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It is Twenty Minutes Into the Future and Australia has stagnated to a state roughly akin to that in the first Mad Max movie, with dingy slums covered in graffiti and gangs of marauding "car boys" scraping by via stealing car parts. Crabs (Ned Manning) is a teenager who is an avid jogger. He convinces his older brother Frank to lend him his '56 Chevy for a date with his girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry). The two go to a Drive-In Theater where they're playing Brian Trenchard-Smith's own other movies, and start to make out... only for the car's wheels to get stolen. The theater's attendant refuses to do anything until morning, so the two are forced to stay at the drive-in overnight. Come said morning, Crabs finds the place alive and resembling a ghetto. He goes to the attendant, only to be informed that he, Carmen and 190 more of society's teen delinquents are to be imprisoned at the drive-in by the government until further notice. Whereas all the other kids, including Carmen herself, seem all too content to remain at the drive-in forever placated by the limitless supply of junk food and violent movies, Crabs ain't, and he starts scheming to escape...
Dead End Drive-In provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: The theater attendant.
- Bittersweet Ending: Crabs manages to escape the prison, but the outside world is still a hellhole, and possibly getting worse.
- The Apunkalypse: Starting to take hold, but the drive-in prison camps are intended to avert this.
- Bread and Circuses: Disillusioned, antisocial youth are kept off the streets and pacified with a daily regime of snack food and movies.
- Car Fu
- Crapsack World: A worldwide economic crisis has turned Australia into a fascist regime. The rest of the world is probably similar.
- Not to mention all the roving gangs looking to rob you. Police state or anarchy, take your pick.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The prisoners' arguments for opposing the arrival of new Asian prisoners can just as easily pass for any real world ultra-right wing anti-immigration speech.
- Drive-In Theater: Obviously.
- Dystopia: Even if most of the prisoners liked their Gilded Cage, it doesn't change the fact that the government is locking up teens and young adults without a trial, indefinitely.
- Eighties Hair
- Gilded Cage: Most of the prisoners prefer life at the drive-in, which provides food and entertainment, as opposed to life outside.
- Great Escape: Crabs repeatedly plans to escape the drive-in, and is frustrated that his fellow prisoners, including his girlfriend, have no interest in joining or helping him.
- Just Before the End: Australia is starting to become a Scavenger World with both tow truck drivers and gangs fighting over car parts, but the police and government still appear to function.
- POW Camp: The drive-in functions as an internment camp.
- Punch Clock Villain: Thompson the theater manager is just doing his job and doesn't seem to have any malice toward the prisoners.
- Scavenger World: The world has just started to become this.
- Spiritual Successor: To Turkey Shoot. Both are futuristic prison films from the same director.
- Those Wacky Nazis: The gang in the drive-in are Neo-Nazis and recruit other prisoners to join them.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The film takes place in 1991.