The inventiveness of the movie meeting its ambitious story on a low budget is a testament to Henenlotter and a long career of making the gross and strange absolutely hilarious.

No, Frankenhooker is not scary. It starts silly, and it just gets sillier from there. The violence, nudity, and characters look for your threshold for logic and good taste, and then fuck with it just a bit. There is a delight to this which permeates the way the movie wins us over. The cast is great, but immortality belongs to Patty Mullen. As the Frankenhooker in question, she meets every expectation you could have for such a character.

Gabriel Ricard writes, edits, and occasionally acts. His books Love and Quarters and Bondage Night are available through Moran Press, in addition to A Ludicrous Split (Alien Buddha Press) and Clouds of Hungry Dogs (Kleft Jaw Press). He is also a writer, performer, and producer with Belligerent Prom Queen Productions. He lives on a horrible place called Long Island.