THE DRIVE-IN: Review by The Horror Hypothesis
“I suppose, ultimately, this will read like a diseased version of those stupid essays you’re asked to write in school each fall after summer break. You know, ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation.’” - Joe R. Lansdale
I love going to the movies. The entire experience is sacred. The popcorn. The candy. The soda. The lights dimming upon the start of the trailers. Abandoning reality for 90 odd minutes in a dark room crowded with strangers and sharing the suspension of disbelief is more than just a fun thing to do on the weekend for me, it is my Church.
In THE DRIVE-IN, Joe Lansdale plays with this concept to the highest degree and the result is absurd, horrific, and hilarious. The set up is similar to many of Joe Lansdale’s stories: Jack, Bob, Willard, and Randy head to The Orbit, a gargantuan drive-in megaplex movie theatre in Texas, for a Friday night horror movie marathon of I Dismember Mama, The Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead, The Toolbox Murders and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unfortunately for them and the thousands of other patrons there, a sinister comet flies overhead, leaving behind a black, corrosive shell of goo that effectively traps everyone on site. Attempting to leave The Orbit results in liquidation, but the movies keep playing, the popcorn keeps popping, and everyone is forced to come to terms with their precarious fate.
Eventually, the wheels fall off of the bus and the remainder of the novel documents a descent into insanity that rivals any of the best b-movie schlock fests of the 1980s: cannibal bikers, religious cults, orgies, and the Popcorn King, a disfigured zombie God who vomits popcorn into the air - it’s all here folks, it’s all here.
Goddamn, I am so glad THE DRIVE IN exists. I will forever remember 2019 as the year that I truly discovered the magic of Joe Lansdale and that’s what this novel is: pure magic. It had me cackling in delight with every turn of the page. At the same time, Lansdale is so damn talented at blending comedy, horror, action, and drama together into one package.
This novel is like sucking on a Warhead with a razor blade in the middle. It’s sour, then it’s sweet, and the whole time it hides the power to cut you at a moment's notice. Even at the point when you can clearly see the razor blade, it's so delicious that you no longer care about the danger.
You must keep licking. The Gods demand it.
I discovered so many amazing writers in 2019 and I’m so glad Joe R. Lansdale was one of them. This novel is a straight-up masterpiece and while it’s hard to find in print these days, you can pick it up on Kindle. And like any reliable horror franchise, it has two sequels. I can’t wait to continue this trip in 2020.
5 out of 5 Baggies of Bloodycorn.
“I’ll be damned,” Willard said. “We’d all be if we don’t change our ways,” Bob said.
The Horror Hypothesis - Night Worms Bio Donnie Hypothesis is an avid reader, writer, and collector of horror fiction. He runs the Bookstagram page, “The Horror Hypothesis,” which advocates for the Horror literature genre as a whole. He currently lives in Central Virginia where he spends most of his free time reading, making music, playing video games, and watching movies.