You might think a full-length feature film claiming to be the “definitive story of the American drive-in movie” could have a tendency to be a bit dry. Maybe you’d wonder if spending 90 minutes watching footage of long abandoned or torn-down drive-ins, as well as interviews with people who are still running the storied outdoor theatres today, could be topical and entertaining, or just an extended bit of hokey nostalgia for die-hards. You might assume there’s no way a filmmaker could sustain a whimsical, perfectly paced documentary on the subject for any considerable length of time.
You would be wrong.
Going Attractions, the new Americana-fueled documentary by director April Wright, is a fascinating, informative and really, really fun look at not just a different, more innocent time, but the way drive-ins have recently mounted a comeback of sorts and become relevant again for families all across the United States and Canada.
The reason we’re featuring this doc here in the Monster Kid Corner might be obvious to some; after all, a lot of horror fanatics cut their teeth during the drive-in monster-movie boom of the late ’50s and early ’60s, when low-budget horror films were the preferred genre fare of many a teenager (not to mention some adults) and nearly 5000 drive-ins were in operation. While Going Attractions only devotes a few minutes of its running time specifically to horror films, the interviews with such important players as B-movie king/cult horror legend Roger Corman, shed light on why the genre was such a hit on those giant screens under the stars.
There’s plenty here for younger Monster Kids, too. This is no slow-moving, encyclopedic catalog of film stills; what Wright has managed to accomplish is a vibrant, fast-paced (albeit thorough) film that eschews meandering walks down memory lane in favour of a bright, well written narrative and plenty of eye candy for cinephiles of all ages (including fun shots of some of our best-loved beasties).
Perhaps fittingly, Wright’s career started with the feature Killer Yacht Party, which she co-wrote and co-produced for Troma Entertainment in 2006, so in addition to having her horror pedigree, she’s also a kindred spirit to a lot of those folks who sat in front of outdoor screens and watched, mesmerized, as early horror classics such as The Blob, The Curse of Frankenstein and The Fly were beamed out into the night air. In other words, she’s one of us.
Going Attractions is a beautiful film that celebrates the reasons why drive-ins were important in the first place, both as a memorable venue for families to enjoy a simple, cheap night out together, and as a way for teens to escape the mundane world of unremarkable school days and be transported into a new realm of gods and monsters. Some of the drive-in operators have lovely stories themselves, and Wright wisely allows them the screen time to tell them, transforming the doc into a personal, utterly charming chronicle of one of cinema’s most beloved nostalgias.
Along the way, Wright has also cemented herself as one to watch – a director with fresh ideas and a wonderful drive to tell the best story possible. With Going Attractions, she succeeds in crafting a film with a subject that might have limited appeal, into something that pretty much anyone who loves an entertaining, well presented documentary should see. And for those who consider themselves to be drive-in aficionados, Wright’s film is an indispensable, brilliant look at an ever-intriguing pastime.
Vive la drive-in!
Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie is available on DVD at goingattractions.com