New York Comic-Con caters to those of every genre of geekdom. Horror fans were not left out this year as Joe Bob Briggs, Greg Nicotero, and Sam Zimmerman were there Thursday to represent Shudder at their panel previewing upcoming shows on the streaming service. Horror fans have known the name Joe Bob Briggs for many years. I first encountered him while watching cable TV at my grandparents’ house on the Briggs-hosted MonsterVision on TNT, after a run on The Movie Channel. Specializing in exploitation and B-level horror films and using his infamous rating system of “Drive-in Totals” (Blood, Breasts, and Beasts), Briggs became a staple with horror fans anywhere. Earlier this year, Shudder and parent company AMC brought him back to do one last all-nighter, “Joe Bob’s Last Drive-In.” The event was so popular it literally broke Shudder and after going viral, Briggs was asked back for more specials later this year. We had a chance to speak with Briggs at NYCC on Thursday afternoon during a press roundtable.
Briggs engaged in an interesting back and forth about politics in movies and what’s a “liberal” or “conservative” film.
Joe Bob Briggs: Do you think liberals hated Dirty Harry? Did liberals hate Death Wish? I mean those were two of the most right-wing movies, they were about guns and law and order and everyone in the country went to see them. You got to do them well.
Geeks of Doom: Do you think it’s harder though today in this political climate? They remade Death Wish this year and it was a flop.
Joe Bob Briggs: Well, maybe they just got the wrong guy, or the script wasn’t subtle enough. I would think a Death Wish remake would be a hit. Would you consider Shaft a “liberal” movie? I mean it has liberal sentiments in it. I think people like sex and violence and if that bothers them, they call it romance and adventure and then suddenly it’s a “liberal” movie. But every great movie has sex and violence. I think guys that try to make either “liberal” or “conservative” movies for their intended audiences, those are the ones that really stink.
What truly resonated was Briggs’s unabashed love of the horror genre and his disdain for those who don’t have proper respect for it. He mentioned how “you can always tell” when films are done by directors who don’t respect the material.
He told a really funny story about Roger Corman and described how Corman knew the ins and outs of every facet of making exploitation horror including how many women you needed and how many sex scenes there needed to be. He also said that he told Corman to move into Asian-style kung fu action films and that lead to the career of Don the Dragon Wilson.
Onto Shudder, someone asked about Briggs’s return to hosting and the amazing fan response that broke the internet.
Joe Bob Briggs: It’s been wonderful. Ever since I left TNT, every year someone has come to me from a network and asked if I wanted to do a new show and I always say ‘Yes’ and nothing ever comes of it. In the Fall of 2017, I got approached by the two guys who did this show, Matt Manjourides and Austin Jennings, and they came to me and asked if I wanted to do this show and I said what I always said, ‘Yes’. About a month later, we were meeting with Shudder and planning a show. I asked what they had in mind and they said they were fans of MonsterVision and I said we could do that format again, but it’ll be the third time and they never get away with doing the same thing three different times on TV. So the idea became to recreate MonsterVision, which was itself a recreation of Drive-In Theater, on the TMC. I know how to do that, but it’s been off the air for 17 years, I don’t know if you can just do this again. But that’s what they wanted, and we had almost money. We filmed in New Jersey in the same studio they do Ink Masters. So no I didn’t think it would be as big as it was. I thought it would be a nostalgia thing and we’d do it one time. I was surprised when it became a thing. And believe me, I appreciated all that attention because I had moved on to another career. I never stopped doing things with exploitation films, and I’d show up at conventions but nothing was full time. So it was interesting to me and what else was interesting were the number of people who weren’t really old enough to watch, definitely not the first show and barely the second show but they watched it on YouTube! Some were YouTube collectors. It was interesting how YouTube could transfer something from one generation to the next.
Geeks of Doom: You’ve worked in horror and exploitation for so long, do you find it weird that it seems the world is catching up a bit? If I told you 25 years ago that a movie about a woman having sex with a fish monster wins Best Picture, you wouldn’t believe me.
Joe Bob Briggs: Well, it was the year for that, wasn’t it? I got this book in the mail about two months ago and it was an entire treatment of I Spit on Your Grave written by a professor published by Columbia University Press. I Spit on Your Grave was considered beneath contempt for even the New York Post. So that’s how much the landscape has changed. To the point where sometimes they take the movies too seriously and these websites that do the deep dives into horror history and deconstruct modern horror, they adapt academic terminology to these films and they’re going too far and turning apples into oranges. They’re making these exaggerated claims for these movies, especially the older ones. These movies made in the ’80s that never got released are suddenly “forgotten gems” or “neglected masterpieces.”
Briggs was truly awesome, and the panel gave updates and previews about Shudder’s upcoming Creepshow series. Briggs will be back on Shudder this Thanksgiving with The Dinners of Death on Thursday, November 22nd, and then for Christmas on December 21st with A Very Joe Bob Christmas.
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