Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 9, 2020
It's not that easy to give a review/assessment of The Complete Drive-in because it's actually three books under one cover. If nothing else, it means trying to avoid spoilers! For this reason, I've actually posted my 'full' reviews to books 2 & 3 separately on the individual product pages.
I'm more familiar with JRL's crime novels (as in the Hap & Leonard series) so I didn't really know what to expect from this fantasy/horror story that was published in the late eighties. It initially starts out as a straight-forward story. It's written in the first person - by Jack, a young lad who lives in a Texas town.The highlight of his week is Friday night, when he, and a few friends, go to The Orbit - a huge drive-in movie theatre that offers up all-night horror movies.
Before we actually witness Jack and his pals getting to the drive-in, we readers are briefly given an insight to Jack's home life, and learn a few things about his madcap friends, Randy and Bob. From the very start, JRL injects his trademark similes, and there is much humour to be had. Eventually, the time comes for them to jump in their car and enter The Orbit for their weekly thrill-fest. At first everything is as usual - long queues of traffic entering the various screen sections, the concession stand selling hotdogs, hamburgers, popcorn, soda etc, horns honking, youths shouting and whistling, music blaring from car windows etc. Then things quieten down as the various movies begin (the place is so huge, there are six separate screens, showing different movies). Yes, all was fine - until a massive red comet, appearing to have an open mouth displaying razor-like teeth, comes hurtling down upon the movie-going crowds. All hell breaks loose, and then things get VERY STRANGE INDEED! At one stage, the reader gets to 'meet' the Popcorn King - and what a weird creation he/it is! This is a crazy joyride of a novel, but it's worth getting aboard for all the terror, darkness and black humour it delivers. Highly recommended.
Drive-in 2 (see separate product page for full review)
Yes folks, this one starts where the first one ends - but as the caption on the front suggests, this is 'not just one of them sequels.' Drive-in 2 is just as crazy and weird as the first book, with some cracking satirical stuff going on between those pages, with JRL often poking fun at the entertainment media, TV productions, movies and the like. As you would expect, there is plenty of horrific goings on in this offering - cold-blooded murders, cannibalism, strange rituals and so forth. In other words, you're in for another madcap journey, featuring many dark moments. What more can I say? Joe R Lansdale continues to let his rather wicked and weird imagination run riot in this book, yet manages to balance it all out with some very amusing and witty one-liners that kept me thoroughly entertained. If you liked the first Drive-in your bound to be equally as enthralled with this one.
Drive-in 3 (separate product page for full review)
In this outing, we get to see the narrator (Jack) continuing his sometimes frightening journey, and trying to survive all kinds of hazards along the way. As with the first two books, you have to expect the unexpected, and that really is part of the joy with these novels. Joe R Lansdale literally goes into overdrive with this instalment - not sure I would ever want to find out what goes on inside this author's brain because he's got one hell of an imagination (as in strange and often depraved). But eh, that's what the Drive-in adventure is all about. If anything, the scenarios in this 3rd book are even weirder than the first two (is that even possible I hear you say). There's also a fair bit to get your head around with Drive-in 3, because it gets quite surreal in places. Taken as a sum of its parts though, I still very much enjoyed this book, and felt it reached a satisfying conclusion.
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