Sunday, May 31, 2009

Drive-In Saturday

Last night, we joined a tailgate party and saw Sam Raimi's new horror flick Drag Me to Hell at the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair. The movie is a hoot--the trailers make it look like a typical modern horror flick, but once it gets going, it's practically a new Evil Dead film. But obviously, what I want to talk about is the drive-in experience.

Bobbie and I both saw our first movie at drive-ins: mine was Song of the South, hers was Hot Summer in Barefoot County. But drive-ins began disapearing when we were pretty young, so we're left with a heavy nostalgic craving for them, and I imagine many people my age feel the same way. I did see a couple cheesy slasher flicks once at the Ft. Pierce Drive-In in my high school days, but even that seems pretty far back in my memory banks now, so this experience was a blast. There are advantages and disadvantages, and I wouldn't want to see every film this way, but I intend to make sure I see one or two movies at a drive-in every summer from here on.

The disadvantages? Well, as Bobbie noted, you feel a little removed from the movie. This might have been partially alleviated if we'd parked closer to the screen, but there does seem to be a level of absorption that you just don't get with the windshield in the way. There are also a lot of distractions. Cars are moving around, headlights shining, and there's a train track right behind the screen, so twice during the feature a train went by rather noisily. You're also removed from the communal experience of laughing/screaming/cheering in concert with the audience. Plus, it's hard to resist being able to look around and see Terminator to your left, Night at the Museum to your right, and Monsters vs. Aliens hehind you--but that's also part of the fun. And with the VW, we had an extra problem: every time we turned on the car enough to roll down the windows, the headlights came on and shone on the screen.

The advantages, beyond the obvious nostalgic element, mostly have to do with the experience: being able to see the screen under the stars, buffetted by trees. The rules state that you can't bring alcoholic beverages, but nobody would have known if we'd brought a cooler of brew along, and there's no difficulty smoking up in your car. You can pretty much bring any kind of food in, but there's also a pretty nice snack bar with burgers, dogs, and carne asada or chicken tacos and burritos. We ate dinner before going, but got a nice big tub of popcorn, some goobers, a coke and an ice cream sandwich. As an extra bonus, if the movie is too fucking loud, as so many modern action movies are (and as I'm hearing a lot of people say Drag Me to Hell was), you can just turn down the volume!

So I strongly reccomend that everyone spend more time at the drive-in. You may not realize it, but there are a lot of them still in operation.

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