Joe Bob Briggs Brings His Movie Expertise to Denver This Weekend | Westword
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Joe Bob Briggs Brings His Movie Expertise to Denver This Weekend

Legendary horror host and film critic Joe Bob Briggs, of "MonsterVision" and "Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater," is appearing at the Archive Videostore in Aurora this weekend.
Host and film critic John Bloom, aka Joe Bob Briggs.
Host and film critic John Bloom, aka Joe Bob Briggs. Joe Bob Briggs

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Joe Bob Briggs (born John Bloom) has been a movie-loving legend since he swaggered onto the critic scene in 1982 with the Dallas Times Herald column "Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In." With a fondness for exploitation fare and an outsized persona that's equal parts Texas redneck and razor-sharp film critic, he found a passionate audience among fellow "drive-in mutants" that carried him into syndication and then television, first with Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater on The Movie Channel, and then as host of TNT's MonsterVision.

After a long hiatus from the small screen, Briggs returned in 2018 with The Last Drive-In on Shudder, now in its fifth season. He also has his own in-person celebration of film, the annual World Drive-In Festival and Jamboree, held this year at the Las Vegas West Wind Drive-In. And soon he'll be in Denver, hosting the Indoor Drive-In-Geek-Out at the Sie FilmCenter on Friday, July 14, and Saturday, July 15. After an overwhelming response sold out both nights, his team added an afternoon meet-and-greet and signing at the Archive video store in Aurora on Saturday, July 15.

We caught up with Joe Bob ahead of his appearance to discuss his long career and the ever-changing landscape of the movies.

It's been really cool to see you back with The Last Drive-In. How do you approach your programming for the show?

Well, a lot of it is just based on what we can get our hands on. ... We have to license everything that we show on Shudder. ... That means we can't always show what we want to show, and we feel really lucky when we get some of these big titles. ... I always start out with a wish list, and a lot of my wishes get dashed immediately.

What are some of the issues with licensing?

In the ’90s, when I was at MonsterVision, if you wanted to show Friday the 13th, Paramount would just say, "Sure, we don't care." And it's not like that anymore. It's like every single title is some golden goose that can't be acquired unless you pay a whole lot of money for a very limited license.

I don't know exactly what happened. I guess streaming happened. I remember when I would do my books, I would want to use stills from the movies, and I would call up Paramount: 'I want to use this still from Friday the 13th VII.' They'd say, 'Okay, $250.' I'd say 'Oh, I can't afford $250.' 'Okay, just use it.' They didn't care. So it's a very different world now. Part of that is that horror has become a prestige genre, whereas when I first started working with horror, it was a despised genre. It was considered trash, it was considered on the verge of pornography. They didn't value these titles that highly, but now they do.

When do you think that change happened?

Well, The Walking Dead was a big one for TV, and The Shape of Water was a big one for film. For a horror film, and especially a horror film with a rubber-suit monster, to win best picture at the Academy Awards would have been unheard of even ten years before that. ... Then you have stuff that comes out like Stephen King's It, which was a reboot, and it makes hundreds of millions of dollars. Then they redo the Halloween franchise, hundreds of millions of dollars. That didn't happen when Rob Zombie redid the Halloween movies. ... In the ’teens, [there was] a certain demographic — a certain group of people came of age who absolutely revered the history of horror...and so suddenly, you could make horror movies that everybody wanted to see.

You're coming to Denver with a live show. Do you enjoy getting out among the mutants?

I love live performance; it's probably my favorite thing to do. ... This is a new collaboration with the American Genre Film Archive. That's these guys in Austin who find neglected exploitation titles, in some cases restore them, acquire the theatrical rights and essentially save them. So, it's like the Criterion Collection, but for movies your mother doesn't want you to watch.

You do such brilliant segues and comparisons. Has that always come naturally to you?

I wouldn't say it comes naturally. ... When I first started in journalism, when I was thirteen years old, everybody was a generalist. They expected you to know how to write about sports and cover the legislature and cover the latest homicide, you know? ... It's probably that I was always just making all these connections in the wild and woolly world of print journalism that doesn't exist anymore. I love the movie The Front Page, with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon — that's kind of the way it was. ... I was in awe of all these older men that seemed to be worldly wise, drank too much, smoked too much and wore cool hats.

Some say the future of movie theaters is uncertain. Are they still going to be a thing in twenty years?

Yes, we'll still have theaters, but they have to provide more than just a movie and a chair. The theaters that will still survive will be the ones that also serve food, also have special programming, that have regional premieres. ... Every theater has to sort of make its way in the world by giving people a reason to get out of the house and go there.

In-Store Meet-and-Greet With Joe Bob Briggs, Saturday, July 15, 2 to 4 p.m., The Archive video store, 1431 Dayton Street, Aurora. Signature/Selfie packages start at $10.
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