|Skyline Drive-In, Waynesboro VA - Photo by Tony at driveins.org|
I'm grateful that my indoctrination into the world of grown-up horror movies coincided almost perfectly with the slasher movie boom of the late 70's and early 80's. I was afforded the opportunity to see the likes of My Bloody Valentine (1981), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and Halloween II (1981) all on the big screen during their original theatrical releases. These were the salad days of the gratuitous tit shot and the practical special effect.
|The Bowman Body - Cobweb Theater|
|Ticket booth at the Skyline - Photo by Tony at drive-ins.org|
My mother and I would spend each Saturday doing yard work for my Great Aunt Sydney so I could earn some drive-in money for Saturday night. The theater in question was usually the Skyline Drive-In (Shenandoah's Showplace) in Waynesboro, VA. There'd always be a line at the ticket booth because Saturday night was usually "carload" night - one admission price for as many people as you could fit in your car. It was an entertainment value that couldn't be beat, especially if it happened to be a dusk til dawn show.
I had the good fortune to see Motel Hell (1980), Fear No Evil (1981), The Gates Of Hell (1980), and The Creeper (1977) on the Skyline's mammoth screen. I saw The Toolbox Murders (1978), The Driller Killer (1979), and Wolfen (1981), too. I saw them all out under the stars on humid summer nights, the way God intended.
At some point I'd always have to visit the bathroom or the snack bar, usually after I was sufficiently spooked by the evening's entertainment to make the trek from the car to the snack bar a terrifying dash through the darkness and open air. The bathroom, in particular, was the stuff of nightmares, lit by the jaundice glow of the yellow bug lights punctuated occasionally by the purple flash of the bug zapper. The bathroom had a screen door and a trough to pee in - very utilitarian.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) on the wall beneath a sign that read "Coming Soon". It was a tease. TCM never played the Skyline during these years. I know. I waited for it. And waited, and waited . . .
Undoubtedly, the poster had been there since TCM had played the Skyline years earlier. I ultimately did see TCM on the big screen years later at a midnight screening - I can be grateful for that, at least - but nothing could've beaten seeing the epitome of the drive-in horror movie at the Skyline.
|The Route 340 Drive-In marquee, covered by speedway signs - Photo by drive-ins.org|
My most vivid memory of the Route 340 was the night my mother and I stumbled upon I Spit On Your Grave (1978) playing there. Spitting on graves - it's a horror movie, right?
My mother was mortified that she'd taken her nine year old son to see a movie with a protracted and graphic rape scene that comprised nearly a third of the movie's run time. She couldn't really make me leave the room, either. I ended up standing by the snack bar for most of the rape, thereby at least sparing my mother the uncomfortable silence and unfathomable shame. I still can't bring myself to watch I Spit On Your Grave in mixed company.
There's one final drive-in that deserves an honorable mention here - Roth's Drive-In in Harrisonburg, VA. We visited the Roth less frequently because it was farther away, but it distinguishes itself as being the venue in which I first saw both Halloween (1978) and Friday The 13th (1980). A fellow in the bathroom assured me when I saw Friday The 13th that the version he'd seen the preceding week was gorier. I'm not even going to conjecture as to why he felt the need to share that info with a ten year old standing at the pee trough.
This post came about because of an exchange with Jonny Dead at Blood Sucking Geek. Jonny, who's younger than me (who isn't?), was envious of the fact that I'd seen The Driller Killer at a drive-in. For those who didn't, I highly recommend Jonny Dead's Trash Box Volume 1, wherein Jonny pairs The Driller Killer with Naked Massacre (1976) in a lovingly rendered ode to the drive-in / grindhouse experience. All of the drive-ins mentioned here are long gone, but the drive-in aesthetic lives on.
Posted By Brandon Early