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Revisiting The Last Drive-In: C.H.U.D and Castle Freak

The Last Drive-In stormed to life with an (arguably) controversial film followed by an overlooked gem from well known horror icons. Was it everything you thought it would be? We’ve got definite opinions. Members of 25YL’s horror team(Valerie Thompson, Steve Wandling, Holiday Godfrey, Josh Lami, Will Johnson, and D. Aaron Schweighardt a.k.a Schweig) assembled to go over the good, bad, and extremely freaky for this week’s discussion. 

Valerie: We were treated to C.H.U.D and Castle Freak this week. I love Castle Freak but not so much on C.H.U.D.

Holiday: I didn’t even get to see Castle Freak because my service shit the bed. I did get to watch C.H.U.D though with someone who’d never seen/heard of it before that evening; that was an absolute treat.

Steve: We indeed were. I personally thought Joe Bob’s commentary on C.H.U.D., or really his thinly veiled contempt for the film, was hilarious. I don’t get the love of C.H.U.D. Sorry Darcy! It’s just soulless.

Will: C.H.U.D. was a dud (yes, I said that).

Schweig: Well, that was actually my first time with C.H.U.D.! Joe Bob had already alluded in his Twitter to the fact that he would be ragging on a heavily-requested movie, and I was just relieved it wasn’t something I was already more familiar and in love with. It’s weird how as a kid any time Joe Bob would criticize art-house types I was totally with him. But as I’ve gotten older and my movie love has spread to multiple genres, I kind of wanted to say, “aww, take it easy on the poor guys.” But overall, I’d have to side with Joe Bob. Pretty dull. And as far as early ’80s horror about creatures coming out of the sewers, I’d go more with Alligator.

Steve: Castle Freak on the other hand I think is brilliant. Stuart Gordon, Lovecraft, Barbara Crampton. You really can’t go wrong . That third collaboration is especially dark and a completely different viewing experience than the previous two collaborations.

Josh: C.H.U.D. is a horrible movie. I saw it about 13 years ago and could barely finish it. I rented it back when Blockbuster had their online DVD rental thing going on. I can’t understand why it’s considered a classic by anyone. That said, part of the charm of Monstervision was watching trash while Joe Bob put said trash into perspective for us. So it fit in there nicely as a kickoff to the weekly series.

Image result for chud

Valerie: It was as if they were offering Castle Freak to apologize for sitting through C.H.U.D.

Steve: But I don’t think Castle Freak is any LESS of a film than Re-animator or From Beyond, just different.

Holiday: They could have put on Navy Seals afterwards and I’d still have considered it an apology.

Will: Castle Freak is, to me, Stuart Gordon’s best film so I’m glad a lot of people got to see it for the first time with Joe Bob and Barbara Crampton. Plus, Joe Bob was able to provide expert analysis on the dick/no-dick debate that has plagued me forever, by having Felissa Rose make a guest appearance

Schweig: I for one loved the idea of turning C.H.U.D. into a musical. And I’ve heard C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the C.H.U.D. was better. Is that true?

Steve: Hahaha well we should be owed something for sitting through C.H.U.D.! Maybe a Lonestar?

Will: Hey … how dare you besmirch Navy Seals.

Josh: Castle Freak I’d somehow never heard of. Even though I love Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon, and Lovecraft. No idea how I missed that one. Probably because the name and cover art for the movie are terrible choices. Regardless, what a pleasant surprise. Loved every minute of it.
Ooooh Navy Seals!

Holiday: Who knew we’d only get 1 question into a horror round-table before a Kevin Smith reference happened?

Josh: Buncha savages at this table.

Will: Josh, are you saying the name Castle Freak is terrible? Its a god damn castle with a god damn freak in it!

Josh: Shall I say… too on-the-nose?

Will: Because Re-Animator is a subtle name for what happens in that movie 😉

Holiday: Well, Re-Animator doesn’t exactly give away *everything* that happens in the movie

Josh: Yeah but the name Re-Animator leaves something to the imagination. If you’ve never seen the movie, you have no idea what it’s gonna be about. Calling a movie Castle Freak leaves little room for a guess. Pretty sure there’s gonna be an antagonistic castle freak in this.

Schweig: It was only my second time with Castle Freak. I thought there was some great character stuff. Pretty harsh when both the husband and wife wish he were dead, and I love the exchange with the cop! “Why would I break my own mirror?” “Maybe you didn’t like what you saw.” Ooo, deep burn! And it took foreplay to a whole other level! Is this a stretch , or did Barbara Crampton’s line, “Stop it! You’re acting like a child!” seem like a Night of the Living Dead shout out? Jeffrey Combs’ character is even named Johnny! But I liked the movie. I’m still not comfortable ranking it among Re-Animator or From Beyond. But I do think Re-Animator is just a tad overrated, despite some amusing moments and a fun score even if it’s riffing on Psycho a little too much. And I want to say from the one time I saw From Beyond that I didn’t like it all too much, but it probably needs a re-watch.

Holiday: They could have named Rocky Horror Picture Show, Castle Freak… now that I think about it.

Josh: As well call Friday the 13th: Weirdo Hockey Mask Killer.
I loved Castle Freak, but it’s not up there with Re-Animator or From Beyond for me.

Will: Schwieg, see, that is why I love the film. The movie actually makes the presumed victims three dimensional. And I found the drama truly effective, which I can’t say happens in too many horror films. Almost by default, in horror, we seem to root for the monsters and not the “heroes”. Generally speaking, of course.

Valerie: From Beyond and Re-Animator are my favorite Gordon films, but I can easily make a case for Castle Freak as well.

Will: When it comes to Gordon, I also think Edmond is a dark-horse best film in his filmography but that is because he is a theater guy and it is an adaptation of a David Mamet play

Josh: So we all seem to be in agreement that C.H.U.D. sucks and is barely worth a discussion?

Steve: Re-Animator is hands down my favorite,but I agree with what Barbara Crampton said to Joe Bob Briggs about how it unfortunately is the best and worst thing that ever happened to Jeffrey Combs. I can talk about things I liked about C.H.U.D.?

Will: Josh, Y.E.S.

Valerie: I’ll live with that answer Josh.

Holiday: Y.E.S = You’re entirely correct

Josh: Sustained?

Schweig: Cutting back to C.H.U.D. for a moment, I thought it had perhaps the lamest shower scare in history. And then another later scene where Kim Greist tries to fix her phone by putting ripped wires back into the phone, even though the wires were ripped from the wall. And then there was that terrible editing back and forth between the government meeting and John Heard and Kim Griest’s interaction with the freelance reporter. John Heard actually came across as a huge tool in the film, neglecting both his job and relationship without much care. Though I do miss John Heard himself being around. And at least during that meeting we got to hear a bureaucrat say “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers!” And can we acknowledge that TMNT ripped C.H.U.D. off? They even both have four-word acronyms! And Chris Columbus and John Hughes were obviously inspired by it too when casting Home Alone.

Steve: I really like the soundtrack, or the score I mean. I really thought it’s a great creature design, despite what Joe Bob thinks, its actually pretty cool but less is more actually doesn’t always work. Maybe most of the time I say, “Sure, less is more.” Once I’ve seen the monster it’s less scary every time, and there’s films where you never see the monster that are some of my favorites… that scared the shit out of me, but C.H.U.D. seemed aimless. Like, I couldn’t figure out who the movie was about or who I was supposed to be paying attention to. All I knew is that it was saying was that New York is shit.

Valerie: Not to mention a film called C.H.U.D. with little to no C.H.U.D. involvement.

Josh: It just feels dull and lifeless. Every time I watch it I wanna ask what it is, exactly, that I’m gaining from seeing it.

Valerie: Can we just mention the diner scene for a moment? What, if anything, did that do for the movie.

Schweig: Way too many characters too. Though at least it had Revenge of the Nerds-era John Goodman!

Josh: Nothing, but I’m never sorry to see John Goodman.

Valerie: Have to agree with you there Josh.

Will: Well, unlike most of the movie, it had C.H.U.D.s in it

Josh: That it did. For better or worse.
I’d make a comparison to Jaws having very little shark action in it, but let’s be real… C.H.U.D. ain’t Jaws. I feel bad even putting the movies in the same sentence together.

Steve: I still say the actual C.H.U.D.s themselves are cool. They’re just stuck in a shit film.

Holiday: Besides the clear social commentary, the movie gets a no from me.

Josh: It’s also a no from me, dawg.

Will: Steve, you mentioned you missed that era of New York. Explain.

Steve: No, that was a joke. I was live tweeting. It was a moment in the film where it showed a bunch of fucking shots of alley folk doing dirty alley shit and I just made the joke.

Holiday: I agree with Steve on that, the creatures themselves are actually pretty cool. I liked the yellow back lighting in their eyes and the practical applications weren’t terrible.

Schweig: The most I’ll give C.H.U.D. is a cool decapitated head effect. And the unintentionally funny scene where a cop laughs about a girl claiming a monster killed her grandfather while the cop is RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER.

Josh: I’ll tell you a movie that hits on the grimier era of New York, a Martin Scorsese film that gets nowhere near enough respect, and that’s Bringing Out The Dead.

Steve: Is that the most conveniently placed sword in cinematic history or did I miss something?

Will: Haha! Gotcha.

Steve: On the side-note Josh Bringing Out The Dead is a fantastic film.

Valerie: Scorsese and C.H.U.D.! Remember this day kids, it will go down as the only time these two are mentioned together in the same sentence.

Steve: Hopefully.

Will: I think Serpico, Taxi Driver and Basket Case show some of the best of old, long-dead NY, though Bringing Out the Dead is great too.

Schweig: I also second (or third) that. Bringing Out the Dead is one of my favorite Scorsese films.

Holiday: Yeah I’ll be surprised if Josh doesn’t get a cease and desist letter because of it.

Josh: Nah, beneath all the acclaim, Scorsese is one of us.

Schweig: But yeah, thumbs down on C.H.U.D., thumbs up on Castle Freak for me. Anymore on the movies themselves?

Josh: He cast Joe Bob in Casino for god’s sake. He’s a movie nerd, I promise.

Steve: I think with Castle Freak the thing that I do appreciate and you I were talking about this earlier… that there’s obviously no Brian Yuzna. I love his stuff, all of it, big fan , but this is just an obviously  different feel without his involvement… and it’s pretty much from what Joe Bob said just as long as it had a castle and a freak in it by God Gordon could make whatever movie he wanted to make and he did. I thought of his Masters of Horror episode which ,somebody you’ll have to help me remember the the title, (he may have done more than one), but one kind of reminded me of Castle Freak. It’s just a totally different experience, even though it’s also loosely based on Lovecraft like From Beyond and Re-Animator and I think that’s in large part what we were talking about, whoever earlier I was talking about that with.

Image result for castle freak

Will: Let’s talk about Scorsese instead of C.H.U.D.

Steve: There’s no Brian Yuzna. Hahaha sure.

Valerie: If only Will!

Schweig: That was me. I am not a fan of Brian Yuzna, and am glad he was not involved with Castle Freak.

Valerie: Now we get to the good stuff…

Will: Castle Freak really reminds me of stage acting and theater, which is what Stuart Gordon is all about …

Steve: There ya go. Thanks Schweig, and Will makes a good point.

Josh: I need to brush up on my theater knowledge. I’m a pleb when it comes to that.

Schweig: I struggle with articulating it. Yuzna is into the slime and goo… and I’m not disgusted by it, but everything else falls by the wayside. I HATED Bride of Re-Animator, and I also don’t like Beyond Re-Animator or Return of the Living Dead 3.

Valerie: Not really a fan of Beyond but I think Bride is a worthwhile entry in the series.

Will: You could seriously set that on stage without a lot of transitions, get good dramatic performances from the leads, and introduce the creature without having to do much heavy lifting to make it work. I guess you’d have to find an actress who is willing to be cunnilingus’d to death 2 times a week for 8 weeks though.

Josh: The starring role, if you ask me.

Schweig: Oh shit, he also directed Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4. I forgot that one. That one is also TERRIBLE. Still haven’t seen The Dentist though.

Josh: The Dentist is unwatchable, bad. It’s borderline soft-core porn, if memory serves.

Schweig: Bride was my least favorite horror movie ever for awhile. But I was also on whatever they give you for wisdom teeth at the time. I’ve softened on it over more viewings, but not enough to where I don’t hate it.

Steve: Oh man, I love Bride.

Josh: I’ve seen SN;DN 1 & 2. I own 3 & 4 on VHS, and have for years, but for some reason never watched them.

Steve: I love Society so much. Society is awesome, classic stuff!
SHUNT!!!

Schweig: Haven’t seen Society either.

Steve: Society is great.

Schweig: SNDN 2 is my favorite bad movie ever. I want to write about that one eventually.

Steve: I hate that
:joy:
It’s very existence angers me.

Schweig: Favorite to riff on I mean.

Will: The Dentist was written by the same duo who did Castle Freak! Gordon and … the other guy, haha.

Steve: No it’s cool. I love a million horrible films and I’m a DC fan too. That one’s for you Will.

Will: Don’t bait me Steve.

Schweig: Like some people do with The Room and stuff like that.

Steve: Hahahaha .I got you man

Will: hahaha

Steve: The Room, there’s a good time. Joe bob interviewing Mark…

Valerie: It is indeed Steve.

Josh: So on a slightly different subject, what’s the deal with all this hostility? I don’t know if you all belong to the Joe Bob Facebook group, but people were complaining about the movie choices. I didn’t like C.H.U.D. but I felt like it was fun to watch for The Last Drive-In. Are people forgetting how many terrible movies were on Monstervision or Drive-In Theater?

Steve: Probably, and I’m sure there’s a lot of newcomers that don’t get it. You’ll have that.

Schweig: I didn’t catch wind of that. But I was fine with the choices. One I hadn’t seen, one I had only seen once, so I dug it. Even if the live tweeting meant a second round was in order.

Holiday: Yeah people on that page really just seem to like the drama, so they start arguments. There are so many members of the page though that is hard to moderate quickly enough.

Steve: Yeah it’s more about the experience with Joe Bob and Darcy as many here would probably agree with me.

Schweig: But yes, Joe Bob has had a history of choosing even worse… and even more obscure movies. The people complaining might’ve only tuned into some of his “greatest hits”. Or the more mainstream movies, because that also happened a lot on Monstervision, probably at TNT’s request.

Josh: They could literally show One Fine Day and I’d be okay with it as long as Joe Bob and Darcy are making the experience fun.

Steve: Hahaha now THAT’S a horror movie.

Will: Hey! I like One Fine Day … plus the disgruntled EPA guy was a disgruntled architect in One Fine Day.

Valerie: There’s nothing wrong with obscure, cult, or trash cinema. I’m looking forward to Joe Bob’s promise of Asian horror during the series run.

Steve: Sure ted turner wasn’t a C.H.U.D. guy? Nothing whatsoever only people who look down on it.

Josh:  He’s one disgruntled motherfucker.

Steve: Or see genre or trash or exploitation as less than.

Holiday: I love bad horror movies. I feel no shame in that.

Josh: Yes, me too. I’m really hoping for Oldboy, as it’s currently on Shudder.

Steve: Or say elevated horror. (vomits)

Will: He thinks children are C.H.U.D.s in One Fine Day.

Steve: Hahahahaha will

Valerie: The term “elevated horror” makes me sick. We don’t need that.

Steve: No shame ! No that term should die. Every time a critic likes a damn horror movie it’s suddenly not one somehow.

Holiday: Elevated horror is just another way of saying Soho sewer monster… I’m pretty sure.

Steve: That’s actually the name of my new band Holiday.

Schweig: I think sometimes I get it. Like when a movie fits multiple genres. Like Jaws. Horror, action, adventure. But still most definitely horror.

Josh: I’ve never heard the term ‘elevated horror’ before right now. Are we talking about like… horror that borders on being arthouse? The Witch? Babadook? Stuff like that?

Schweig: Meaning I get it, even if I don’t agree.

Steve: Yeah I love all those movies, but when a horror movie just can’t be a horror movie and be respected because  its horror… because of the perception that still hangs on today that’s it somehow less important cinema or less meaningful than any other genre.

Holiday: Josh, that’s what I’ve always imagined the term to mean. It’s frustrating to hear people say it though.

Steve: That’s how I’d best describe the idea of something like elevated horror.

Holiday: Clearly a good movie can’t just be a horror movie.

Josh: Jordan Peele seems to be trying to dispel that notion by tweeting things like “Us is a horror movie.”

Will:Personally, regarding “elevated” horror, Jordan Peele effectively destroyed that by outright claiming “Us is a horror movie” because people were trying to classify it as something else to give it more impact.

Steve: Yeah it bothers me because it’s amazing one of the best films of the year,  so it can’t possibly be JUST a horror film and be everything a drama or insert genre can be . So we need to dress it up, and put a bow on it for the public .

Valerie: Horror doesn’t need critical acclaim to survive, maybe that’s why so many critics are hostile towards it.

Will: Only three horror films have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars … one of them won, at least.

Schweig: Jaws, Silence of the Lambs (the winner), Get Out?

Steve: True Valerie that and I think of often flies in the face of a lot of social rigidity and deals with things we would rather not talk about

Holiday: Since all horror needs is society to get ideas from, it definitely doesn’t need acclaim to thrive or survive.

Will: Exorcist … I suppose Jaws is horror too … so four!

Steve: People need to deal with fear in a safe environment.

Josh: Speaking of hostility, is it just me or is Darcy becoming something of a polarizing figure in this new series? It’s interesting to me because in the ’90s I don’t think anyone would have batted an eyelash at her, but in 2019 everything has to be controversial. Is it just me or are Twitter and Facebook rendering things that should be completely innocuous into controversies of the week?

Will: The entire world is rendering completely innocuous things into controversies.

Schweig: How do you mean? I also haven’t caught wind of this.Or in what ways, I saw that tweet too.That people are negative towards her.

Josh: She was an adult film actress before being on The Last Drive-In. Now full disclosure, I have a lot of friends in the adult film industry, I could care less what someone does for a living. But a lot of people are using her background to say she’s not a good fit for the show. More disclosure, I think she’s a great addition to the show and love her as the mail girl.

Holiday: People on social media are basically offended by Darcy existing it seems, and that Joe Bob is using her for more viewers.

Will: Darcy is so cool, I hate when people try to get on her.

Schweig: It took me awhile to realize that I had…seen her before. Haha. But yes, she is so extremely generous to the fans it’s nuts. She’s great.

Valerie: Judging someone for their background or past is ridiculous.

Holiday: I have a strange feeling that the same people that are irritated Darcy is the mail girl are also people that are totally cool with a reality TV show star being the president. Just a thought.

Josh: I prefer to call him a game show host, but to each their own.

Holiday:That’ll work.

Schweig: Speaking of Darcy, I thought she had the funniest moment of the night. When in the opening she very subtly and very smoothly put her earbuds in to tune out Joe Bob.

Josh: Yes, that was hilarious.

Holiday: Agreed, that made me laugh pretty hard. Do you guys have any movies in particular you want to see on the drive in?

Josh: Halloween III.

Holiday: Yesssssssss.

Schweig: I also loved Darcy’s cosplay after Castle Freak. Even as a hooker chained to a freak’s head, she managed a look of 50’s classy babe.

Josh: My predictions for the next 8 weeks:

Gremlins
The Burbs
Ganja & Hess

Valerie: For anyone wondering, I would like to see Wolf Guy as a Last Drive-In feature.

Schweig: As far as Holiday’s questions, we’re looking at what’s on Shudder right? That would be easier. Let me look. I agree with H3.

Josh: Exiled
Ichi The Killer
Oldboy
The Host
Blood & Black Lace
Creepshow 2

Valerie: Maybe Amsterdamned as well.

Josh: Maniac
Heathers
Ong Bak 1 & 2
I’ll stop. I’d kinda like to see him do something new, like Mandy.

Holiday: I’d love to see his thoughts on Mandy definitely

Valerie: With that, I’ll wrap up our roundtable.  Let’s do this again next week!

After the roundtable, Schweig had some additional thoughts to add to this discussion

Schweig: As far as what’s on Shudder: Black Christmas, Christmas Evil, Creepshow 2, Day of the Dead, Deep Red, Exorcist III, both Gremlins, any Halloween, Hellraiser II and III, Madman, Maniac, Night of the Living Dead, Phenomena, Prom Nights 1 and 2, The Changeling, The Stuff, The Visitor. I’d put Prom Night at the top, as it’s one of my favorite slashers, and I don’t remember Joe Bob ever covering it.

While Darcy had the funniest moment for me, Joe Bob had some good lines too. Such as in C.H.U.D., after it ate the grandfather: “What kind of yellow-eyed, snaggletooth monster goes for the mutton and ignores the veal?!” Or “Uta Hagen…sounds like you’re asking a Nazi to hold your hand.” Or during Castle Freak regarding the freak’s sexual perversion: “If you talked about making the beast with two backs, he’d probably bring a camel to bed!” And both blonde jokes were really funny too.

As far as other memorable moments, I dug the nostalgic opening where Joe Bob recites the Drive-In Oath with the audience at his 1985 show Joe Bob Briggs: Dead in Concert. Similar to the opening of the first marathon where it opened with the same opening from Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater. I liked his opening to C.H.U.D., where he discusses how putting a woman in the shower creates physical and emotional vulnerability. With Castle Freak, I figured it was only a matter of time before Barbara Crampton came on, as she’s both a horror fan and actress, and has been so supportive of the show. I remember her tweeting during the showing of Re-Animator with support. She also had a good line: “If they build it, they will come.” And also a great call to Felissa Rose once again! Funny exchange. Darcy: “It’s sweet how she always make herself available for dick duty.” Joe Bob: “Well, she loves dick.”

Join the team every week for our breakdown of The Last Drive-In and follow us on Twitter as we live tweet during each new episode!


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Written by Valerie Thompson

Valerie Thompson is Managing Editor of 25YL Horror. She has worked on projects for Netflix, CBS, A&E, PBS, Showtime, Cinemax, and Warner Bros. Pictures.

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    • Hey thanks for reading it! there’s one coming sooner than you think from this past friday’s episode my friend! Enjoy and thanks again!

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