Illustration by Dustin Goebel

It Came From Clintonville

Scott Hammond grew up in the glow of the VHS era, creeping downstairs after everyone else was asleep to stay Up All Night with Rhonda Shear.

The new world of cheaply made, weirdo, sleazy, gratuitous, bloody, hilarious movies had a formative effect on his tender adolescent brain. Alone in his sleeping bag, cradling his two liter in front of the TV, Hammond felt like he was privy to an exclusive cool club that no one else knew about.

A little over a decade ago, Hammond was a little older, and a little wiser, but his love for all things camp had not dimmed over the years. In an effort to gather his friends for some laughs, he organized Bad Movie Nite! As an aperitif to the main event, he would show collections of clips, or a ridiculously tone-deaf social hygiene film. Soon his house was bursting at the seams with people. The scene was out growing the venue.

In Spring of 2011, Hammond called up Eric Brembeck, the owner of Studio 35 in Clintonville. Hammond wanted to join the tradition of late night kook, and what better place to start than the cultural hub of the neighborhood? Seven years later, and Bad Movie Nite! is still going strong. It has moved from monthly to every other month, and some of the faces have changed, but the heart remains as low-budget as ever. (Still, the effort put into BDM!—each episode has 200-300 edits and takes about a month to put together—is impressive). Hammond took a moment away from his monsters, lasers, and two-liters to give (614) a little history lesson about BMN!

How bad does something have to be before it’s good?

Why do I eat so much ice cream? Why do I think my hair looks good this way? What makes something good or bad is subjective. When I say Bad Movie Nite! I do mean this is, let’s say not Academy material, but also bad, as in your parents wouldn’t want you watching this unsavory material. Like Bad Movie Nite! is baaaaaad in a hair-slicked-back-skip-class-to-go-smoke-under-the-bleachers kinda way.

How do you coax people into watching bad movies?

Candy. Beer. Free hugs. I’m like a carnival barker and I will straight up lie to you to fill a seat. People who look for alternative programming. Something different and fun. Folks who are into bad movies already. BMN! has strong word of mouth. I’ve heard praise like “that was amazing and I’ve never seen anything like that before” to “you are a depraved individual and my mother warned me about people like you.” We give out BMN-themed buttons when we have a new episode. People collect them and I think some people might actually come just for the buttons. One woman had 20 pounds of BMN! buttons on her denim jacket, which was flattering.

What defines a “good” movie and a “bad” movie?

A good movie is one that meets some or surpasses all its goals. A bad movie is one that fails to meet its objectives. A good bad movie is one that fails disastrously. If you’re watching a werewolf movie that’s supposed to be scary, but you can clearly see a zipper in the werewolf’s fur and its victim is screaming, but also kinda laughing, that’s funny, and also something you don’t see everyday. These movies are often so bizarre, watching them is an experience you just don’t get with other movies.

What is your favorite bad movie?

My favorite bad movie is a teenage sci-fi sex comedy called Dr. Alien. It’s about a dweeby teenager, Wesley Littlejohn (the ’80s amiright?) who is turned into a hunk overnight by his college or it might be high school (the movie is a little confused by this) science professor, who is secretly an alien looking for a mate to help her repopulate her home planet. It’s a cheap and goofy movie with a surprising amount of heart and hits a lot of points on my b-movie wishlist (aliens, lasers, corny jokes, horny teens, car chases, killer music).

Why should we watch these movies if they are so bad?

It’s fun to watch something weird and unexpected, especially with a large group of people have sharing that same experience. These movies are bad, but they’re also kinda earnest too. You have to respect a group of people who really don’t have the money or talent to make a movie, but pull it off anyway and here we are years later enjoying them.

What was your favorite movie as a kid?

Better Off Dead. It has a lot of sensibilities of a B-movie. It’s about a guy who gets dumped and decides to become an ace skier to win back the girl. It takes place in real life but not quite our reality. There’s a bunch of weirdo characters. There’s a dancing hamburger. It’s amazing. It has an off-kilter sense of humor that I think played a major impact on me. My mother rented it from the Video Barn when I was little. She never (and has yet to) returned it so I watched it again, and again, and again.

How do you discover new movies?

A lot of these movies star the same actors (Gerrit Graham, Linnea Quigley, Richard Moll) and are directed by the same people (Jim Wynorski) so often one movie leads you to another. Sometimes a movie will clumsily use footage from another to save money, which leads you to track that one down… Legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman was notorious for this. He made Battle Beyond the Stars to cash in on the success of Star Wars. Special effects scenes from Battle showed up in dozens of his productions for the next 15 years. It’s fun to spot them when they pop up.

Who likes to come to bad movies?

Degenerates. Winos. People that were AV Club geeks in high school. Interesting people that are easily bored by standard Hollywood fare. Folk who are looking for a place to make out for two hours. Cool kids. Actually one of my favorite parts about BMN! is all the awesome, interesting, and super talented people I’ve met through it. Audience participation (yelling out comments during the show) is highly encouraged and it’s really fun to watch people make the show their own.

Bad Movie Night! will hold its eighth anniversary 8.17 (11:30 p.m.) at Studio 35. For more, visit  facebook.com/badmovienite.

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