Nicky Loomis is a new contributor to the Hero Complex, and her first piece is a mighty fun one.
It was three years ago that a group of friends gathered in a living room in Los Feliz and endured “Riding the Bus With My Sister,” a gem of 2005 made-for-TV terribleness starring O’Donnell in a role of a developmentally disabled woman – yes, that’s right, she broke the “Tropic Thunder” rule.
After hearing local radio DJs making fun of bits of the movie that were “unintentionally funny,” John Mathot, a storyboard artist for “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” and his wife, Susan, a schoolteacher, decided it just might be the perfect terrible movie to screen for their friends.
“We decided we’ll have absinthe and then watch the movie,” John Mathot said. Even in the wormwood haze, “what really shined through was how bad the movie was – it just really invited commentary. We realized we should do this all the time.”
The couple decided to open up their monthly night of belly laughs and mudslinging to the public at a small theater in Hollywood. Thus was born Horrible Movie Night, where VHS dominates, dialogue is despicable, and the crowd is encouraged to “yell out funny stuff” at the screen and “roast the rotten,” with a prize for best barb.
Imagine Joel Robinson and the ‘bots of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” come to life.
“It just automatically worked,” John said, remembering their first public screening of “The Executioner, Part II,” for which there is no Part 1. “People just jumped right in. Everyone’s on point; the energy level is high – they want to wait for that perfect moment when their comment will be heard.”
Many stop at “The Room” as the “Citizen Kane” of bad movies, but the Mathots are on a mission to unearth what they call “the worst movies you’ve never seen.”
“It really has to be kind of inept and honest,” John said. “Those make the best ones – the ones where they’re positive they’re making a great movie.”
Their selections over the years have included “Suburban Sasquatch,” a 2004 doozy about a Bigfoot who wreaks havoc on a suburban housing development; “Microwave Massacre,” a 1983 flick about a guy who kills his wife because she’s a bad cook; “Guns of El Chupacabra,” a 1997 epic that follows Jack B. Quick, a space sheriff, on his mission to chase down an interstellar creature let loose on earth; and 1989’s “Terror in Beverly Hills,” staring Frank Stallone as a retired Special Forces soldier called on to rescue the president’s daughter after she is kidnapped while shopping in Beverly Hills.
And yes, the search for the next Horrible Movie can be strenuous.
“We have so many ways of finding them,” John said. “Now that we have paying customers, we audition every movie – we’re looking for things just painfully, wonderfully awesome.”
The couple comb the IMDB bottom 100 list, bargain bins, a few YouTube channels and Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee video store in North Hollywood, where they always ask the clerk the last time a potential Horrible Movie has been checked out:
“It’s almost always at least 10 years ago,” Susan said.
This month’s bust-of-a-bust was “The Meateater,” a tasty 1979 horror flick starring Peter Spitzer as Mitford Webster, an apathetic shoe salesman who buys a dilapidated movie theater only to discover that, you guessed it, a man-eating slayer is lurking in the attic.
What makes “The Meateater” (also known as “Phantom of the Bijoux” and “Blood Theater”) extra worthy of Horrible Movie acclaim is the rumor that the director, Derek Savage, ran out of money halfway through filming and had the California pork board help finance the film with an uncanny amount of product placement.
Almost every scene includes a character eating a hot dog or a gratuitous amount of beef jerky – including the detective, who chomps away at a beef stick while examining a dead body. Not to mention Webster and his family belting, “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,” as they drive home from getting ice cream.
Throw in the aimlessly slow story and the ridiculous character names – Lieutenant Wombat, Detective Mulligan, Albert Knuckle Realty — and the Horrible Movie Night roasters had endless ammunition the whole way through. The top burns:
On the bad directing: “This looks really familiar right now. Oh yeah! It’s from every horror movie, ever.”
On the soundtrack: “So, we want it to sound just like the ‘Jaws’ music, only just like the ‘Jaws’ music.”
On the references to meat: “Snap into a Slim Jim!” (Yelled at least eight times.)
On the costumes: “Honey, I was thinking of turning the tablecloth into a shirt for you later.”
After the movie, a surprise guest took the stage — none other than Richard Nathan, the actor who played Raymond, the geeky projectionist who gets electrocuted by the Meateater at the beginning of the movie.
He had endured a few barbs earlier (“Nice polyester shirt, spasmodic!” And, “Smells like electrocuted burning nerd!”) but the part-time actor and entertainment lawyer gamely reminisced about his movie debut some 31 years earlier. “I didn’t think I would ever enjoy seeing this film,” he said, pleased with the crowd’s reaction. “I think this is the second time I’ve been able to sit through it.”
– Nicky Loomis
INFO: Tickets for Horrible Movie Night are $8. Complex Hollywood is at 6476 Santa Monica Blvd. The event is staged one Saturday a month, and the next one is the June 5 screening of “Alien vs. Hunter”
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