“Drive In” pokes topical fun at drive-ins, artists, and even Netflix in an episode freed from the Murder House.
This recap of American Horror Stories season 1, episode 3, “Drive In”, contains spoilers.
Since drive-in movie theatres made something of a resurgence in the pandemic, American Horror Stories episode 3, fittingly titled “Drive In”, has a fun note of topicality to it, which is perhaps just as well since it’s playing some very familiar genre beats in its tale of a haunted film that drives its audience to murder (a bit like The Emoji Movie).
Rhenzy Felix, having grown up since his time on Marvel’s Runaways, plays Chad, a young horny dude who is trying to kind of grossly pressure his beau, Kelley (Madison Bailey), into sex, berating her with implications about ugly rumors. But luckily he and his buddies Milo (Leonardo Cecchi) and Quinn (Kyle Red Silverstein) have secured tickets to a drive-in screening of Rabbit Rabbit, a famously cursed film that caused a massacre at its only screening. There’s nothing like pure terror and unbridled violent rage to get the libido going, after all.
The film’s director is Larry Bitterman (John Carroll Lynch), a crazed auteur who is determined to get the whole world to see his movie despite it having been banned and he himself having been sentenced to 15 years in prison for attacking the woman, Mrs. Tipper Gore (Amy Grabow), who presided over his hearing following the original massacre. All copies of the movie were supposed to be destroyed, but no such luck. Now long-time projectionist Verna (Adrienne Barbeau) is determined to use the reputation of Rabbit Rabbit to get the Starlite Drive-In back on track, financially.
So, the kids all attend, including Kelley’s friend Dee (Ben J. Pierce), and despite a warning from Ruth (Naomi Grossman), a woman in an eyepatch who claims to have been present at the first screening, everyone settles in to watch it. This being a drive-in, and these being horny teens, they don’t pay much attention to the film, only catching glimpses of it during position changes or while coming up for air. This, though, turns out to be enough.
It’s here that American Horror Stories season 1, episode 3 descends into carnage. The movie really does send its viewers into a murderous rampage, and before long a frenzied Verna has stabbed out Ruth’s good eye and Dee does something unspeakable to Milo’s nether regions. Chad and Kelley don’t seem as badly affected, and when they encounter Verna, it’s hard to say whether Chad maniacally smashing her head in with a projector reel is him protecting himself or giving in to the bloodlust. The assumption is that the film sends you more and more crazy the more you watch, so while these two aren’t outright possessed, they’re at least a little bit incensed by the ordeal and decide to track down and take revenge on Larry, who they think – thanks, of course, to 4chan – is planning to screen another print of Rabbit Rabbit.
Larry, despite living in a trailer in the desert after his prison bid, seems to be doing okay for himself judging by his Rolls Royce (this turns out to be a plot point, the payoff for which comes at the end of “Drive In”.) As with all self-obsessed artists, it seems like Larry has just been waiting for the opportunity to brag about what he has accomplished, so he regales Chad and Kelley with the story of how Rabbit Rabbit came to be. Inspired by William Friedkin supposedly putting two frames of a demon in the original cut of The Exorcist, he researched various methods of subliminal messaging to create a feature film guaranteed to send its audience bonkers. And it did. His comeuppance was, he believes, a great failing of society itself, but a couple of shotgun shells to the kneecaps persuades him to give up the location of the other print. Chad and Kelley burn it, and his trailer too, coolly walking away as everything burns to ash.
A happy ending? Not quite. Remember, Larry had a Rolls Royce. Where would he have gotten the money to buy that? Yes, of course, a Netflix distribution deal. As Chad and Kelley finally do the no-pants-dance, obviously all excited after their adventure, the film makes it onto the streaming giant as the camera pans out to reveal car crashes and explosions occurring all across the city.
What did you think of American Horror Stories season 1, episode 3? Let us know in the comments.