Dead End Drive-In

December 24, 2011 at 5:39 am (9 Heads, Dead End Drive-In) (, , , , , )

Dead End Drive-In – 1986 – Australia

Dead End Drive-In is an Australian flick directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith (Leprechaun 3, Leprechaun 4: In Space, BMX Bandits). Dead End Drive-In thematically recalls Trenchard-Smith’s earlier Escape 2000 (1982)—from Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Video Guide, “Australian critics chose [Escape 2000] as the worst movie ever made in their country.” Despite Trenchard-Smith’s dubious credentials, Dead End Drive-In is grippingly surreal; channeling Mad Max (1979), Escape from New York (1981), and Liquid Sky (1982).

Post-collapse Sydney is a bleakly absurd urban wasteland of deranged gangs, crooked cops, and disenfranchised squatters. Crabs and his girlfriend visit a drive-in theater and thuggish policemen sabotage their car. After being stranded, Crabs attempts to fix his ride but is suspiciously thwarted. Soon Crabs discovers the drive-in is a concentration camp for undesirables. The camp’s population of criminals, dissidents, and minorities are made submissive by free booze, weed, junk food, and movies. In an explosive stunt-filled car chase, Crabs defies the authoritarian regime that imprisons him.

Dead End Drive-In’s New Wave aesthetics are inspired. The costumes and locations draw from punk and mod styles. The freakish cast wears leather jackets and spandex and sports sculpted hair and face paint. Amazingly, literally everything (cars, buildings, people, animals) is streaked with rainbow spray paint. And the tricked-out cars are a sight to behold. Dead End Drive-In is also thematically punky. The cynical premise hostilely rejects authority, racism, and acquiescence. In essence: Those in power manipulate the stupidly compliant. Interestingly, despite Crabs’ clean-cut image, he’s the only true rebel. Perhaps Dead End Drive-In is condemning posers who recite punk rhetoric without embracing it?

Technically, Dead End Drive-In is well made too. Panoramic cinematography emphasizes the elaborately decrepit scenery. Fire, neon, and hordes of unusual extras contribute to the visual chaos. Plus, the catastrophically destructive car smash-ups are excellent. Unsurprisingly, Guy Norris (stuntman in The Road Warrior) coordinated the stunts.

Ultimately, Dead End Drive-In is just awesome. It’s stylish and original. The grimly pessimistic premise is layered with thought provoking ambiguities. There’s no shortage of rousing car chases, brawls, and shootouts. And the punchy Australian synthpunk soundtrack is appropriate. Add Dead End Drive-In to the long list of punk sci-fi: Liquid Sky (1982), Repo Man (1984), Future-Kill (1985), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), Class of Nuke ‘Em High 2: Subhumanoid Meltdown (1986), Surf Nazis Must Die! (1987), etc.

Rating: 9/10 Shrunken Heads. Should be a classic.

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