Independent film: at the drive-in, discover a scary triple feature film without fearing for your life

Prides Corner Drive-In in Westbrook presents a gory triple-movie this weekend. Ben McCanna / Personal Photographer

It takes a lot to bring me back to a movie theater these days. It’s a phrase I never imagined I’d write – or even think – for most of my life as a movie buff. But then came a global pandemic that revealed how much many Americans value their narrow concept of “freedom” over the real lives of their fellow man. And so on.

I’ve been to a movie theater exactly once in the past two and a half years. And that was to write a column about the indie film a year ago about what it was like to tentatively reenter the world of big screens and enclosed spaces, imagining the COVID pandemic was about to die down . (I saw “A Quiet Place 2” on an uncrowded weekday matinee while wearing a mask the entire time. It was fine.)

Well there we are, well into COVID: Year 3, and although I’m as vaccinated as humanly possible, and resolutely wear my N95 mask inside every indoor space, I am always suspicious. Yes, even to go back to the cinema.

Fortunately, there are options for those of us who are still taking a virus that has killed more than a million American citizens a bit seriously. Streaming and lifelong supply of DVDs have their much-needed place, of course. But for those nights when you’re sitting on the couch and flicking, cloudy-eyed, through the same algorithmic menus isn’t enough, summer in Maine offers more adventurous outdoor movie destinations.

Last week, I told you all about the three-weekend cinematic wonderland that is the ongoing Maine Outdoor Film Festival. Set in three outdoor locations in the fresh air of Portland, MOFF features dozens of eclectic, visually stunning and thought-provoking nature-themed shorts, all enjoyed under the cool stars of Maine. Attractive.

And then there are the Maine drive-ins. Once ubiquitous across the country, the good old drive-in theater has largely taken over from the video store, and we’re all the worst of it. Still, there are a few hardy Maine souls keeping the giant screens bright, and that’s a good thing for everyone from nostalgia buffs to those of us who still keep our time indoors to a minimum. . (Honestly, if anything brings me back to theaters this year, it’ll be Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” which just came out. I’m not made of stone, people.)

Analysis of the few surviving drive-in show times reveals a clever mix of old favorites and enticing new hit shows, designed to see Mainers pile into their cars for an evening of big-screen thrills. Maine’s Points North Institute opened Rockport’s Shotwell Drive-In in direct response to the state’s COVID closure of movie theaters, because Points North (founders of the excellent Camden International Film Festival) are good and wise and know that shared cinematic experiences make life worth living. And while the Shotwell regularly schedules ambitious arthouse fare on its big screen in the Maine woods (August 11 sees the debut of acclaimed Russian drama “One Man Dies a Million Times”), this week, they’re reaching out to the kid in all of us with a Saturday screening of “The Goonies.” A car full of munchkins (and former munchkins) munching on popcorn is just about the perfect way to revisit this chaotic 1985 adventure flick.

But it was Westbrook’s Prides Corner Drive-In that had me looking for my car keys this week. That’s because, in a move seemingly designed to take my money and cheer me up, Prides Corner on Friday and Saturday presents a triple feature of ‘The Evil Dead’, ‘Evil Dead 2’ and ‘Army of Darkness ‘, projected in all their bloody, disreputable glory onto a screen large enough to scare the surrounding countryside.

For those not in the know, 1981’s “The Evil Dead” saw then-20-year-old filmmaker Sam Raimi (the first three Spider-Man films, “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness”) bring a motley crew of like-minded friends intrepid from their Detroit homes to a ramshackle, abandoned cabin in the woods of Tennessee to make a scruffy little horror flick. When they came out – beaten, broke and (in the case of star Bruce Campbell) literally hurt – they had produced a horror classic. Stephen King of Maine was instrumental in Raimi’s success, calling the film “the most ferociously original horror movie of the year.” Steve wasn’t wrong.

The story of how this film was made is the stuff of independent filmmaker legend, seeing the brilliant young Raimi seek funding, invent material he couldn’t afford, and persuade his inexperienced cast and crew to testing their limits, all in pursuit of his singular, wacky and terrifying vision. The story is as basic as it gets, with the reckless middle school friends reading the wrong book and summoning some truly disgusting and resilient demons. But Raimi’s style is a freight train of inventiveness and malevolent glee, with his childhood pal Campbell (as the seemingly indestructible series protagonist Ash) put through every wringer imaginable in his quest to survive. both to demons and to Raimi’s diabolical imaginations.

It’s the perfect drive-in fare, born back in the days when the younger me could still get a fleeting but undeniable glimpse of something forbidden (and therefore irresistible) shimmering in the middle of nowhere while the car of my parents was driving to a much less interesting place. Well, I have my own car now (take that, mom and dad), and I can’t think of anything more exhilarating and cathartic than stopping for five-and-a-half hours straight dripping blood, Bruce Campbell- joking and having fun at the movies.

‘Evil Dead 2’ is, if anything, even more bananas than the grimy original, while ‘Army of Darkness’ somehow sends Ash back to medieval times (with his trusty chainsaw), only to find those demons. pesky things that plague the past, too. They’re non-stop fun – if you’re me or someone like me.

The whole Prides Corner experience is also exceptionally reasonable. A car with two people is $20, you can get up to five people for just $25, and if you’re really crammed in there, it’s only five dollars more for each person beyond the fifth. Sound is nice and clear on your car stereo, open windows let in the fresh air and elated screams of revulsion from nearby vehicles, and one admission is good for all three movies, if you can hold it. After an incredibly long time away from the big screen, you better believe I’ll be here until the very end.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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