Now that’s more like it. I’ve always liked a cursed movie story, like Marisha Pessl’s Night Film or the Masters of Horror episode, “Cigarette Burns.” And I love a drive-in. So once I realized that’s where they were going with this episode–combining both of those interests–I was looking forward to it.
The particular cursed movie in this story is a little nasty called Rabbit Rabbit. Little is known about the movie, including its content. That’s because the audience reportedly turned on one another during and after its only showing in the mid-80s.
That led to a Congressional hearing, where the director Larry Bitterman (John Carroll Lynch), faced off against Tipper Gore (Amy Grabow). For those of you too young or too non-American to remember, Tipper Gore was the wife of Al Gore, the former vice president and former Senator. While Al Gore was in Congress, Tipper famously co-founded the Parents Music Resource Center (PRMC).
The PRMC lobbied Congress for warning labels on records, so that parents could know that they might contain content mom and dad found objectionable. (Fun fact: It was “Darling Nikki” by Prince that kicked off all that fuss.) And that’s why albums have “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” labels on them to this day.
As far as I know, Tipper never set her sights on film. However, it’s understandable why the episode would put her in that position, since she was famous for that kind of advocacy. Anyway, back to Congress.
During the hearing, which Tipper is apparently chairing for some reason–let it go, Salome, it’s make-believe–she informs Bitterman of a bitter truth. She’s convinced the movie studio not only to pull the film from theaters but also to pull and destroy any prints of it. Bitterman is so enraged that he attacks her, which gets him sent to prison for fifteen years.
And that brings us to the present day, where teenage couple Kelley (Madison Bailey) and Chad (Rhenzy Feliz) are thinking about taking the next step in their relationship. Kelley is hesitant, though, which frustrates Chad. Her friend Dee (Ben J. Pierce) tells her to stop being so afraid. His friends, Quinn (Kyle Red Silverstein) and Milo (Leonardo Cecchi) tell him to make her afraid. Not like, scare her himself, but take her to a scary movie.
Guess what scary movie is getting a rare screening? Sure, the kids have heard all the stuff about Rabbit Rabbit, but it’s so far removed from them. It’s easy to dismiss it as all hype or hysteria or urban legend. So they all head to the drive-in.
There’s one lone protestor when they arrive, but the kids dismiss her, too. Even when she tells Chad her story, that her date clawed out her eye and ate it (yikes), he’s like, great marketing! And then the movie begins, presented by theater employee Verna (the legendary Adrienne Barbeau).
It’s easy to see why folks were so alarmed. The movie isn’t playing for long before basically everyone goes bananas. They’re like zombies, but the fast kind. Chad and Kelley aren’t affected, though, because they’re not paying that much attention to the screen, if you know what I mean. They try to escape, but with a rabid Dee on the windshield, it’s hard to see. After crashing, they take refuge in the projection room. Chad has to kill Verna, who’s caught the killin’ fever.
The next day, it’s grim. The parking area is littered with bodies. There’s supposed to be another screening, though, so Kelley and Chad track down the delivery service that brought the first print. That leads them to none other than Larry Bitterman, out of prison, living in a desert trailer, and driving a new Rolls.
At gunpoint, he admits that the effect of the film isn’t accidental. He purposely designed the film to make people crazy. Obviously, this is a bit of meta-commentary on the debate over whether pop culture drives people to violence.
It sure drives these kids, though. They didn’t watch enough of the movie to become wild, but they did see just enough to shoot Larry when he won’t admit there’s another copy of the film. Once he gives it up, they burn it on his stove, burning down his trailer in the process.
They finally make it home, but there’s no happy ending this week. It seems as if Larry got that Rolls by making a deal with Netflix, because the film’s now prominently displayed on the streamer. Outside the window, the city burns down around them.
8/10 – I was wondering if they would retell another AHS story this week, and thankfully they didn’t. While this isn’t the most inventive tale in the world, this was still an entertaining episode that gave me at least one actual chill.