Jun 16, 2024

We All Eat After Midnight Here

Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This weekend at the Mahoning is dedicated to some of the most prolific pint-sized terrors of horror cinema from the 80's and 90's, with Gremlins and Gremlins 2 on Friday night, and a double feature of Dolls and Child's Play 2 on Saturday night.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern
Show poster designed by Tom Bifulco and Mars Howard
T-shirt designed by Tom Bifulco

As always, the show banner was designed by Andrew Kern, who is our frequent neighbor in the front row-right section of the lot.  The shirt was designed by Tom Bifulco, and the poster was a joint project by he and Mars Howard.

Actor Zach Galligan recorded a nice introduction to his movies that played before the movies began.  He starred in both films as Billy Peltzer, the young man who is given Gizmo as a Christmas present in the first film and who rescues him from a genetics laboratory in the sequel.

The first movie of Friday night was a horror comedy classic: Gremlins.  It premiered in theaters three weeks before my fourth birthday and has been a part of the Christmas season for weirdos like me ever since.  I saw it for the first time when I was in elementary school.  I'm not sure exactly when, but I was very familiar with it before the sequel came out six years later.

This was followed up by Gremlins 2: The New Batch.  It premiered in theaters on June 15th, 1990, and unlike its predecessor, I did see this in theaters during it's original run.  I remember that my grandfather took me to see it at the Church Hill Cinema on Route 309 in Hazleton, and I laughed my ass off throughout the entire thing; particularly when all of the Gremlins are singing New York, New York in the lobby.

There was an incredible collection of 35mm trailers that were shown on the big screen after the films on both nights, including the Woodstock movie from 1970, Kill Bill, Terminator 2, Back To The Future, ET, and the original 1976 trailer for Star Wars.  It's so damn cool to see these on the big screen at the drive-in.  I remember seeing some of the more recent ones when they were new, but for the older trailers, I sometimes try to put myself in the mindset of an audience who saw them for the first time.  What must the fans in attendance have thought the first time they saw the trailer for the first Star Wars film in 1976?

Dolls / Child's Play 2

Before I get into the movies from Saturday night, I've got to mention this cup.  The last thing that I expected to find at a vendor table at a horror movie double feature was a souvenir cup commemorating the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies, but there it was in all of its glory, and it only cost a dollar.  This was originally sold at Veterans Stadium during the strike-shortened 1994 season.

The 1987 film Dolls is the only movie from Little Devils Weekend that I hadn't seen before, but I had seen the cover of the VHS tape countless times over the years.  It was in the horror section of just about every video rental store that I ever visited in the 80's, 90's, and into the 2000's, but for some reason I never rented it or managed to catch it on television.  I think that I always kind of dismissed it as a knock-off of Puppet Master, which is not at all the case.  Not only was Dolls released two years before the first Puppet Master film, but it doesn't really share too much in common with it.

I'm far from being a movie expert, but I have watched a heck of a lot of movies in my life, and if there's one genre and time period that I am especially familiar with, it is horror films from the 1980's.  With the exception of seeing the VHS cover, I went into Dolls completely cold.  I'm pretty sure that I never even read the synopsis on the back of the box.  I had never seen the trailer.  I didn't see any portions of the movie on a YouTube review or through channel surfing.  I had the opportunity to see an original 35mm print of an 80's horror flick at a drive-in theater, and it was as fresh and original of a screening for me as it was for audiences who saw it 37 years ago, possibly even in the same exact spot that I was sitting in on the Mahoning lot.  Experiences like this are an absolute treasure to me.

The final movie of Little Devils Weekend was Child's Play 2.  This movie isn't directly responsible for my lifelong love of horror films, but it definitely played a role at a pivotal moment in my childhood.

The Horror Hall Of Fame is something that I look back on as the moment that I became a horror fan.  It was a television special that aired sometime in 1990.  I watched it when it aired for the first time when I was ten years old, and while I had seen horror movies before, seeing this opened my eyes to the history of the genre, the stories, the special effects, and the magic that unfolds on the screen.  There's a segment in which Chucky is introduced by Robert Englund to talk about horror films from around the world.  The killer Good Guy doll closes his time on stage by telling fans to go see Child's Play 2, which was either in theaters at the time or about to be soon afterward, so seeing this movie at the drive-in reminded me of this special.

I didn't have the chance to see Child's Play 2 on the big screen when I was a kid because my grandfather would not take me to a film that was Rated R, but I either rented it or saw it during a free preview weekend on one of the pay channels when it became available.  It's not a movie that I've gone back to watch too often in the years since.  In fact, last night might have been only the second or third time that I ever sat down and watched it from beginning to end, but it's a solid horror flick.  I'm not sure if I'd say that it's better than the first film, but it's definitely as good as the original, and I'm glad to have had the chance to see it on 35mm at the drive-in.

Next up will be a Sunday Essentials screening of Boogie Nights.  I can't wait!