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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Drive-In:A Double Feature Omnibus. Joe R. Lansdale. Carroll & Graf (1988)


A brilliantly written, deeply pessimistic, blackly funny and very savage horror story. A trip to the Orbit Drive-In for the regular Friday night horror film, cheap b-movie grade horror film, showing different features on each of the six giant screens playing to an audience of four thousand cars turns into a nightmare. The drive-in become isolated and the audience trapped in a deepening spiral of madness, cannibalism and demented horror. The escape from the drive-in proves to be a journey into a terrifying creature feature where death, madness and ceaseless cruelty rule right up to the brutally satisfactory conclusion. The story is superbly constructed, the reveals are done with a gory flourish, the narrative is beautifully crafted, it is as unrelentingly funny as it is horrific and gripping.
The subtitles for each book are beautifully concise and true, The Drive-In(A B-Movie with Blood and Popcorn, Made in Texas) and The Drive-In 2(Not Just One of Them Sequels). Joe R. Lansdale takes some of the conventions of the bucket of blood B-movies and uses them in fresh and ferocious ways to describe the horrific and speedy descent that people will take to savagery. The action is vividly described with the violence and passion of the first book nicely counterpointed by the despair of the second.
What lifts this story is the glittering brilliance of the writing, the first person narrative is a joy to read, it rings true and conveys the misguided optimism of the narrator right up to the stunning climax. The descriptive flourishes are funny and apt, the dialogue is natural and unforced, the cast are vivid and forceful. The total mix makes for an extraordinary reading experience where the unbearable is delivered with such panache that the reader is expertly swept along. This is a great story, read back to back the full force and quality of the writing and the astonishing imagination at work can be enjoyed to the full. Amazing and horrifying.

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