Revisiting The Last Drive-In: Deathgasm and The Changeling

The Last Drive-In is well underway with a fast paced gorefest and a classic trip into atmospheric horror. Did the pairing thrill you or leave you yawning before the night was through? Members of 25YL’s horror team (Valerie Thompson, Steve Wandling, Holiday Godfrey, Josh Lami, Will Johnson, and D. Aaron Schweighardt) assembled for this week’s discussion.  

Valerie: This week’s Last Drive-In was a tale of two very different horror films. Metal versus Classical. Gore versus Subtlety. 

Aaron: The double feature reminded me of Grindhouse. Where the first movie is an over-the-top, outrageous gorefest, while the second movie is more of an atmospheric slow-burner. I mean that “with all due respect.” 

Steve: Respect should always be paid to the Grindhouse.

Aaron: One of my most fun theater experiences. 

Steve: I love both films first of all, but I thought it was a ridiculous pairing that was meant to troll us. 

Valerie: I think Joe Bob made a great point about both films being equally a part of the genre. We don’t need to pick teams (as he said). 

Steve: Agreed.

Aaron: I also agree, without much else to contribute. 

Steve: I really like both of those films too. In their own way, I think they’re both really fantastic. Deathgasm—I have to disagree with Joe Bob on as I think it wouldn’t exist without early Peter Jackson films. It’s a love letter to metal but also a love letter to splatter comedies. 

Josh: I felt it was well punctuated. It’s fun sometimes to have two movies that are similar, but I prefer this. The wild one and the classic. 

Steve: I definitely don’t ever mind a change of pace. I just thought this was purposefully jarring. 

Valerie: Make no mistake, there would be no Deathgasm without Dead Alive. 

Steve: Absolutely agree Valerie. I really wish Peter Jackson never got lost in Middle Earth but that’s another rant for another day. 

Aaron: I saw a lot of Evil Dead in it with the camera effects, the demons, and even the “suiting up” montage. I haven’t seen Dead Alive since high school, but I wasn’t a big fan of it at that time. I guess I have a fine line with the splatter. Friday the 13th is kind of my level of gore. 

Steve: But no Deathgasm is a blast. Also a lot of Raimi in its DNA. Totally Aaron. Owes a lot to Evil Dead as well. Really, what splatter comedies don’t owe a lot to both Jackson and Raimi’s early work? 

Josh: I can’t say if Deathgasm would exist or not, but it definitely reminded me a lot of Dead Alive. To a degree that like… Death Proof reminded me of Vanishing Point. I mean so much so that it’s pretty glaring. 

Aaron: Well they called that out in Death Proof too. I loved the moment with the demon floating over to Brodie in the bathroom. 

Valerie: I felt like the effects makeup was a direct homage to Deadites. 

Steve: And that soundtrack though? I really think Deathgasm and Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones would make a great double feature actually.

Aaron: I also like the “meet-cute” of the goth rocker with Kiss makeup on with a pretty blonde girl sitting on a park bench eating ice cream cones on a sunny day. As well as the “re-decapitation”. And the teacher having one hell of a nasty hemorrhoid! 

Steve: The corpse paint was hilarious. It just feels like the type of film you could go out and make with your friends. It has a very cool DIY feel to it. Deathgasm that is.

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Josh: Is everyone here a metal fan? No one but me? I feel like the showing of Deathgasm made the first part of the live tweet descend into a metal discussion on Twitter for me. 

Steve: I am Josh. 

Aaron: I wouldn’t quite call myself a metalhead. Is the Shocker soundtrack considered metal?? 

Holiday: The re-decapitation scene was definitely a high point for me in the film, and I really liked the film as a whole. I’m not really a metalhead, I understand and appreciate the music and aesthetic though.

Josh: I’m into all kinds of music, metal being one of them. This movie reminded me that I need to see Lords of Chaos still. 

Steve: I loved Lords of Chaos.

Josh: Awesome.

Aaron: I don’t know what The Loved Ones or Lords of Chaos even are? 

Steve: Good films sir. Check ’em out. 

Valerie: Shudder can help you out Aaron.

Steve: When in doubt blame me or check Shudder. 

Valerie: Our new motto Steve.

Josh: It’s about a metal band called Mayhem who I believe is referenced in Deathgasm.  

Steve: Overall thoughts, just as I said, it’s the type of feature that makes me want to pick my camera up and call my friends and go shoot something. It seems like an absolute blast to make and anything that’s using any type of practical effects has my vote. 

Valerie: I agree Steve. It’s got this indie vibe to it that makes anyone believe they can go out and shoot their own film with similar results.  

Steve: Right?! Like I don’t get that any more when I go to the multiplex. 

Josh: I agree. Fine horror fun. Nothing groundbreaking but great for a Friday night. 

Aaron: I think a highlight of the film was where they beat the Christian aunt and uncle (who is “balls deep into Jesus”) with their own anal beads and dildos in slow motion. And then Brodie kills his bully cousin David (quite the attractive fella) just cuz. Rubber dildo and anal beads fu! 

Josh: I just liked reading that sentence Aaron. 

Valerie: It was certainly a lot of “fu” there. 

Steve: That was a ridiculously cool amount of fu. 

Holiday: The dildo fu was probably my favorite fu.

Steve: Dildo fu is everyone’s favorite fu.

Aaron: I did mention the massive hemorrhoid of the teacher. 

Steve: Never forget. 

Aaron: Though hemorrhoids really aren’t any laughing matter.  

Valerie: I kept wondering why the teacher was wearing shorts, that scene confirmed the reason. 

Josh: Hemorrhoids are not funny. 

Holiday: It was just so over the top. 

Steve: I can laugh at anything.

Holiday: Fair point.

Josh: Actually my favorite fu is still reverse incest. 

Steve: If someone can explain reverse incest… 

Josh: Wait, no double reverse. 

Valerie: And we’re back to shunting! 

Josh: It’s like the drive-in. Can never die. 

Aaron: I did also like the moment when the demon pulled off Neal’s head with his spinal column attached. I also appreciated how Zakk asks questions that were asked of Gremlins years earlier. “AM Pacific or Eastern time? Do demons recognize daylight savings?” 

Steve: Sorry, I was shunting what’s happening? 

Josh: Hemorrhoidal shunting actually. 

Aaron: Guys, quit trying to make shunting happen. It’s not going to happen! (Sorry, had to drop a Mean Girls reference). 

Josh: Shunting happens—several times a day. As for me and my house, we shall serve the shunt. 

Steve: So, how about that bouncing ball in The Changeling?

Aaron: Wait, before we segue…can we think of any other exploding heads before Scanners? 

Steve: None that match it.

Aaron: Because I believe Joe Bob did set us up for a challenge…

Josh: Me when I watch Fox News. Sorry I’ll get off politics.

Aaron: Before Scanners, huh? 

Josh: Well… yeah fair enough. 

Steve: What challenge? 

Valerie: I kept wondering if there was something in the early pre-code days of film, but I’m drawing a blank. 

Aaron: He claimed that Scanners was the first time we saw an exploding head, then retracted it, saying it’ll bring all of us movie geeks out to challenge him. 

Steve: Oh I thought you meant before as in better than like “that come before” in a list of better head explosion moments. 

Aaron: Nope. 

Steve: That’s why I said none that match it I have no idea when the first exploding head happened on-screen. I just know the one that I remember when I think “exploding head on-screen.” 

Valerie: Speaking of exploding heads…The night’s second film, The Changeling has no exploding heads, or anything else for that matter. 

Aaron: We can move on. Quick shout out to Felissa Rose for the obligatory “dick call”. 

Steve: I love The Changeling.

Valerie: For sure! We always love hearing from Felissa! 

Aaron: Well, The Changeling may not have exploding heads, but it sure has balls! 

Steve: I think it’s a pretty perfect haunted house film. I totally agreed with Joe Bob on that one when he ranked it up there with The Innocents and The Haunting as greatest haunted house films. I’ve always loved that. 

Josh: The Changeling is great, but there’s so little to discuss. Kinda like Rosemary’s Baby. Both great films but you just watch it unfold and it leaves you thinking. 

Steve: Oh, I can talk about Rosemary’s Baby for days, that’s maybe my favorite film. 

Aaron: I feel like The Changeling might be one of those movies I find semi-dull the first couple times, but I may enjoy a lot more after repeated viewings. I’ve had many of those. The Fog comes to mind. Thought it was boring the first time, but now it’s one of my favorites. The original The Fog of course, not one of the worst remakes ever. 

Steve: The Changeling works for me. I love slow burns maybe more than the next person (at least it feels that way a lot) and it has a very purposeful pace. I love the music and the time period. The way films were shot in America, in the studio system, just felt idiosyncratically American. It looks a lot like a Friedkin film I think. 

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Aaron: It does have great sound design, which I noticed a lot of people acknowledged during the live-tweeting. 

Valerie: The sound design is great! I think it really completed the musical motifs of the film. 

Steve: And in any haunted house film the house should be a character and damn if the house isn’t a character. I think haunted house films aren’t for everyone but this one really does it for me. I would put it in a top 25 all-time horror list.

Aaron: Strong visuals particularly in the ending as well and a really cool shot earlier with the camera quickly moving through the house. 

Steve: Yes! I love that shot sorry that sequence would be more apt. 

Josh: I love slow burns too. They’re my preferred type of horror. I’ve just seen The Changeling so many times it was almost a bummer for me for The Last Drive-In. I think. I prefer seeing things that I’ve either never seen or didn’t like. 

Steve: That was my biggest problem too Josh. I’m glad you said it, I had just seen both of those movies way too many times. 

Aaron: Speaking of haunted house films, I notice one haunted house Joe Bob left out of the hall-of-fame…AMITYVILLE! Whether or not you like it, it’s one of the most popular movie haunted houses. 

Steve: We don’t agree on a lot do we Aaron? 

Aaron: Or maybe I should say “haunted house”.

Steve: Sure, haunted house in quotes, I like that. I‘d call it a possession film…and I’ve never really liked it. I actually prefer Amityville II: The Possession if I have to watch an Amityville film but I’m nitpicking.

Aaron: Well, Amityville was one of those gateways for me in horror. My mom introduced me to those. I was OBSESSED with Amityville as a kid. I still think the first two are really good, and I’ve grown to think Amityville II is better than the first over time. Some of the sequels are decent. Amityville 1992: It’s About Time is better than it has any right in being. 

Josh: Fucking Hate Amityville. First off, maybe it’s because I don’t believe in ghosts. Or God or the devil or demons or any of that other stuff, but the filmmakers rub me the wrong way from the get-go. This is not a true story, and even if it were, it’s not a very good one. Shut up. That’s what I wanna say to them. 

AaronOr say to me, Josh. 

Steve: I‘m a COS guy Josh but I also love fictional supernatural stories. 

Valerie: Yet so many filmmakers use the “true story” label to sell their horror films. 

Aaron: Though for the record I DON’T believe it happened, besides the DeFeo murders, obviously. 

Steve: Very much. I mean I love serial killers and true crime, but I love church mythologies and ghost stories and folklore.

Josh: I love supernatural horror too. I just don’t like being taken for an idiot. 

Aaron: Maybe when I was a kid, but as an adult, I don’t believe in actual ghosts. 

Steve: Well, I think the people who the film is based on were taking people for idiots. I believe in death and fear and people needing outlets to deal with those things in different ways and the power of myths. 

Valerie: The biggest question on the table, which has not been asked until this point… What about the girl and the coal cart? What was the point of that? How did a coal cart end up on the street? Unless they meant a horse-drawn cart and got their terminology wrong. 

Steve: Yeah that was a pretty silly idea. 

Josh: I’m not even one of those guys who thinks that anyone who believes differently is stupid. I just think people need to stop saying those haunting movies are true. It annoys me. 

Aaron: I still like Amityville even if I don’t think it’s true. 

Steve: It doesn’t really bother me. It just makes me question anyone who would see a film and take it on its word that it’s true. 

Aaron: But we can get away from that. Sorry. I’m alone in my Amityville love it seems. Childhood nostalgia, what can I say?! 

Steve: Right, I totally agree. I have no bones, Aaron, at all. I don’t care one bit about belief or lack thereof. Millions of people love that film; it’s a classic. I just think the movie is boring, I don’t have any personal qualms about anything. 

Josh: Yeah sometimes I think a writer puts a scene in a movie that they love and it needs to be changed but there’s this rigidity among writers… all artists really… they don’t wanna tweak something they perceive as perfect and that’s how you get some of the weaker parts of The Changeling. Still a great movie. 

Steve: It must do something for some people. 

Aaron: I think it’s more hokey now, but those “evil eye” windows, the Lalo Schifrin score, the scene where Margot Kidder sees “Jodi” outside the window, the actual DeFeo murders…gave me the creeps as a kid. 

Steve: Now, I LOVE Margot Kidder, Black Christmas, Sisters. 

Aaron: I do too. I miss her. RIP. 

Valerie: Back to the movie at hand… The Changeling was a film largely built on the performance of George C. Scott. Could this movie work without him? I don’t think so. 

Steve: No, I don’t think any film with Scott could work without him.

Josh: Without question, no. 

Steve: Exorcist III is a personal favorite as well but Scott had a presence that you also don’t see much anymore. 

Aaron: He does good. I loved that Joe Bob gave a shout out to The Hustler. I love that film, even though I somehow forgot George C. Scott was in it. 

Valerie: Exorcist III is a favorite of mine as well. The hospital scene at the nurse’s station is just amazing. 

Josh: Brad Dourif man. His scene in the cell is incredible. 

Aaron: Agreed Josh. 

Steve: Brad Dourif is the man. He and Chris Sarandon are both some of West Virginia’s finest but The Changeling gets by completely on atmosphere, and it just feels so perfectly put together and executed. 

Josh: His breakdown when he finds Annie in Zombie’s Halloween II is something almost no one gives him credit for but it’s pretty powerful whether you like or hate the movie. 

Steve: Nothing feels out of place. It feels like such a meticulous film to me. 

Josh: Dourif, I mean.

Steve: I actually really enjoyed that. 

Steve: I hated his remake but am one of a handful of people who really enjoyed his sequel. 

Josh: Same. His is good I think. The first remake I’m ambivalent on. 

Aaron: That was a great moment. I got to see him talk about that scene at a convention. His actual daughter Fiona Dourif was sitting next to him, and he coyly motioned to her in terms of where he got his inspiration for that reaction scene in Zombie’s Halloween II. 

Steve: The retcon sequel I’m a fan of, yeah she’s great too. 

Josh: I wanna see JBB do some of the more controversial horror remakes. Again even if they’re ones I don’t like, it just makes for good conversation.

Steve: It almost works better as someone mentioned earlier if you don’t like the film.

Valerie: I think he’s going to bring in more foreign films, which is something I really want to see. 

Josh: Yes indeed.

Steve: Anything but ambivalent me too. I would love to see Old Boy. But then again it works best when it seems I’m not as familiar with the films. I knew both those movies last night inside and out.

Josh: Deathgasm was a first for me but I need to rewatch it because I miss so much when tweeting. 

Steve: Yeah, it’s impossible to watch and live tweet.

Aaron: I hadn’t seen Deathgasm, only saw The Changeling once before. I’m impressed that out of six movies so far in this double feature series, there isn’t one I’ve seen more than once. Okay, so at the end of this week, Joe Bob did mention that next week they’re going to show “the scariest movie ever made about Staten Island.” Do we have any guesses? 

Valerie: Cropsey? 

Josh: I always guess wrong, so I’m just gonna shut up this week. 

Aaron: If Cropsey is Staten Island, then damn, that’s another one I’ve never seen. 

Steve: Combat Shock? 

Josh: I’ve never seen Cropsey but I hear good things. 

Aaron: I’ve seen The Burning though. Which that character inspired, right? 

Josh: Yeah and The Burning is awesome. 

Steve: Dude see Cropsey you’ll like it, I have a feeling 

Aaron: I do very much enjoy The Burning…though maybe more to riff on?  

Valerie: I could easily see Combat Shock there as well Steve. 

Josh: I’d say I’m looking forward to Cropsey but again I’m always wrong on what he’s showing so I probably won’t see it next week. 

Steve: I think it’s Combat Shock…final answer. 

Aaron: Well I’ll hold off on Cropsey till at LEAST next week, in case Valerie is right. Sisters was also Staten Island, but that didn’t seem right. Someone threw out He Knows Your Alone as well as a guess. 

Steve: I hope it’s Sisters. I love De Palma. 

Aaron: Which I also haven’t seen He Knows You’re Alone. 

Steve: Check it out. 

Aaron: I’d be fine with Sisters. De Palma is one of my favorite directors. 

Aaron: Did we finally find some common ground, Steve? 

Steve: De Palma? 

Aaron: Yes. 

Steve: Did we just become best friends?  

Aaron: That line was in my head. 

Valerie: I think that’s what our roundtables are all about, bringing people together. With that, we bring this roundtable to an end. Any last thoughts before we go?  

Josh: Don’t do drugs. Final thought. 

Steve: Don’t pay for drugs. Final thought. 

Aaron: I don’t know if we should print any of these “final thoughts”.

Josh: I only say things I truly believe. 

Steve: That’s a good policy 

Josh: Later errrrbody.

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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