So…why would I drive 250 miles to a drive-in theater to see movies that I already own on DVD? That is a question that is tough to explain, especially to a someone that isn’t a movie person. And by a “movie person”, I mean it’s a person where movies mean more to you than your average person on the street. I mean, movies have a major impact on your life. So if you’re not one of these, I’m not sure I could explain it to you where it would make sense. If you are one, then there’s no reason to explain it anyway, because you already get it.
For the last five years, the Skyline Drive-in, located in Shelbyville, Indiana (just about 20 minutes southwest of Indianapolis), has held their Super Monster Movie Fest, which consists of two all night screenings of classic horror movies. They usually have five different titles each night, that range from black and white classics to modern day gems from the ’80s. Over the years, they have screened titles like the original King Kong, Tarantula, Horror Express, Curse of the Werewolf, Chamber of Horrors, the original Godzilla, Face of the Screaming Werewolf, and many more great ones. We had been to this event twice before and planned to do it again this year.
Their theme for 2016 was haunted houses, so their lineup consisted plenty of creaking stairs, shadowy hallways, strange sounds, trap doors, acid pits, and plenty of strange characters within those walls. Here’s the lineup:
Friday: The Amityville Horror (1979), William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill (1959), Lucio Fulci’s House by the Cemetery (1982), Abbott & Costello’s Hold that Ghost (1941), and Hillbillies in a Haunted House (1967).
Saturday: Poltergeist (1982), House of Wax (1953), Evil Dead (1981), Old Dark House (1932), and The Innocents (1961).
Now in the past, this was a family event with my wife Dawn and son Nick coming along with me to enjoy the film and fun (and food). We also usually got a room at a local hotel to crash at after the films, to at least get a few hours of sleep. But this time, Dawn couldn’t make it, so it was just me and Nick. And since it was just the two of us, I figured that we would ‘rough it” and just camp out in the van both nights, which would save me a couple hundred bucks on hotel. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
We headed out Friday afternoon for the quick four hour drive to the Skyline. The first movie was set to start around 8:30pm and we figured we’d have plenty of time. But then the closer we got to Indianapolis, along with the construction on I-65, it seemed that mother nature was not going to help us. I had been checking weather for the area for the last couple of days, and there was nothing in the forecast about rain. But I guess that was just for Shelbyville…not Indianapolis. As we got closer to the city, the sky and clouds looked like an angry Bob Ross painting, with very few happy clouds! We drove under some very dark ones catching a downpour every now and then. And just when we thought we had gotten past it, another one was right behind it. My mood started to mimic the clouds and darken as well, thinking we were going to drive all this way and get rained on. But the movie-gods were smiling upon us because once we got south of Indianapolis, the clouds moved on as we rolled up to the Skyline just a few minutes after 8pm.
We quickly found a spot that still have us a good view of the screen, got our chairs out and then quickly hit the snack bar to see what goodies we could find. We did stop and chat with our friends Chris and Lori Kuchta who were set up there, selling their prints and t-shirts. Always nice to see them. Funny thing about these drive-ins that most people don’t know: all the food they serve here is strangely not only healthy, but all vegetarian. Or at least, that is what one part of my brain (or was it stomach) was convincing the other part of my brain! Of course, I have to get a corn dog. Those are my greatest weakness when it comes to this kind of place. Sorry…just can’t help it. Just like a classic drive-in, the concession is filled with a wide variety of tasty treats, from popcorn, candy, ice cream, hamburgers, hot dogs, and so much more. You would never go hungry during one of these events. Nick opted for something a little more unique…like a Green River Ice Cream Float! So we grab a few things and headed back to the van for the first movie, The Amityville Horror.
It has been many years since I’ve watched this movie all the way through and I have to say that it felt like every second of the 117 minute running time. Every time the new day came on the screen, it felt like we’d lived through it the whole time! It does still hold up and has a few effective scares, like when Margot Kidder looks out the window to see Jodie. But damn did it seem to take forever to get over! Of course, while the movie is going on, off to the right, the sky was lighting up with an tremendous lightning storm. It was as if Dayton, Ohio to the east of us was getting attacked by some alien assault ship because the flashes were going non-stop.
Next up was William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill. The only thing that might have made this more enjoyable was if it came with the famous “Emergo”, where a skeleton would come out from the screen. But none the less, it was so much fun seeing this on the big screen. A perfect film for young and old. Great characters, Price’s sly and subtle humor, and filled with Castle’s usual charm.
Our next feature was Lucio Fulci’s House by the Cemetery. Our good friend Ken Johnson and his buddy Neil was there for the event as well and moved their chairs to sit with us during House, mainly because we are a difference of opinion on this movie. Ken is not a big fan of it, pointing out the plot flaws, as well as the super shrilling voice of little Bob, played by Giovanni Frezza, forever cursed with the screen’s most annoying voice (even though it was actually dubbed by a woman). Little did Frezza realize how many people would grow to hate him because of that. But besides all of that, the plot holes big enough for the house itself to fall through, I think it is a masterpiece of Italian cinema. Sure, there’s a lot of W-T-F moments, but that is the beauty of it. It has some amazing gore, some extremely tense sequences, and a great score. But again, to each their own.
While there a few laughs to be had during that film, all bets were off when Hold that Ghost started, starring Abbott & Costello. It had to be close to forty years since I’d seen this the last time. Now, maybe it was the lack of sleep we were going on, since it was about 3 or 4 in the morning, but there was plenty of laughing bursting forth between the group of us sitting there. I think it shows the beauty of a film like this, that it was still making people from a couple of different generations, still laugh out loud. Fun stuff. Same goes with the Three Stooges short they played right before it. This was being screened from a 16mm print. While there were a few ‘technical difficulties’ every now and then, it really just enhanced the experience.
It was around 5am Saturday morning before I finally threw in the towel. I had already been up for 24 hours, and knew I couldn’t make it through the last feature, Hillbillies in a Haunted House, even with the all star cast that it offered. Besides the duck that was wandering around the place told me to go to sleep. At least that is what I thought he said. Either that, or something about insurance. So we spread out the sleeping bags, padding, pillows, and tried to get comfortable. I figured since we were so tired, sleep would come quick and easy, but not as quickly as I’d hoped. I think I laid there for about 20 minutes before I drifted off.
To be continued….