The drive in theater is pretty much dead. Sure, there's still some in existence, but they seem to be going away in droves. One thing that's most certainly dead is the old school drive in. The theaters that showed what Hollywood has to offer, as well as the latest in horror and exploitation thrills. From the likes of "Attack of the Giant Leeches" to harder fair such as "Eaten Alive", there was a time in which such movies were the regular thing. That's all gone, though people have paid tribute to these theaters of old, such as Joe R. Lansdale with his book "The Drive In." For those who want a tribute to those theaters with a darker edge like that book, then Brian-Trechard Smith's 1986 film "Dead-End Drive In" may be for you.
The unfortunately named "Crabs" (Ned Manning) and his gal Carmen (Natalie McCurry) decide to go on a date at the local drive in theater, only to find themselves trapped in. You see, in a world with a crippling economy, violence, cold sex and other such unpleasantness, many of the youth are now considered a danger, and are contained in prisons that double as drive in theaters. Thing is, Crabs doesn't really belong in this heap, and he must find a way out.
To be fair, Smith never really considered this movie an exploitation movie, and I can see his point. Those expecting the lurid thrills of his movie "Turkey Shoot" will be let down (though you do see it playing in the theater), as there isn't as much focus on such a thing. In fact, "Drive In" is more of a social commentary on the horrors of fascism, the emptiness of anarchy, and the dullness and soft security of suburbia, and it's not a bad one at that. Crabs himself isn't the kind of rowdy kid that the drive in usually collects. He's actually you're typical, suburban guy who ends up finding himself in dire straits as he ends up in a world he's not used to, and must now face the facts and reality of a world he's ignored his whole life. He's not a bourgeoisie type of character, but he is a higher class kid who comes to meet the lower class head on, thus giving the film some surprising insight.
Fortunately, Smith and writer's Peter Carey and Smalley know their audience, and they do give you some of what you want. The punk kids trapped in the drive in really don't seem to mind all that much, and are the kind of over-the-top delinquent kids you'd expect, which brought a smile to my face. Oh, and while there isn't any graphic gore, you do get some fun explosions and a really over the top ending that's a real crowd pleaser.
So while it's not the over the top exploitation movie some may be hoping for, "Dead-End Drive In" does make for a lot of fun with a little more food for thought than one usually gets. Check it out.