Late Night Drive-In: Nightmare on Sunset Strip

Late Night Drive-In Review
Sunset Strips presents Late Night Drive-In
With many haunted houses closed, Halloween Cinema may be your best bet to enjoy seasonal scares this year. How does Late Night Drive-In stack up? Read on to find out...if you dare!

Last night, the Andaz Hotel launched a series of Halloween horror screenings atop the hotel's parking lot off the Sunset Strip. The Late Night Drive-In, which has been operating since August, switched to the seasonal spirit with A Nightmare on Elm Street, the 1984 cult classic from writer-director Wes Craven, which introduced the world to nightmare-man Freddy Kruger (here billed as "Fred" Kruger).

The pop-up nature of the event militated against a perfect cinematic presentation, but the real appeal was the location - the chance to revisit a favorite fear flick in a classy setting with upscale food and beverage options. In fact, the juxtaposition of the grim and gritty horror onscreen with the lavish nature of the hotel and the surrounding area was as surreal as any dream scene contained within the film.

Late Night Drive-In literally projects the movie on the side of the Andaz Hotel, which has a convenient white strip to serve as a screen. Unfortunately, the alignment is vertical, limiting the width of the image, which looked slightly squeezed as if to fit it on the available space (like a 16X9 movie seen on an old 4X3 television screen). On the plus side, the image was clear and colorful during daylight scenes, and even the numerous nighttime sequences were sharp and easy to see.

Sound (through the car's FM stereo) was good, but we had problems with interference as people walked back and forth to the food area. The problem seemed limited to us: when we rolled down our windows, we could hear the soundtrack coming through clearly from nearby cars. The audio maintained the dynamics of a good theatrical screening, from the quieter dialogue to the pulse-pounding music score and frantic screams.

Late Night Drive-In Review: Perks

There are three major perks to the Late Night Drive-In.

The first is the Andaz hotel itself, which is accessible from a stairway in one corner of the parking lot, for the benefit of those who need to use a restroom. But even if you don't, this is a nice opportunity to take a brief self-guided tour of the interior, which is truly worth a look.

The second perk is the food area - which is definitely not snack bar, even though cookies, chips, candy, popcorn, and ice cream sandwiches are available. The selling point here is the more sophisticated food and beverage options provided by the hotel's kitchen, including Lebanese Hummus with Pita, Skirt Steak Tacos, Chicken Club Sandwiches, Ceasar Salads, and Vegan Sliders.

Prices are...well, pricey, especially if you reach for any of the beverages on the menu, such as the Prisoner Red Blend, which runs $162 plus tax (!). Water, beer, wines are available for more affordable prices, along with cocktails. Unfortunately, the latter offer only two options: an Old Fashioned or a Jalapeno Pineapple Margarita. What - no Martini? Not even a Gimlet? Oh well...

The third perk is the Sunset Strip, which was not gridlocked as one would expect on a Friday Night and yet still was busier than one would expect during a pandemic. Many venues are open, at least for outdoor dining, including the Comedy Story right next to the Andaz, so it is possible to expand the evening's entertainment beyond the drive-in experience.

Late Night Drive-In Perks: Conclusion
Late Night Drive-In Review
Cheeseball film screening before the main feature

The Late Night Drive-In is not about immersing yourself in a movie you have never seen before. However, it is a great way to revisit a favorite film with friends in the strange limbo provided by a drive-in experience, which places you among strangers but still keeps you isolated within your vehicle. It's perfect for ongoing conversation about the film - comparing it to its remake, noting behind-the-scenes trivia, and warning friends to anticipate the next shocker about to explode onscreen.

In a weird way, the slightly dodgy viewing experience is almost a plus in a retro sense, recreating the feel of an old-fashioned drive-in where an exploitation horror film like A Nightmare On Elm Street might have played during its original theatrical release. The subtler moments get lost in the shuffle, focusing attention on the shocks which are the genre's strength.

This works well for the horror genre, which relies on outrageous set-pieces for its impact. Even if you lose the plot because you are not following the dialogue, the impact of something like the blood-gushing death of Glen (played by a young Johnny Depp in his film debut) loses none of its spectacular impact. And of course, any excuse is a good one to see A Nightmare Before Elm Street projected on a large screen before an appreciative audience, serving as a reminder that Fred/Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund, milking the role for all it was worth from beneath the latex makeup) began his cinematic life as a darkly disturbing dream demon who barely uttered the sort of wisecracks that came to define the character in his later, campier appearances.

One small warning: Late Night Drive-In charges a flat rate of $56.25 per car, which is not too expensive when divided among a driver and several passengers. However, the height of the screen can make it difficult for those in the back seat to get a good view of the film, unless they roll down a window and look out the side. So make sure to bring Covid-safe face masks in case you decide not to remain isolated in airconditioned comfort with all your windows rolled up.

Late Night Drive-In Ratings
  • Late Night Drive-In Perks
  • Late Night Drive-In Film Presentation
3.5

Bottom Line

An enjoyably surreal opportunity to revisit cult classics, mixing the low-brow drive-in experience of yesteryear with the sophisticated perks of a luxury hotel.

Late Night Drive-In continues its horror screenings throughout October. Titles include: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Halloween (1978), Suspiria (1977), An American Werewolf in London (1982), and on Halloween Night a double bill of Young Frankenstein (1974) & Braindead (a.k.a. Dead Alive, 1992). Find dates and times here.

Screenings take place on the upper level of the parking lot behind the Andaz Hotel at 8401 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.  The Late Night Drive-In’s website is here.

Note: Our assessment of the “Late Night Drive-In Film Presentation” is colored by the static interference that marred the soundtrack for us; other viewers may not have suffered this problem.

Find more Halloween Cinema.

Late Night Drive-In Review: Photographs

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.

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