The setting: The Upper Midwest.
The Time: Midsummer, 1981
The mood: Frantic
Part One: Debbie from Hell
I didn't knock on Mitch's door; I never did. I stormed past his sister and mother in an absolute state of hysteria. I jogged down the stairs to Mitch's basement room. He was standing on a step ladder layering the ceiling with Reynold's Wrap. I didn't even ask why.
"WE'RE GOING TO THE DRIVE-IN!" I cried. "WE'RE GOING TONIGHT!"
"The drive-in? Can't. Debbie's calling tonight. I have to be here."
Debbie was his girlfriend who lived in another city which made absolutely no sense to me. It was like having a third arm growing out of your back...what use? Mitch would stay home, wait for her calls, miss all the fun, just so he would be there when she called and he didn't have to wade through the teenage crapstorm of Where were you? Don't you love me? I miss you, don't you miss me? Do you want to break up? Sure. She'd lay the girly drama on, frost his cake with an extra big can of guilt. But I wasn't having it. Not this time.
"FUCK DEBBIE!" I cried. "THIS IS MUCH MORE IMPORTANT! THEY GOT THAT MOVIE AT THE DRIVE-IN I TOLD YOU ABOUT!"
Mitch pulled off a sheet of foil, examined it for inconsistencies. "The one about the Hell's Angels in Vietnam?"
"The one about the girl at the prom?"
"NO,NO,NO! THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE!"
"Well, I still gotta wait for Debbie's call."
Man, this was too much. Even the sound of her name irked me and how carefully she plucked the strings of my friend, the puppet. In my mind I pictured her like the girl on the snack cake box, but with eyes like Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST. But I calmed. Inch by inch. "What time's she calling?"
"We gotta make the drive-in by 9:30."
"Never said I was going."
"Oh, you're going, all right. You owe me."
He still wasn't convinced so I reminded him who helped clean out his mom's cottage after he had the beer party which turned into a massive, unholy vomit-a-thon. I reminded him who helped him siphon gas the Saturday before. And, for added effect, I reminded him of the porno movie. A few months before they had a porn movie playing at the Michigan (adults only, XXX, dig it) and they were carding people at the door, I used my connections with the local motorcycle gang to get us in (my older sister dated one of them, so badass Clyde Hardwicke opened the fire door for us and snuck us inside and being Clyde, the fleshmobs and wee willy wankers in the theater did not dare question it).
Mitch agreed. "All right, all right."
The day was interminable waiting for Debbie from Hell to call. Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Kids don't realize how lucky they are to have cellphones these days. Finally, the phone rang. The day's guilt session began.
Mitch was in the kitchen, explaining himself, defending himself, doing everything but bronzing his balls for Debbie and making a handsome choker out of them.
I sat on the couch, writhing in agony. Watching the clock. While inside my head, I screamed: AUUUUUUUGHHHHHHHHH! THE INDIGNITY OF THIS BULLSHIT! There was nothing for me to do but listen to the interminable teenage soap opera.
All I could hear was the ever present wasp-like buzzing of Debbie's voice (she lived in a hive, I'm sure of it) and poor, sad little Mitch dancing a two-step for her:
"You know I don't think that."
"You know I love you."
"I never wanna see anyone else."
"Just you and me, babe. Just like we always said."
"I know I said that, but it's not what I meant."
"You're the only one."
"No, I'm not going out. Not without you."
Good God, reach for the vomit bag, Tim, it's spewing time. Finally it ended. It was time. The drive-in and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE awaited. But first, Mitch had to show me what all the tinfoil was for. Down to his room. Kill the lights.
"Watch this," he said. "Cherry kerosene."
He sucked in a breath (a real deep one like he was going into labor), poured some kerosene in his mouth, lit a match and spit it at the flame. VOOOOOOM! A rolling cloud of fire traveled along the tinfoil. Gene Simmons. Detroit Rock City. Cool.
"You're mom isn't going to like this," I said when I calmed down.
"She won't say anything."
No, she probably wouldn't. She was gullible. Like the time she came downstairs and four of us were hitting off a bong. "What's that smell?"
"Just cigarettes, mom."
"Oh. What's that thing?"
Mitch grabbed the bong. "This?"
"Yeah." The bong was about five feet high, a red glass cylinder, looked like a rocket. "This is a tailpipe for my motorbike."
At which point his sister from college came down there. "That's a bong!"
Mitch was nonplussed. "Yeah, that's what they call it. A bong pipe."
Mitch got away with it. He was smooth.
Anyway, we had escaped Debbie from Hell. Now it was time for chainsaws!
"This movie is kind of based on Ed Gein," I told him. "Kinda. Sorta."
"Dude down in Wisconsin that was making lampshades out of people."
"Yeah. I heard about that. He use a chainsaw?"
"No. I said kinda. It's kinda based on Gein."
This was lost on Mitch. Guys making lampshades out of dead people were the least of his worries. He had Debbie from Hell to think about.
Part 2: Greaseburgers, Fries, and Vomit
It turned out it wasn't just Mitch and I. There were three other guys. Everyone was stoned, drunk, carrying on, yelling, laughing, wrestling. And this in a little Vega. The damn drive-in started THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE way too early while it was not quite dark so I missed most of the pivotal crucifixion in the graveyard sequence that I had heard so much about. My drunken, rowdy friends ruined most of the movie for me turning it into an episode of MSTK with their comments. They were destroying it for me and I was not happy.
By the time of the second feature, however, they'd mellowed.
We ate pizza.
We ate dill pickles in little bags.
We ate fries.
We ate burgers that were so greasy you could oil a rusty hinge with them.
By the time THE GATES OF HELL started we were tired, cranky, and nauseous. But quiet. Thank God, we were quiet. Maybe the night wouldn't be a total waste. Now, I knew Gates was about zombies. I'd seen something about it in Fangoria. Saw the movie poster at the concession stand: Dead guy, all rotten. Tagline: THE DEAD SHALL RISE AND WALK THE EARTH. Silence. Crickets chirping. Some lady calling out for extra butter on her popcorn. A few beeping horns. The picture rolled. It started out good. A priest hangs himself in a cemetery and opens the gates of hell. That was how it started. For the next ninety minutes or so we were all fixated.
And believe me, it took a lot to hold the attention of those guys.
Even Danny was sitting still and he never sat still. He liked to walk around at drive-ins doing what he called the "bone-patrol". He'd look around until he saw a white ass going up and down in the back of a car and run back to report it: "BACK ROW! THIRD CAR! RED GTO! GUY'S SLIPPING HIS GIRLFRIEND THE BONE!" But tonight, even he was quiet.
Oh, we saw it all that night. Even with the grainy drive-in print and the fuzzies and hairs dancing over the big screen, we could tell that some of the actors were foreign. No matter. Yes, we saw it all.
"Check it out," Danny said when the part came on where the girl and guy were parked in the cemetery. "He's gonna give her the bone!"
"In a cemetery? That's warped," Mitch said.
"That's why they call it a boneyard."
Yeah, it was a pretty bad place to go parking. Right away the girl saw that priest hanging there, staring at her, and right away the blood starts running from her eyes.
"Something's gonna happen," Danny said. "I know it."
And it did. Boy, did it ever. The blood kept running from her eyes while her dumb boyfriend kept asking her if there was something wrong. Yeah, no shit, dude.
She starts gagging.
Out come bloody chunks and loopy things and slimy clots.
"GAAAAAHHHH!" Danny cried out. "SHE'S VOMITING OUT HER FUCKING GUTS!"
"HER INTESTINES!" I said.
"WHAT'S THAT?" Mitch asked. "THAT HER HEART?"
"WOW! LOOK AT THAT! IT KEEPS COMING AND COMING!" I cried, absolutely in love with the scene.
To this day I do not know how they did it. What was that stuff? Was it chicken livers? Raw meat dipped in bloody Karo syrup? What was it? And how did she keep so damn much of it in her mouth? I'd known girls who could keep a lot in their mouths, but not like this!
What a night and what a movie. I went to see chainsaws and became mesmerized by vomiting guts. But that wasn't all. Let's not forget the crucial maggoty baby scene. The part where Christopher George chops through that lady's coffin and almost kills her. The dead priest rubbing maggoty meat into his victim's face. The infamous drill press scene. The maggot windstorm. And the zombies. Nasty looking zombies, too.
And how about what the woman at seance says: "City of the dead...city of the living dead...a cursed city where the gates of Hell have been opened..."
The Gates of Hell, a.k.a. The City of the Living Dead, was one of Lucio Fulci's zombie movies and one of his best. The deserted town with the blowing dust storm is very atmospheric and you gotta love them calling the city Dunwich.
From that night on I became a fan of Italian zombie pukefests. I'm proud of that.
A QUESTION YOU MIGHT ASK: Why SATAN'S MEATLOCKER? Simple. There's a poster here on my wall from the cover a 1940 pulp called Horror Stories. One of the horror stories listed is "Meat for Satan's Icebox" by Francis James. They also made a cheesy, very cheesy, zombie movie called this a few years ago so I didn't want to use the name, hence SATAN'S MEATLOCKER.
SHAMELESS PLUG: If you've got a Barnes and Nobles by you, grab a copy of HIVE.
VOCABULARY WORD FOR THE DAY: "ED LEE" (adjective). Derived from horror writer Edward Lee, of course, this word means anything gruesome and extreme. As in: "Did you see HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES? It's pretty Ed Lee, man." So now go read some Ed Lee!