Review: Dead End Drive-In


Straight off the bat I could tell by the vibes that this sends out that Arrow’s release of the over shadowed dystopian cult classic is going to make a lot of people happy.

This is so 80s I actually felt younger after watching it!

When you think of apocalyptic punk style Aussie movies you cannot help but think of ‘Mad Max’ and in many ways this film is easily compared to those movies, and it’s safe to say that if you enjoyed them, you are going to love this, but with its totalitarian and social undertones, oddly unique setting and flat out budget defying set pieces ‘Dead-End Drive-In’ is a classic in its own right.

The plot sees us follows the delinquent youth and their detention in a drive-in theory as the government of future Australiadeclares a state of emergency. Here young people, and we are talking 80s youth here, must make a new life for themselves. They are given rations, free time, and those that can be trusted get the opportunity to get jobs and other privileges. What’s odd, is that despite their obvious incarceration, most of the youths are happy and even form subcultures within their captive society. Not all though, and this is where we follow Crabs whose headstrong nature will not allow him to settle and just accept this fate. Free thought leads to freedom as he fights the system – 80s style (cue synth, cock rock and montage).

The plot is actually quite good, and despite a bit of a linear build up which cumulates in what feels some great plot development just before the end, this is a very fluid and entertaining point to point journey. The characters are mostly caricatures by today’s standards and even our lead has only a single minded objective but never the less they are entertaining in their own right each with their eccentricity boarding the line between impacting and/or over acting!Naturally the authority figures are bad – all of them, and the girls are simply there for eye candy. Whilst all of the above is standard fodder for movies of this era what I enjoyed most were the overall aesthetics and the emerging social hierarchies and attitudes which emerge from within the Drive-In once it’s under lock-down. If you have played any of the more recent ‘Fall Out’ video games, then you would instantly feel at home here. What’s also great is that the plot never takes itself to seriously and despite the obvious parallels with a concentration camp, the film stays on the campier side of things and it stays away from anything too heavy – despite some references to racial tension this results in grungy rather than gritty cinema.

As with ‘Mad-Max’ (and yes, it is difficult not to compare the two) the violence isn’t really horror strong, but it is more visceral than your typical TV action films. That said, the violence set pieces are akin to action films. There’s some decent gun play, a pretty hammy choreographed fight scene and plenty of overacting. Its pure entertainment for sure – the climax in particular is worth the wait. Certainly these sequences and the physical effects which bring them to life are something of ‘the era’ and it’s a always a pleasure to watch. The car stunts are also stand out sections, although the fire and explosions in the finale are a little contrasting to the films relatively low key action throughout its run time.

Overall, to say any more would be rambling. If you like 80s movies, and especially if the whole dystopian vision from the era takes your fancy then I can whole heartedly recommend ‘Dead-end Drive In’. As we so frequently say, Arrows recent remaster makes which version to buy an easy choice to as its picture quality and presentation are flawless.

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