The mid 1970s brought together an interesting brand of horror, in an era that likely never to exist again, while the larger studios dealt themselves winning hands with The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976), the independent films kept the hammer down and turned out their own well to do horror flicks. The exploitation market had a firm grip and fed starving horror junkies, with unbridled lasting marketing to those needing a new fix. Drive-In Massacre clearly an early entry into the slasher genre by director and TV veteran Stu Segall, who produced Silk Stalkings and Hunter, among many others, while moonlighting under an alias to direct adult entertainment, this became his only horror film to date. Stu had the original story, but it was actors John F. Goff, who penned The Night stalker (1986) and George ‘Buck’ Flower, who wrote this screenplay on a typewriter, and fully knew there was no ending. A simple enough storyline, but would lack much of the practical gags later used in Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), Madman (1981), and The Mutilator (1984), in fact the movie doesn’t contains a massacre. A killing here and there never adds up to full-on assault.
In addition, many claim it’s the first film to use a drive-in as the place of killing, this is partially incorrect, while true all the killing sets in the central location of a drive-in theater, but actually the thriller Targets (1968) which starred Boris Karloff, had more violence in a drive-in theater than this movie. Yes, true not all the killings occurred there, but suspense worked well, another film from director Bob Clark called Dead of Night (aka: Deathdream ) had a scene set in a drive-in, and hence only logical that a horror film, would use the location for a grander sensationalism. Since this movie, others filmmakers, used drive-in theaters in their productions such as Ruby (1977), Christine (1983), and Chillerama (2011) just to name a few. Therefore, with a location a staple in American culture since 1930s, leading to all sorts of antics, and other steamy discoloring of windows in the 50s and all through the 70s, it became a bastion for low budget horror and exploitation films, and finally used for a killing zone.
Drive-In Massacre starts off with a couple, the guy wanting to hear the sound, ignoring the woman and a sudden first attack, full on beheading and a bit more of slice and dice, this gets the gore-hounds salivating although the blood loss isn’t great, the killing is presented as artwork on the Blu-ray cover. Thanks to Severin Films, the film shown in explicit gory detail in classic exploitation design, which still keeps the duller artwork intact as a reversible art sleeve. The effects are quite amateurish, lacking brutal carnage, the budget constraints the gag never worked correct, time to improvise, and how it happens shows the levels of independent filmmaking. After this shock and awe opening volley, the movie tends to drift into the lane of yawn and sigh, becoming more of a crime film, than horror. Detectives John Koch (Bruce Kimball (Fangs )) & Mike Leary (Goff, yes the screenwriter, who would later star in a few John Carpenter films such as The Fog ) investigate the crime, interview Austin Johnson (Robert E. Pearson), the manager, who appears similar to actor Vincent Price’s Egghead character in Batman TV series from 1966 and Anton LaVey, a vindictive and angry individual – one a few red herrings. Then Germy (Douglas Gudbye) the dim-witted custodian a former sword swallower, tells of a peeping tom, again spreading around the doubts and lining up suspects. Once more the killer strikes again same place, and another couple eliminated from society, but Germy provides a plate number to the next suspect, Orville Ingleson (Norman Sherlock). In his living room, he’s got the strangest artwork, and confessed man who enjoys the exploits of voyeurism and palming his frustrations. What is so odd, never seen a living room walls decorate with porn pictures, usually kept hidden not on full display, but perhaps trying to show the audience how much of a problem this guy actually becomes, but the foot chase does that easily. Later a male police detective goes in drag with his partner to stake the same drive-in theater, and more people die basically in front of them; how hard is it to locate a person carrying a sword. Actor Flower (who also worked often with John Carpenter) gets a tacked part, to stretch the runtime, as he terrorizes his daughter, portrayed by his real-life daughter, Verkina Flower, actually the performance goes over very well for the movie.
The film tends to crawl slowly along, shockingly as the runtime totals just 74-minutes, and yet a complete film aside from an interesting ending, a voiceover at the end informs the audience that a murderer is on the loose in the theatre, leaving everyone unsure who the killer actual is. Why is this, so curious, recall this movie released on December 20, 1976, in Los Angeles, California, while The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) [released on December 24] from director Charles B. Pierce, uses the same tone and technique at the end of his film; too.
As for problems, they dot everywhere, within the movie, the storyline though the most responsible guilty party, it provides a weak basis for everything else. A few brief moments do awkward comedy work just right, but that short of movie, needs to hit on every mark not just once and a while. Everything just feels very thin, the script included along with sets, why do people keep going to a location where others die, I understand that the information age does not exist, but newspaper did, but that the least of the issues. The effects again suffer, the amount of blood loss, barely occurs, and when uses the word Massacre, one expects more especially this comes after The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), the person credit listed honestly as The Duke of Disguise. Curious enough, this person worked earlier in the year on a comedy film called C.B. Hustlers from directed Stu Segall, and didn’t resurface until, 1984 for adult movie. Lastly, the score is tad weird, some usage of synthesizer, but the quality lacking, the music credit goes to Lon John Productions who also has credits to the adult entertainment.
In the subgenre of horror, all the fans know that some dreadful slasher exists and yet they still find a special place, as many willing to forgive the sound issues and plot holes. The film holds a solid place for splatter-punks, grimy, dirty mindset and yet a downside of less gore, wrinkles of sleazy, but feels if unsure if one wanted to venture to far the beaten path, next please go off the rail, give into the insanity and let the gruesome stick to walls.
This review was originally published on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website in March 2017.
- You’ll Pay To Get In… And Pray To Get Out!
- On August 10th, in a California Drive-In the Senseless Killings Began…
- Filmed entirely in bloodcurdling Gore-Color
- …Your Nightmares Are About To Come True!!
IMDb Rating: 3.5/10
Baron’s Rating: 3.5/10