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Review: Drive-In Massacre (1976)

Writer: Daniel Perry


Patrons at the local Drive-In theater are being slaughtered by a sword wielding psychopath! That pretty much sums up this pre-slasher era horror outing directed by Stu Segall. Its bare bones, its low budget but it is a highly entertaining 72 minutes which plays out half slasher, half whodunit.

Two detectives (Adam Lawrence and Jake Barnes) are investigating the double murder that takes place in the films opening sequence. We are introduced to some strange suspects such as Germy (Douglas Gudbye) the handy man and Austin Johnson (Newton Naushaus) the theater manager. Germy used to be a sword swallower at the Carnival before it was torn down and turned into a Drive-In. He is tormented daily by his boss Austin who is a class A bunghole with a capital A. The detectives start to narrow down suspects once they get a lead on a pervert who likes to drive around the drive-in and find couples making out in their cars. However more murders transpire and the bodies start to pile up and there is no conclusive evidence as to who is slicing up customers. Who is responsible for the murders? Stu Segall will surprise you with a twist ending... which seems to be a running theme in some of the 70's slasher films.

What I like about this little low budget gem is the fact that the film is played pretty straight yet the characters are very comical. Germy is likeable as a weirdo handyman who used to be a carnie. He used to bite the heads off of chickens before becoming a sword swallower, something the owner of the carnival/drive-in theater taught him years ago. Germy comes off as that guy you know that lives in your town, that you try not to talk to at the Piggly Wiggly because he is weird. This is how his character comes off... actually pretty believable! I also like the banter between the two detectives. They jab each other with personal jokes and again come off pretty believable. The scene in which they are posing as a married couple in their car at the drive-in is pretty funny. One of the detectives is in drag. The manager of the place doesn't recognize him and later in the film asks if he has a sister. Its little things like this make the movie fun to watch. Segall did a pretty good job at making the characters average Joes and people you would encounter most any day of the week.

As with most slashers, the crimson is poured on pretty well too. The double murder at the beginning of the film is done very well despite the budget of the film. So overall you get a few decapitations, a throat slicing, a gutting and a nice double impalement which might have been borrowed from Mario Bava's Bay Of Blood (1971) and of course ultimately used again in Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981).

Drive-In Massacre never seems to drag much either. It moseys right along and holds your interest in its whole 72 minute entirety. If it was stretched out to 90 minutes there may be a problem. I think what makes this film work is the fact that it has a shorter running time than most horror films. It may not be the best slasher in the genre but it is surely a very entertaining one that has its own certain charm.



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