October 29, 2014

Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman - Pre'Ween Horror Under The Stars

        Despite having waxed nostalgic about the drive-ins of my youth here before, I hadn't actually been to a drive-in in over twenty-five years.  The handful still open in Virginia are obliged to predominately show family oriented fare to keep the box office open, and I just can't see a Pixar movie as proper drive-in fodder.  Finally, though, the drive-in gods smiled upon me.  The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, Virginia offered up Halloween themed triple features on both their screens last weekend, and Adrienne and I made the hour long drive Saturday night to take in the show.  It was Adrienne's first drive-in experience ever!

View throught the windshield at The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, VA
The view through the Buick's windshield at The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, Virginia

     We had to haul ass after work to make the 9:00 o'clock feature, but we made it with enough time to spare that we had an opportunity to poke around the grounds before the show.  I'd never seen a drive-in with two screens before, and I was expecting two separate lots.  It turns out that the screens were placed one on either end of the lot.  The concession stand/projection booth stood midway between the two screens with a projector firing in each direction.  Consequently, vehicles in any given row were facing both directions depending upon which show you were attending.  Since both shows had already commenced before we got there, the lot's layout was dark and disorienting at first.  We used our little tour of the grounds to get the lay of the land, and we ultimately found a slightly off-center spot about three or four rows back that was just a short walk from the concession stand.

     Our triple feature had led off with Dracula Untold (2014), which was finishing up when we arrived.  Fortunately, neither Adrienne nor I cared much about seeing that one anyway.  We actually made the trip to see the other two features, Halloween (1978) and Night Of The Living Dead (1968).  While we were waiting for the first feature to finish up we poked around the concession stand.

Concession stand at The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, VA
The Family Drive-In's bustling concession stand

      The concession stand had a great menu, but they were pretty clearly overwhelmed by the crowd for this event.  Adrienne ordered nachos that were cold and icky, and I ordered an Angus cheeseburger that wasn't ready until about fifteen minutes into Halloween.  Luckily for us, the disappointing concessions were saved by the fact that there was a small building adjacent to the main concession stand that was making fresh funnel cakes.  The funnel cakes ruled!

     The drive-in was using digital projectors, but the ground level front of the concession stand had a separate glass fronted room - sadly, not really open to the public - that displayed the old behemoth projectors the drive-in had used previously.  Unfortunately, the area was too dark to get a decent picture.  The Family Drive-In also gave a nod to its past by still having window hanging speakers at each parking space in addition to broadcasting the movies' audio on FM.  We briefly used one of the old drive-in speakers before opting to roll up the windows and use the radio.

     It turns out using the radio was probably a bad call.  Once Halloween was over I tried to start the car during intermission, and I discovered I had a dead battery.  I walked to the concession stand to ask the proprietors if someone could give me a jump, and the request was barely out of my mouth before a young man with jumper cables was sent out to my car with me.  I'm guessing dead car batteries must still be a pretty common occurrence at the drive-in.

Marquee at The Family Drive-In in Stephens City VA
The Family Drive-In's roadside marquee

      Of course the main event was the movies themselves, and it was really a treat to see both Halloween and Night Of The Living Dead at a drive-in for the first time.  Being digital, both movies looked great.  Halloween was particularly strong.  Unfortunately, though, Night Of The Living Dead was screened in the wrong aspect ratio.  The 1.37:1 ratio had obviously been stretched to fill the screen, rendering everyone short and fat.  Oh well.  I'm pretty sure I was probably one of the only people in attendance who noticed or cared, and it really didn't detract from the overall experience much.  I was still seeing the quintessential zombie movie projected onto a massive screen under the stars for the first time, which was easily the highlight of the Pre'Ween season for me.

Movies At Dog Farm Pre'Ween 2014 logo


  1. What an excellent way to cap a Pre 'Ween season! I hope that the weather was good and frosty so that the goose bumps from the two great movies had company from some temperature chills.

    Sadly, South Florida has only one Drive-in theater. Although it has 18 screens, it is located in a Swap Shop in one of the least favorable neighborhoods. The Info Zombie will be avoiding that experience.

    Last night I got to enjoy Trick 'R Treat on Blu-Ray. The audio recording of the disc was terrible, but the look of the film had me smiling. I need a poster of Sam sitting on the log in the forest with the jack o' lantern torch burning away in the background. Somehow I will need to make a .GIF of that.

    Thanks again for organizing a Pre 'Ween 2014 that brought out the spooks and scares. I had a blast visiting all the sites and reading up on everyone's appreciation for horror.

    I wish you a spooky Halloween!

    1. Eighteen screens? The trip to the drive-in has definitely been the highlight of this season. The throat injury laid me low for a couple of days, but I'm getting back on track. I'll be trick-or-treating with Gunnar and Adrienne tomorrow. Gunnar is wearing a shark costume I got him, and we made him a "chum bucket" to collect treats.

      What's up with that audio track on Trick 'R Treat? I recall it having a pretty solid Dolby TrueHD track. I still haven't watched that yet this year, but I probably will after trick-or-treating tomorrow.

      Thanks for helping with Pre'Ween this year!


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