Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Drive Thru | Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield

By Steve Anderson
July 1st, 2007

Drive ThruDrive Thru
***
DVD
Directed by Shane Kuhn, Brendan Cowles
Written by Shane Kuhn, Brendan Cowles Starring Leighton Meester, Nicholas D'Agosto, Melora Hardin, Larry Joe Campbell
Produced by Chris Sievernich, Matthew Weaver, Matt Milich, Martin Wiley
R
2007
91 mins

"Drive Thru" is going to be one of the best cases of grand theft movie you've ever seen.

For the teenage denizens of the scenic and wholly boring Orange County suburbia of Blanca Carne (White Meat! Ha!), things are going very wrong. Namely, they're getting killed. And in an extremely messy, horror-movie-style fashion with loads of dismemberment, lacerations, and blunt force trauma like no tomorrow. Behind the killings is the mascot for the local burger chain, Hella Burger.

Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but I always sort of wondered if Ronald McDonald or that creepy, creepy King from the Burger King commercials was living some kind of secret double life where mass murder was just foreplay. And after watching Horny the Clown--chop-happy, air-humping, wisecracking Horny the Clown--in action, it made me look just a little more askance as the perpetually plastic features of the new King.

Which is probably what they were gunning for. And it's funny. There's a lot of humor to be had in "Drive Thru"; watching two stoners rampage through a ball pit before meeting their inevitable date with Horny is inspired fun! No two ways about it! The white rapper boy wannabe who makes Jamie Kennedy look downright ghetto-authentic by comparison that's the first to die, the horrific prices at the Hella Burger, the laugh-riot commercials from the Hella Burger (the whole Triple-X Wings sketch is to die for)...there's no shortage of fun in "Drive Thru". They even had the sheer comic balls to throw in Morgan Spurlock, for crying out loud! Mr. "Super-Size-Me" himself in a movie about a fast food killer? That's paying attention!

But it's what happens when you find out why the killings are going on that you start to wonder what's going on here. Especially given what I said in the first sentence.

Because, as you'll discover, Kuhn and Cowles are taking a whole lot of pages out of the Wes "Nerve Gas" Craven playbook. When you put "Drive Thru"in a side-by-side comparison with "Nightmare on Elm Street", you're going to spot a hella lot of coincidences. The wisecracking, superdeformed slasher with the superhuman capabilities, for example. The fact that the children of local parents are the ones being targeted--and the only ones, no less!

Now here's the really sad part--Wes, buddy...you're screwed. Kuhn and Cowles have just taken your best work and shut it down. "Drive Thru" is almost identical to "Nightmare on Elm Street", only it's wildly, wildly funnier. Sure, the effects are actually better too, but that can't be held against NOES.

Yes, "Drive Thru" is funny, bloody, and as cheesy as a Triple Hella Patty Melt, but it's still kinda good. It's part Fred Kreuger, part Ronald McDonald, and all fun.

The ending only goes to prove that you should just not get involved with them Carpenter women, because it's like mother like daughter around there--trust me on that one--and there'll be twist enough to suggest that if "Drive Thru 2: Drive Harder" isn't already being shot, it's probably being planned. No, that's not advance news. That's just me being snarky.

The special features include some audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, English closed captions and trailers for the After Dark Horrorfest, "Shadow Walkers", "Curse of the Zodiac", "Diary of a Cannibal", "Beneath Still Waters", "The Lost Room" and Fearnet.com.

All in all, sure, it's a ripoff. But when the ripoff is better than the original, what can you do but call it good?

 

Ed GeinEd Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield
**
DVD Directed by Michael Feifer
Written by Michael Feifer
Starring Kane Hodder, Adrienne Frantz, Michael Barryman, Priscilla Barnes
Produced by Michael Feifer
89 mins
R
2007

If you should be wandering your video store aisles, and you see a movie box assert that its contents are, in fact, "too terrifying for theatres", you can be reasonably certain that they are not.

Like that schmuck at the bar who won't stop screaming about how great his job is and how cool his car is and how amazing his girlfriend is, he likely has none of the above, and is quite possibly living in his mom's basement.

This spectacularly roundabout metaphor is actually a solid descriptor for "Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield". Of course, as the box will cite repeatedly, Ed Gein was the philosophical model behind the great cinematic killers--Leatherface, Norman Bates, and Buffalo Bill--but watching Ed go through this movie is like watching bad summer stock theatre with enough gore to offend most of the Church Ladies' Muffin Auxiliary, this newest serial killer dramatization will fail to impress on nearly every level.

It's hard to spoiler a movie whose plot is public knowledge dozens of times over before it was even completed--sorta like "Titanic"; the boat sank--so I can comfortably spoiler like no tomorrow. Basically, some guy loses his mom and brother in a very close time span, and this unbalances him to the point where he goes carving up the locals for a whole slew of reasons no one will bother to discuss and spend some time making various handicrafts like leather suits out of their skin.

On the plus side, we've got Kane Hodder back. There will be plenty who disagree with me and plenty who agree when I say that Hodder was the best of all the Jason Voorhees actors from the Friday the 13th saga. It's good to see Kane working again--he's always had a way of projecting a methodical, relentless menace without saying a word. Thus, it's a smidge disappointing to find out that he has a speaking role here. But only a smidge disappointing. He's not half bad. As a further benefit, we get some halfway-decent comic bits out of this, including a positively chuckleworthy sequence where Ed, driving his pickup truck, smiles at the county sheriff's department deputy whom he has caught enjoying sloppy makeouts with his girlfriend, the sheriff's daughter. The deputy in question laughs at being caught--what's Ed gonna do, call the police?--but while sharing the chuckle with his lady friend, he fails utterly to notice the body being dragged behind Ed's pickup.

See? Funny! In a real gallows humor kind of way.

Sadly, this is about the only joy "Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield" can generate. Much of the rest of the film is so painfully slow that you'll wonder if you're actually watching professionals act or a bunch of volunteers dragged in from a dinner theatre. The halfway mark, when a movie should be starting to hit its stride, is comprised of the deputy and his girlfriend...having a picnic. No plot development, nothing. It might as well not even have been there. It was a total yawnfest.

Perhaps worse that all the humor in this movie stems from the fact that these are the most incompetent cops in most of the world. Even Springfield cops would have a hard time matching these morons, and that's really very sad. It's a good thing all of Plainfield can't be worth more than a couple grand or this would be the crime capital of Wisconsin.

Take the ending, for example. While generating the funniest line in the entire movie, it's also one of the saddest. When the sheriff's department closes in on Gein, all four cars of it are arrayed outside the house. The sheriff then stands outside his car and announces that "the entire sheriff's department is out here on official business". The entire sheriff's department. All four cars of it. Because if I were a psychopath who killed messily and wore his victims' faces like leather masks, I'd be just pissing myself at the thought of taking on the ENTIRE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT. All FOUR of them! Yipes! Ooooh, scary!

Thankfully, there is a bit of suspense in this ending, at least until Feifer's script calls for everybody on screen to moralize at Gein just as hard as they possibly can, trying to show him "the error of his ways".

The special features include audio commentary, deleted scenes, still gallery, various audio and display options, Spanish subtitles, English closed captions, and trailers for "Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave", the After Dark Horrorfest, "Silent Scream", "Open Water 2: Adrift", "Black Dahlia", and "Saw III".

All in all, yet another serial killer biopic from Lions Gate goes off without doing anything special, but at least this time it managed not to spend the whole movie drooling on itself either. A thoroughly bland but marginally acceptible romp, if you're devoted to seeing real-life killers, then you might at least get a good rental out of "Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield".

 

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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