Ozploitation “Dead End Drive In” Is A Comically Grotesque Vision Of 1980s Social Anxieties

Laura Shearer checks out Arrow Films’ new Blu-ray featuring Ozploitation flick Dead End Drive In. This 1986 film is fun as well as thought-provoking, detailing a nightmarish vision of contemporary social anxieties.

dead-end-drive-in_arrow-video_cover-art_top10filmsThe comfort of the 1980s drive-in movie theatre is turned on its head in this apocalyptic Australian nightmare. Two typical teenage love birds become trapped in a drive-in with seemingly no way out. In a sort of Mad Max homage, the social outcasts who inhabit this alternate reality wasteland are a comically grotesque vision of 1980s social anxieties. Indeed, in the opening sequence, radically caricatured thugs offer a quick comparison to Mad Max. These punks-on-acid with their over-the-top vehicles form a small troupe of vagabonds aiming to reek havoc in what appears a quiet town.

The majority of the feature embraces the visual aesthetics of filming during night hours. Empty open highways and industrial landscapes set the scene for a political commentary on economy and the future of the 1980s. Bomber jackets and jeans contrast our protagonists with police uniforms and the rock ‘n roll tribal dress code of the bizarre crowds that merrily destroy cars and all that comes into their path.


Entertainment factor wise, the style of the film is not the jarring cheesy low brow stereotypical smorgasbord that I’d expected. Instead it’s got a lot of similarities to The Lost Boys and that likable 1980s film kitsch. It’s a horror movie but only just. Not a horror feature where there’s demons or something terribly sinister keeping our young couple trapped, but simply a set of stolen tyres. A social wasteland where the government is ultimately blamed for keeping people stuck somewhere they don’t desire to be. A concentration camp situation arises for the movie theatre’s trapped inhabitants,
emphasised for those with a keen eye for detail by a Nazi badge seen on a blazer.

A fantastically tacky car chase and escape sequence near the end of the film summarises perfectly both the open political commentary and the budget of the film. A stolen tow truck ramming it’s way through parked cars, police van hot on it’s heels, fires blazing and mass crowd panic. Basically the government can’t keep the people disillusioned forever with the glittering lights of the metaphorical drive-in.

Slam on top of this some discordant electronic music and eerie lyrics like “D-D-D-Dead-in-drive-in”, and you’ve got yourself a film akin to the tat of Road House. A brilliant example of the 1970s and 1980s Ozploitation genre. It’s fast, loud, and unexpectedly witty enough to be a serious film for studies in Australia’s archaic status as an island where social deviants are sent to live out their days. On the surface a popcorn flick, on closer inspection a thought provoking piece of Australian cinema.

dead end drive in, four stars

Written by Laura Shearer

Top 10 Films reviewed Dead End Drive In on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Films which released the film on Blu-ray September 19, 2016. This excellent release features an audio commentary by director Brian Trenchard-Smith and an excellent documentary by the director called The Stuntment about prominent Australian stunt performers. There’s also a fully-illustrated collector’s booklet containing writing on the film by Cullen Gallagher and Neil Mitchell

dead-end-drive-in_arrow-video_cover-art_top10filmsDirected by: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Written by: Peter Smalley
Starring: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford, Wilbur Wilde, David Gibson
Released: 1986 / Genre: Action-Horror / Country: Australia / IMDB / More reviews: Latest | Archive
About the Author
Film enthusiast and lover of all things cinema, Laura holds a BA/MA in film studies theory and lectures/tutors film students.

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