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2006 - 86m.

You’ve got to hand it to Lionsgate; they certainly know how to market their products to the genre crowd. Which is all fine and dandy until you realize they’re also shooting themselves in the foot by littering video store shelves with cheap product they’ve paid little money to buy and slapped some fancy artwork and a new title on. Eventually people are going to see their logo on the box and automatically pass it by, at least people with a little bit more restraint than myself. You see, it doesn’t matter how many shitty horror movies I see, I still keep coming back like a beaten puppy. And Lionsgate is holding a damn big stick and keep offering me a treat.

Drive Thru is such a movie. Upon first glancing the box art with a giant axe slamming through a hamburger I was fully expecting a by-the-book slasher movie that might just get some entertainment value out of being set in a fast food restaurant. However, the writing-directing team of Shane Kuhn and Brendan Cowles seem to have a different agenda in mind simply using the fast food angle as a jump-off point for one messily plotted movie that tries to combine both the stalk ‘n’ slash sub-genre and supernatural horror.

And things are so promising from the opening scene. Obviously meant, like most of the movie, to be tongue-in-cheek, we see a group of rich kid “wiggers” (white folks trying to act African-American, in case any of you are still unsure of the term) pulling up to the local Hella-Burger after smoking a bunch of joints and drinking. After the person taking their order messes with them by uttering insults and threats, the two gun-touting guys in the SUV decide to go inside to see who the jokester is. This turns out to be a big mistake as they’re killed by the fast food chain’s mascot, Horny The Clown. While the deaths are a bit bloody at least this scene has a goofy tone and the killer actually is sporting a pretty cool looking clown mask with a big ear-to-ear grin and metal grid mouth meant to look like a drive-thru mouth box.

Cue credits and some of our cast members poorly pretending to play instruments as part of a girl rock band who are performing at the lead singer’s house during a high school graduation pool party. Here we meet our heroine, Mackenzie (Leighton Meester), who soon starts receiving visions through such innocuous items as a ouija board and magical 8-ball toy.

Looks like Mackenzie somehow has a link with our killer (this is never explained and has no purpose in the grand scheme of things) and not long after all of her friends start to die at the hands of the murderous Horny. So while some detectives try to hunt down the killer, Mackenzie also sets out to convince people who it is – which she learns first hand in an early, quite bad, sequence where she is chased through the halls of her school by Horny and she sees one of her pals die from having her head cooked in a microwave (it wasn’t cool in 1986’s Evil Laugh and it isn’t here, but at least that movie’s attempt was amusing).

Things end on a whimper as we learn why our killer is doing what he is (it’s another “childhood revenge” scenario that litters the plots of many a slasher movie), have a boring final showdown between Mackenzie and Horny, and even get a set-up for a sequel that makes absolutely no sense.

Drive Thru might have been more fun if Kuhn and Cowles would have just kept their movie within the confines of a fast food joint. There’s plenty of possibilities for campy deaths and there’s always an abundance of victims showing-up in such a location but, alas, they’d rather give us a sloppily written effort that’s deaths are bland, is loaded with “meh” attempts at humour (having people mispronounce the name of Larry Joe Campbell’s detective gets old after the third time), and has a plot that’s trying to be more complex than it needs be.

Meester isn’t too bad in the lead, sitcom vet Campbell gets a few mildly amusing lines and Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock gets to make an ironic cameo (and is actually pretty funny) as an employee at the local Hella-Burger. But the movie truly belongs to Melora Hardin as Mackenzie’s ex-hippie mother. Hardin won me over playing “Jan” on the hilarious American version of The Office and she’s the only one here that manages to show much in the way of acting chops – and looks good doing so.

Drive Thru is yet another passable Lionsgate release and not at all worth your time. It’s trying too hard to be “different” from others of its type when it would’ve benefited from just playing it closer to the sub-genre’s conventions. With no memorable deaths or skin to keep your attention it becomes just another dull direct-to-video yawner. (Chris Hartley, 10/31/07)

Directed By: Shane Kuhn, Brendan Cowles.
Written By: Shane Kuhn, Brendan Cowles.

Starring: Leighton Meester, Nicholas D'Agosto, Melora Hardin, Larry Joe Campbell.