A doddering projectionist declares “nobody cares for magic anymore” in Chillerama, this paean to the movie drive-in, a phenomenon which debuted in 1933 for 25 cents a car in Camden New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia.
It’s a film meant to conjure up the magic of the experience, which to horror fans meant the 70s, chronicled with reverence and brio by our pal Scott Drebit in his column over at Daily Dead, “Drive-In Dust Offs.”
For those of us who revere horror cinema, it’s more about the era than the experience, as truth be told, that’s always been lousy — the headlights on the screen, the horns, the interminable wait to get out, the long walks to pee…
Chillerama is a horror anthology that’s both based on and a celebration of the happenings at a drive-in movie theater. The drive-in audience and staff provide the connective tissue/wraparound, divided into four disparate featurettes -some more magical than others – with occasionally inspired bits of grotesquerie.
In ‘Wadzilla,’ “spermapramine” is given to a nebbish with an extremely low sperm count. But that’s misleading. Turns out he’s got a large one indeed, and that’s giving him groin pain.
It’s expelled on a hot date and grows to very large proportions and obscene results ensue. There’s an inspired bit of lunacy involving the Statue of Liberty in this 50s monster movie throwback with a twist (a “twisted nut-sack,” says the nebbish’s buddy to explain his friend being doubled over in pain). It’s audacious and pretty unforgettable.
But Chillerama may have climaxed there.
‘I Was a Teenage Wearbear’ mixes homoerotic wrestling with leather bears and butt bites, all in musical form. There’s a greaser (accompanied by his two, finger-snapping henchmen) attempting to woo a wrestler who has ambiguous sexuality. The music’s very Eddie Fuller and Eddie Cochrane.
The Diary of Anne Frankenstein features the Fuhrer killing the Frank family and cobbling together a creature out of spare parts, which then exacts its revenge. As an attempt to lighten the subject matter, Hitler speaks gibberish while the rest of the cast speaks German, but The Great Dictator this isn’t. The monster (famed Jason actor Kane Hodder) wears a tallit prayer shawl, and the less said about this segment overall, the better. Horrendous.
Finally, the drive-in audience that’s subjected to all this transforms into mindless zombies (a la the Lamberto Bava cult-classic, Demons) because of goo that’s mistakenly added to popcorn.
This transitions into Deathication, which comes with a caveat, inspired by William Castle, that those with a weak constitution might not be able to handle all the flying shit.
And it delivers on its promise.
The highs aren’t high enough to commend Chillerama.
**1/2 (out of 5)
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