The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Eighteen: Drive-In Massacre (1977)

drive in



It’s been my experience that any movie with “massacre” in the title is worth a watch. Even if it’s not great, it’s never downright awful (at least in a bad way). Drive-In Massacre continued that trend.


A drive-in original (yes, movies were made to show exclusively at drive-in theaters back in the day…apparently), D-IM opens with a couple getting it on in the front seat of a sweet ‘70s ride at a California drive-in. The chick wants to bang, but the dude wants to watch the opening of “the picture” because, even though he’s seen it four times, it’s apparently that damn good. While he’s reaching out the window to grab the clip-on speaker (if there’s another name for it, I don’t know it; I’m a millennial), someone comes up and lobs his head off with a sword. The effects were good enough that I was like, “Oooo, shit.” The lady gets it next, right through the throat.


The next day, a pair of overweight homicide detectives show up at the drive-in to question the employees. There’s the manager, Austin Johnson, a big, bald, Anton LaVey son of a bitch who pisses and moans more than a woman on the rag (“My name’s Austin and I have to work for a living, wah-wah-wah”) and Germy, a simpleton who sweeps up. Before being turned into a drive-in fifteen years ago, the land was a circus; Germy was a sword swallower and Austin dealt with knives too, it’s revealed later, but he was never any good at it…how can you swallow a blade when you’re too busy bitching?


That night, another couple is killed while a peeping tom looks on. Well, the peeping tom doesn’t actually see the crime, but, he was peeping a moment before. Germy had previously mentioned the guy to the detectives, saying he “moved around” a lot and never stayed in one spot. The night of the second murder(s?), Germy gets his tag number and passes it onto the detectives, who pay the owner a visit. I forget the dude’s name. I think it was something like Dingleberg (Dingleberg….). Dingleberg has a rap sheet (apparently for sex crimes), and while being grilled by the fuzz, admits to peeping into the car, saying “I only wanted to beat my meat!” Twiddle-Dee and Twiddle-Dum (I forget their names too; I’m bad) search his car and find a sheet covered in blood, prompting Dingleberg to run. He says he hit a dog, but don’t they all? Turns out he was telling the truth.


Sometime later (that night, probably), the Fuzz Brothers set up a stake-out at the theater and watch Dingleberg doing his thing. While they’re distracted, a woman sitting alone in a car after her boyfriend stormed off (she wouldn’t put out) is decapitated, and Dingleberg’s throat is cut, eliminating him from the suspect pool.


The case gets a break, however, when some psycho wipes two people out with a machete and takes a little girl hostage in a warehouse. The cops show up, blast him, and pat themselves on the back for a job well done, but, uh-oh, the psycho escaped from a hospital that morning, making it impossible for him to be the killer.


Deciding it must be that miserable bastard Austin, they fly to the drive-in. Germy, who Austin previously fired, shows up before them demanding his back pay and goes into the projection booth. Shadows on the movie screen show Austin being killed with a sword (Germy mentioned having a sword collection before he went into the booth). It’s him, right? Nope. Fat and Fatter find Austin dead…and Germy dead too. Text appears on the screen explaining that the killer was never captured and that murders have occurred at other drive-ins across the country. The movie ends with a voice claiming to be “the manager” and telling everyone to remain calm, but a killer is loose in the theater.


Look, I liked this movie. The acting was good enough that it never broke my suspension of disbelief, the gore scenes were realistic enough, and the overall story itself was enjoyable enough. Austin was such a miserable malcontent that I couldn’t help but like him. I bitch a lot too. I was hoping he’d have more screen time.


The sequence at the warehouse drags, though. We get a good ten minutes of the crazed guy chasing the girl around, then the cops show up, then they chase him, then they all exchange gunfire. I read online that that scene was added to pad the movie’s runtime (the finished product was only, like, 75 minutes). It was stuck in and it feels like it. The ending with the text and voice loses whatever punch it may have packed when you’re watching it on a cellphone in bed, but this was a drive-in movie and, as such, I took the ending in context and appreciated it for what it was. William Castle did a lot of similar stuff in the sixties. I remember reading about one movie where these creatures got into your back and tingled or something, and in theaters, the seats were rigged to vibrate and a voice implored everyone to scream, as screaming killed the creatures. It’s hokey, but, you know, novelty’s nice every once in a while, and getting the audience involved makes for an actual experience, even if it’s kind of dumb.


Overall, this was a fun little movie. Definitely worth the price of admission, if only for a man wailing “I just wanted to beat my meat!” in self-disgust.


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