I’ve done this four times and every time I do there’s a moment on the way there where I think to myself “why do I do this? Why do I drive over 1,000 miles and spend money I don’t have to go from Nebraska to Pennsylvania just to watch “The Horror of Party Beach” for the fourth time?” Then I find myself in the Riverside Drive In, spinning around like Julie Andrews in The Sounds of Music and I remember, oh yeah. THAT’S why I come here.
Because it’s worth it.
I am a fan of monster movies. I am friends with people who meet me at special monster movie events. And there is no better place that I’ve found in the entire country than to watch a monster movie at the Riverside Drive In in Vandergrift Pennsylvania.
Twice a year the Riverside Drive In (which is actually very near the banks of a river, believe it or not) hosts all night monster movie festivals. The one in the spring, known as April Ghoul’s Day, I’ve been to once as they tend to show 70s and 80s exploitation and horror movies and it gets cold as balls once the sun goes down. For scheduling and not freezing to death reasons I prefer Monsterama in September, where the flicks are in black and white, the temperature only dips into the 40s and my friends from across the country gather.
I’m not going to go over the movies one by one (someone remake The Tingler, skip Atomic Age Vampire) but I will throw a few random things I love about Monsterama at you:
-The snack bar decorates for the occasion complete with Frankenstein’s monster, spider webs and more
-The food is kitchen quality and the staff works their butts off
-The occasional horror “celebrity” like Tom Savini and Doug Bradley show up. No one this trip, but still cool
-They play amazing vintage “come to the snack bar” interludes between movies
-They start with the national anthem that includes an animation of the space program as part of what makes America exceptional
-When the fog rolls in early in the morning the image “ghosts” and you can see it on the fog. It’s hard to explain but absolutely mesmerizing to look at
-Some of my friends make the most amazing, out of left field comments. It’s a classic “you had to be there” thing but it’s part of makes my life worth living.
-The drive in is situated in this incredible natural bowl. To sneak in you’d need repelling equipment and the consequence of the layout is the audio echoes in a truly spooky, awesome way.
-They sell Coke made with sugar in glass bottles out of a vending machine. You actually have to pop the top on the machine or go thirsty.
-Monster movie fans are a uniqe breed. The stereotype is they are deeply introverted, always-on-the-internet sorts who might lack social graces. I’ve met people like that. I’ve also met serious professionals, extremely generous folks and wonderful salt of the earth types who have nothing in common but the love of rubber monsters and bad dubbing. These are my people and I love them.
Yeah, it’s a long trip. Yeah, it’s a lot of gas and I don’t take care of myself very well over the 4 days I go and it’s rough on my family and I don’t get any writing done. But it’s a great trip and if you’re anywhere near the Riverside Drive In, it’s well worth your business.