This Saturday, the Women in Crisis Film Series is back for its fifth edition, celebrating bad movies with a screening of Devil in the Flesh starring Rose McGowan. The event has a gay, Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of conceit, where a panel makes fun of what happens onscreen in made-for-TV movies. As the series has progressed, the audience has gotten increasingly into the action as well, making snarky comments of their own.
"We definitely have a core audience at this point," says David Hanbury, creator of the series. "People just keep coming back." For a while the event was happening at Bryant-Lake Bowl every other month, or every three months, but they are doing a once-a-month stint this summer through September.
For their last screening, WICFS presented a Delta Burke movie called Maternal Instinct, which Hanbury says was a peak moment for the series. "It was so great. I just remember at one point looking at one of the panelists and saying, 'This audience is completely out of control. They have taken over,'" he says.
"It's really about handing the movie over to the audience. We are trying to goad them on. We're rooting for them to take over," he says. "What had happened was that we had a critical mass of people, who had come to the series enough, intersecting with this movie that was incredibly bad. Delta Burke murdering all these people -- it was just crazy, campy, and over-the-top."
The film showing this week is called Devil in the Flesh, and stars Rose McGowan as a teenage girl named Debbie Strand. After Debbie's mother and her mother's boyfriend die in a house fire, she goes to live with her fundamentalist Christian grandmother, who subsequently beats her with a cane as Three Stooges-like sound effects support the action. "It's a low-rent Sybil or Carrie," Hanbury says. Of course, Debbie's patience for this abuse doesn't last long, and the bodies start piling up. "That's when you know you're in for a good time, when the bodies start piling up," he says.
Finding the perfect bad movie can be a little tricky. "It can't just be bad," Hanbury says. "A lot of Lifetime TV movies are bland. We find that doesn't work so well. People have to be divas, somebody has to have a personality disorder, there's got to be bad fashion, and ridiculous lighting effects." There also needs to be someone to cheer for, so audiences can root for the main actress to "kill the people she needs to kill, or tell off the people she needs to tell off," he says.
While Hanbury is a well-known Twin Cities performer, famed for his Mrs. Smith act, the other two panelists aren't performers at all. Cody Kiser is a visual artist who says he's sort of "a savant for being rude." Kiser tries to imagine he's in a smaller place where he can have a no-holds-barred attitude, telling "the cruel jokes you only do with your closest friends," he says.
Kiser's take on being a panelist is to have a little empathy for both the character and the actor playing them. "In a tribal gay way, it's also just this weird catty view that some of us have. I don't know if it's a sixth sense, but it's like the cruel thing I would say about someone at a party. It's almost too natural," he says.
Kiser says that the series works best when people get a joke and it just carries on. During the Meredith Baxter movie A Woman Scorned, he made a joke that one of the characters looked like Chaka from Land of the Lost. "By the end of it, people were making their own Chaka lines. We empower people to just be catty," he says. "It's a sweat lodge for the gay agenda."
Paul Mau, the third panelist, grew up watching Dallas and Knot's Landing, and is "obsessed with over-the-top characters," he says. Like Kiser, he is not a performer, but he likes staying at home and watching Lifetime movies.
Mau finds some movies from watching reruns on Lifetime and searching Amazon. There's also a kid in Canada who sells converted VHS to DVD. "There's this whole underground thing with Lifetime movies," he says.
Like other WICFS screenings, Devil in the Flesh
will be screened in two acts, with goofy vintage commercials shown in between (a highlight so far has been this fantastically un-PC Barbara Streisand PSA
). Sometimes there's also prompts for the audience instructing the them to do certain thing, like shouting "Forest Green" every time Forest Green was shown in Mother May I Sleep With Danger
. However, they relied on prompts more when the series was just beginning. Recently they haven't needed them as much since the audience jumps in right from the beginning.
Before the show, there's a trivia game, where trashy prizes from the dollar store will be given out. That gives you something to do if you get there early, which you'll need to do as these events tend to sell out.