Downtown Abbey: Bad Movie Nite VHS Party at Studio 35
If VHS tapes are a dead format in the tech world, consider Studio 35 their pet cemetery. The cheap, cheesy and hilarious B-movies that never warranted a DVD release are resurrected each month at the Clintonville theater’s “Bad Movie Nite: VHS Party!” Peppered with meme-worthy cutaways, awkward PSAs and commentary from the late-night audience, Studio 35 takes the concept of “it’s so bad it’s good” to new levels.
Around 10:45 p.m., the theater’s bar was filling up. Clusters of movie-goers were sipping beers, trying to guess what the mystery bad movie would be based on the event page’s clue, “the hunted becomes the hunter.”
Everyone made their way into the singular theater room by 11:30 p.m. The blue “VHS” screen was met with cheers as soon as the lights dimmed. A woman trying to find her friends in the darkness yelled “Marco!” to which the entire room responded “Polo.” If she didn’t know what to expect when she arrived, she quickly got an idea. For anyone else still wondering what they were in for, a series of B-movie clips, weird commercials and awkward PSAs set the tone.
Classic commercials for Tide, Total Cereal and Prell Shampoo conjured laughs, while an unintentionally innuendo-laden PSA called “Strong Kids Against Crime” and an educational video about the mating rituals of hamsters was met with raucous cheers. In one clip, a teacher pointed at a list of street names for reproductive organs, prompting the audience to shout “tool” and “peter” in unison.
When “Deadly Prey” flashed across the screen, a few of the guys who had been speculating about the feature high-fived one another for guessing correctly.
The movie centered on a rogue soldier (or something) with a dirty-blonde mullet and cut-off shorts out-witting and out-fighting a group of highly trained mercenaries — not that the plot mattered. “Hit him with another rock!” one audience member shouted. “What happened to his shirt?” another quipped.
Whenever a character addressed “Captain Hogan,” the leader of the mercenaries, the movie would cut to Hulk-a-mania-era Hulk Hogan shredding a guitar — followed directly by an explosion. Because, why not?
I’ve never lived inside an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” but I have to imagine it’d be something like what I experienced at Studio 35. If you don’t get why Bad Movie Nite is an amazing way to blow $5, it’s time to adjust your tracking.
Downtown Abbey is a nightlife column that covers everything from drag shows to magic shows, the club scene to fetish parties. It runs every other week.