It’s been very hard for shows to adapt to the way the world changed in 2020. Some shows postponed filming new episodes, some shortened seasons … some shows even did very weird 3D animation to finish their episodes. In The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs (2018 – 2021), the creators kinda found the perfect way to keep the show going and celebrate horror by isolating the crew in a cabin in the woods (not literally, but meta-textually it’s very funny).
Pretending the entire crew was isolated in a cabin in the woods is a cool concept that I don’t think they ever fully explored, but I may be nostalgic about the days when Joe Bob Briggs hosted MonsterVision (1991 – 2000) on TNT and had gimmick nights based on The Blair Witch Project (1999) or a Friday the 13th (1980 – 2009) marathon that included Ted Turner hunting down and killing most of Joe Bob’s crew. He’s always been an ambitious horror host.
This season has a great lead-in, with double features occurring on Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. The Christmas show in particular, “Joe Bob Saves Christmas,” was a great event that raised money for charities like The Trevor Project and The National Women’s Law Center while introducing audiences to absolutely bonkers films like Dial Code Santa Claus (1989). Watching those specials made me curious about what the new season would look like, and it hit the sweet spot between surprising me and being as close to the first two seasons as possible.
There are a lot of benefits from having a horror host on a streaming site instead of network television. First of all, the movies are uncut. Second, they get to dive into the details a little longer instead of fitting their opinions and facts into 30-second chunks between commercials. This also allowed for more conversation with guests, and Season 3 definitely excelled when it came to guests. There were repeat appearances by Felissa Rose and Chris Jericho as well as new and exciting interviews with celebrities like Eli Roth, Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Campbell, William Lustig, Clint Howard, and the B-movie king himself, Roger Corman. Every interview, done remotely with a fun TV-head-mannequin setup, was interesting and informative. Joe Bob has a way of threading the needle between coddling his guests and being too confrontational. He gets a lot of cool information from them without pressing them hard. It’s especially fun when he spent an entire double feature with Corman, and you could tell he’s in awe of the guy and loves to hear his stories. The attitude is infectious.
The film selection for the third season was roughly on-par with the other two. The show does a great job of spreading out classic horror, underseen gems, weird curiosities, and new additions to the canon. As a Canadian viewer, I also found this season good at choosing films that could be seen in all territories. Unfortunately “Week 4” couldn’t be streamed in Canada — ironically, it included the iconic Canadian horror movie Ginger Snaps (2000) — but I liked the fact that they kept it to a single week, instead of previous seasons where only a single movie could be streamed on certain weeks. Looking down the overall list of movies shown this season proves to me how good this series is for horror fans. There are absolute classics like The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Audition (1999) and Maniac Cop (1988) as well as new gems like Mandy (2018) and Train to Busan (2016) mixed in with hidden gems like Mother’s Day (1980) and the see-it-to-believe-it monstrosity that is Things (1989). Season 3 ended up being as good a mix as they’ve ever done.
When it comes to the performers themselves, Joe Bob is obviously great. Even 20 years later, he still has that twinkle in his eye that shows how much he loves talking about what others would consider drive-in trash. Joe Bob is an oddly sensitive critic when it comes to the films he shows. Obviously, he gives them star ratings and talks shit about them when they deserve it, but he also looks at the context. “Week 8” came with a lot of warning about how bad the films would be, and they were very bad, but the best part about it was Joe Bob putting into context why movies shot on video were important to filmmaking as a whole. I don’t think I felt as heartened about filmmaking since his amazing segment after One Cut of the Dead (2017) in season 2.
Finally, I want to talk about Darcy the Mail Girl, played by Diana Prince. She’s spun the eye-candy Mail Girl character, who was ever-present in Joe Bob’s MonsterVision days, into a foil and a sidekick and an equal. Her, admittedly, awkward on-camera performance in the earlier episodes (her blog is fantastic and talks about this, also check out her Patreon which is devoted to preserving old Joe Bob Briggs segments and commentaries) has given way to an extremely likeable and well-acted character. Darcy is very, very funny — a talent that culminates in her glib performance in “Week 10.” I love Joe Bob Briggs, but I love Darcy giving him shit almost as much.
Overall, Season 3 was a fantastic success. Weirdly, I think they were almost too good at navigating the pandemic. Their goal seemed to be to keep things the way they usually are, show us some good drive-in movies and let us have some fun … and they did it! They really didn’t even need the meta-story about quarantining in a cabin. They knew what they had to do and they delivered to horror fans all over the world. By the end of the season I was waiting for one thing: an announcement about Season 4.
The Drive-In will never die.