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At The Drive-In, RIP John Saxon, And MORE
The Bite #120

At The Drive-In, RIP John Saxon, And MORE

July 28, 2020

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At The Drive-In

By Phil Nobile Jr.

The drive-in movie theater was invented 88 years ago in a driveway in Riverton, NJ. Industrial heir Richard Hollingshead Jr. experimented with equipment and screen materials in his driveway, and a year later opened his drive-in theater (25 cents a car) on the Pennsauken-Camden border with a screening of Wives Beware. The theater closed 14 months later, but drive-ins exploded in postwar America, and by the 1950s there were over 4000 of them.

I saw my first movie ever (The Exorcist) at the Route 35 Drive-In in Hazlet, NJ; most of the movies of my childhood, from Star Wars to Batman, were experienced there. I amassed many great memories – not just films, but the noisy projection booth, the oily, dingy concession stand, the rusted tetanus promise of the swingset. (If you’d like a visual reference, I recently discovered the opening of Blood Rage was actually filmed there; my childhood did not involve chopping couples to death in their car.) But drive-ins took up a lot of valuable real estate, and only generated income five months out of the year. The suburbs demanded strip malls, and by 1991 the Route 35 Drive-In was the last one standing in the state that birthed the creation. (That summer, it came down.)

29 years later, drive-ins are making an unexpected comeback as the perfect spot to see a new movie in a socially distanced environment. 300+ existing drive-in theaters are seeing a spike in attendance this summer, and pop-up drive-ins are happening in Wal Mart parking lots and other places, turning a few horror films that would have otherwise been destined to VOD into unlikely box office champs. IFC Midnight has been at the front of this wave, with The Wretched and Relic becoming destination viewing for horror fans looking to heed the old genre adage and get out of the house.

Admittedly, the drive-in is not the place to watch a subtle, nuanced piece of entertainment (I advocate giving Relic a focused second spin in a home theater) but then again no one is at the drive-in expecting quiet reverence to the onscreen presentation. The light pollution dulling the screen image and the tinny sound (these days beamed to your car via a weak FM frequency on your radio) are indicators that this is not exactly going to be a Christopher Nolan-approved immersive experience. No, the drive-in social contract is that whatever’s on the screen will be secondary to the communal experience happening around you. And in 2020, we’re all aching for any communal experience. We crave crowds, even those of us who hate them, because crowds are normal, and feeling normal again is a luxury. We miss the immersive experience called “being in public.”

There’s also a time-travel element to the drive-in experience; in 2020, maybe that’s the biggest draw. We want to be anywhere — any time — but here and now. The drive-in lets us do that for a few hours in a way that few things do. It took a pandemic for us to remember that, but it’d be a shame if the fad only lasts one summer. After the Wal Mart parking lot goes back to being a Wal Mart parking lot, 300+ existing drive-ins (like the Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton, PA) will still be doing it next year, after the novelty has worn off — and hopefully after the virus is under control. And they’ll still need your support. The drive-in boom of 2020 might be an amusing footnote in history, but the idea of drive-ins coming back for good on the other side of this offers a faint glimmer of hope.

I’ll take it.

*Phil Nobile Jr. is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA magazine and the executive producer of Horror Noire and Shudder’s upcoming documentary on queer horror.


Image Of The Week #120 - RIP John Saxon - The Bite

RIP John Saxon

This past Saturday, horror legend John Saxon passed away at the age of 83. He was best known as Nancy Thompson’s dad in the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise and as Lieutenant Ken Fuller in Black Christmas, but his career in the genre spanned decades, from Mario Bava’s Evil Eye in 1963 to Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn in 1996 and beyond.

Shudder SHUTIN Promo #120 - The Bite

Now’s a great time to host remote family movie nights. New members can try the platform free for 30 days when they sign up online with promo code: SHUTIN



The Prop Store is having an auction at the end of August, which means you can take home props from AliensJurassic ParkGremlins, and more.

Collider weighs in with their picks for the best horror of the year thus far.

Acting coach Scott Sedita dissects the do’s and don’ts of screaming through some of horror’s most iconic (and infamous) performances.

Horror TikTok paved the way for Haunted TikTok which continues to offer new and interesting ways to explore the genre.

Comic-Con@Home gave us a slew of great panels this weekend including a chat with horror greats Don Mancini, Greg Nicotero, Meredith Averill, and Nick Antosca about the future of the genre on Television.

Meanwhile, Jordan Crucchiola moderated Shudder’s panel Horror Is Queer with director Sam Wineman, Nay Bever (Attack of the Queerwolf co-host), Lachlan Watson (Theo Putnam on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Don Mancini, and Bryan Fuller.

Travel Channel announced a new show at Comic-Con@Home, Shock Docs, that will explore the true stories behind paranormal hot spots.

Empire rounded up 12 must-watch titles that were announced or launched trailers at Comic-Con@Home including The Walking Dead: World BeyondTruth Seekers, and Helstrom.

Comic-Con@Home also gave us the latest (and final) trailer for Lovecraft Country

… a brand new trailer for Kevin Smith’s schlocky slasher Killroy Was Here

… a particularly gruesome clip from the upcoming season of The Boys

… and a sneak peek at the opening scene for The New Mutants. You can find all the trailers and clips from the Con right here.

Black Girl Nerds did a deep dive into everything we learned about The New Mutants at Comic-Con@Home, including the Demon Bear Saga.

If you’re looking for a new horror comic to read and are a fan of Rick And Mortygive Necromancer Bill a shot.

Universal Studios announced that Halloween Horror Nights is canceled this year for safety reasons due to COVID-19.

The NHL’s new Seattle team got its name this week — the Seattle Kraken. Their announcement trailer is downright terrifying.

MovieMaker offers some advice to screenwriters through the immortal words of The Twilight Zone mastermind, Rod Serling.


Things We Love #120 - Carrion Video Game - The Bite

Carrion: My Wayward Son*

There’s a new beast in town in Carrion, the “reverse horror” game where you get to play as the big baddie and wreak havoc on the unwitting humans who try to contain you. We’re obsessed with the concept.

*Special thanks to Leigh Monson


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