“Dude, you broke the internet!”...
...By now, most horror fans probably know exactly who said the line that became one of the more popular GIFs being used two years ago. Diana Prince, aka, Darcy the Mail Girl, proudly exclaimed to host and horror critic extraordinaire, Joe Bob Briggs, that their 24-hour premiere marathon of The Last Drive-In on Shudder, which debuted on July 13th, 2018, had received so many viewers, that for the first few hours, Shudder’s servers struggled to keep up. The internet had literally been broken. Luckily, the issue was quickly fixed, and horror fans experienced one of if not THE best horror marathons of their life.
Two years later, The Last Drive-In has had a lasting effect worth celebrating.
Back on that July 13th, I was working an overnight shift on a reality show. Growing up a fan of Joe Bob Briggs Monstervision on TNT, I held my breath like a final boy hiding under the bed from an approaching killer. The anticipation was killing me. Joe Bob Briggs had been one of my influences growing up. He introduced me to countless late night horror flicks that I couldn’t find elsewhere. I’d stay up late every weekend with his show, excited to see what would play next. The only thing that could’ve possibly made it better would’ve been to have someone to watch it with. Because, as is the story for most young horror fans, loving blood and guts and depraved monsters is a lonely experience. My family didn’t understand my love of the genre. Most of my friends liked but didn’t love it.
Discovering new horror was a personal experience. And on those nights with Monstervision, Joe Bob Briggs was another passing soul in the night who could relate.
Nail-biting anticipation aside, I couldn’t have predicted how amazing that first The Last Drive-In experience would be.
In-between watching footage of boring reality “stars” (take it from me, fam, Reality TV is the bane of our existence and needs to go), I hopped back and forth between the streaming films and Twitter chatter. Eventually, I stopped working at all and became caught up in the whirlwind of what was happening. I’d never experienced anything like it. Thousands of horror fans were watching and chatting about a particular horror flick together. Briggs was going on epic rants. Darcy established herself as the greatest “mail girl” ever with her shy but funny candor and amazing cosplay. I mean, for fuck’s sake, The Prowler of all things started trending at one point!
How many of you ever thought you would see The Prowler trending at #2 on Twitter?
But that was the power of The Last Drive-In. Something exciting had been born. This wasn’t just a horror marathon. This was horror fans uniting in what felt like the largest sleepover in history. Briggs had always had his “Mutant” following, but that night was the night the #MutantFam was born. We came together as horror fans. And many of us left as friends.
And then something else happened. The marathon ended, but the Mutants kept being mutants. We had crawled out of the sewers, and we refused to creep back down into the dark this time.
Multiple marathons and two seasons later, we’ve seen The Last Drive-In inspire an entire community that has come together to celebrate their love of horror and all things that make others squirm and cringe and look at us like we’re a bunch of misfits. Thanks for the compliment, others!
Content geared towards Mutants began sprouting up left and right. Mutant Café started a weekly live cooking show with a new recipe based on a horror film each episode. Mutant Theater became a weekly watch along event, eventually expanding into Friday Night Frights hosted by Mutant Café, Monster Movie Happy Hour, MutantFam.com and Mutant Theater. MutantFam.com itself is a site dedicated to all things Mutant Fam, collecting articles from websites, Youtube channels, and podcasts (including ours) from members of the Mutant Fam. There’s countless others. Mutants entertaining other mutants and keeping the community alive during the offseason of The Last Drive-In.
Not to be a downer for a moment, but it’s why I feel an extraordinary amount of pain when I see the cold shoulder that us Mutants get from other horror circles. I’m not naive. I get that Briggs can be controversial, and that’s an understatement. Hell, it’s part of the point with him. Both my wife and I sit watching sometimes, nervous he’s going to get himself in trouble with whatever comes out of his mouth next. We can’t be mad at others for feeling offended by Briggs, though. I know, I know, a lot of you are probably reading this and saying “screw that, they’re misjudging jerks!” But look, those fans are allowed to feel the way they do, just like us. And there are problematic Mutants amongst us who don’t help in making those people feel welcome either. I wish we’d all remember sometimes that, like the country we live in, it’s okay to question our leaders, and ask for things to be better. That’s part of being a community.
Still, I often think to myself, that I'd give anything for those who hate us to see what I see with Briggs, and to understand that our love for The Last Drive-In goes beyond him.
Personally, and having actually met and seen him in person, I think Briggs is a great person with a big heart that, like so many onscreen monsters and legions of horror fans, is misunderstood. Absolutely, he makes mistakes, but I don’t think he’s the creature deserving of being chased through the village with torches and pitch forks that he’s been made out to be. And what kind of world is this if we can’t make mistakes and be allowed to learn from them? That doesn’t dismiss the very valid feelings of those outside the Mutant fam, but is simply me saying, I’d love for more to know that and feel welcome in our great Mutant family.
So why the hell am I depressing all of you like this with a celebration piece? Because sure, I enjoy Briggs, but I watch because of the community he inspired. I watch because, aside from the rotten ghouls, there are thousands of great people in the Mutant Fam who have shared with and supported me since the beginning. Many mutants are such kind, great people, and no amount of words that I can write here can express how welcome you’ve all made me feel. I haven’t always gotten that same reception from other corners of the social horror-verse.
If you’re a horror fan, you’ve probably felt ridiculed, outcast, and misjudged, but the Mutant Fam is always there to welcome you with open arms, as long as you’ll have them.
That’s the true legacy which Shudder, Joe Bob, Darcy, and everyone else involved have created. The Drive-In will never die, but we all know the show won’t be around forever. What will always be around though are the community which it has inspired. The friends which have cheered, laughed, and cried together (and don’t say you didn’t cry when Darcy had her prom).
Together, we’ve stayed up until our eyes feel pinned open like Malcolm McDowell’s in A Clockwork Orange. We’ve gotten lessons on (and learned more than most of us would probably like to) on mangled dicks from the always entertaining Felissa Rose. We’ve cheered for shunting. We’ve screamed at live turtles being, well…(R.I.P. Cannibal Holocaust tortoise).
Shared experiences like that…that’s a bond you can’t break. Just like the Drive-In, the Mutant Fam will never die.
So, here’s to the two years we’ve all spent together, and the many more we hope are ahead.
We are Drive-In mutants
We are not like other people
We are sick
We are disgusting
We believe in blood
If life had a vomit meter
We’d be off the scale
As long as one Drive-In remains
On the planet Earth
We will party like jungle animals
We will boogey until we puke
The Drive-In will never die
By Matt Konopka