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DVDs to make you yearn for the days of drive-in theaters

Date: 7/26/2011

July 25, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

I’m pining for the drive-ins in this edition of the DVD review column.

It’s July and at this time 35 years ago, the drive-in theaters would have been in the middle of their season. Remember The Airline, The Red Rock? The Park Way? Can you hum the jingle played on the commercial for the snack bar? Did you watch the countdown clock as it noted the time to the next feature?

Variety, the bible of show business, called them “ozoners;” parents of teens called them “passion pits;” and families on a budget saw them as an inexpensive night out for a carload of kids.

From a business point of view, drive-ins were largely owned by independent showmen who understood that to draw crowds to their theaters, they had to offer audiences something they couldn’t experience either in standard theaters or on television. It’s no wonder those owners were willing to take chances on independently made films, foreign movies and low budget productions that had the elements that would draw audiences: action, adventure, sex and horror.

These showmen knew they had to package these films creatively and did so in double-bills, triple bills and “from dawn to dusk” shows.

Home video killed these theaters as renting a movie to watch at home proved to be even cheaper than popping the family into the station wagon and heading for the drive-in. At least staying at home meant there was no fear of driving away with the speaker still on your door.

This week’s films would be highly suitable for a drive-in double bill.


Several years ago, when attending the Rock and Shock show in Worcester, “REC” was the film many people was buzzing about. The Spanish horror film was told through the camera of a video crew that was following a group of firefighters as they responded to a call in a large apartment building in Barcelona.

Inside that building, which was quickly cordoned off by the government, was a group of zombie like creatures who aggressively attacked the crew. The last image of the film showed the reporter being dragged away from the camera by a particularly awful creature.

The sequel, “REC2” has just been released on DVD and continues the story 15 minutes from the conclusion of the first film. Now, a group of SWAT police officers are told they must accompany an official from the Ministry of Health inside the building to assess the situation.

What they don’t know is the man is not a health official, but a priest and the zombies are not your garden variety walking dead, but instead are demonically possessed.

That’s the only spoiler you will get from me about this very-well directed film that punches your buttons on a variety of levels. Running around a claustrophobic dark old building is bad enough without being attacked periodically by ravenous demons, but then directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza pile on more surprises.

While not a gore film, this movie is indeed moist at times – a warning for the squeamish.

The DVD is presented in its original Spanish with well-crafted subtitles. It has an extensive “making of” feature as well.

This is a kick-ass film and has an ending that will leaving you slack jawed.


“Insidious” is a film I wanted to see in theaters, but instead my wife and I took our goddaughter to see “Hop.” Thanks goodness for DVD!

James Wan is noted for being the director for the first “SAW” film, but that film and this one are quite far apart in theme and treatment. “Insidious” is about a family that is struggling with a tragedy: one of the children, Dalton, has fallen into a coma that baffles his doctors.

With the coma comes an increased level of what appears to be a disturbing amount of paranormal activity at the family’s home. A move to a new home does quell the aggressive sightings.

When an investigator is called in, her interpretation shocks the parents. It’s not the houses that are haunted; it’s their son.

This is not a gore film at all. Wan and writer Leigh Whannell created a realistic state of sadness and dread and their shocks are frequently as simple — but effective — as a face at a window. They prove that severed body parts are not necessary to give audiences the shivers they expect.

With several major plot twists, “Insidious” delivers the kind of thrills I certainly seek from a horror film. It would be right at home at a drive-in.

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