No rules apply in the Twin Cities Psychotronic Film Society

“Welcome to my world. Wheelbarrows of chicken, broken projectors.” So begins our introduction to the Twin Cities chapter of the Psychotronic Film Society.

Manager and projectionist Earl Luckes views out a screening window to make sure the movie is playing correctly for the audience at the Parkway Theater on Friday, Nov. 10.

Image by Easton Green

Manager and projectionist Earl Luckes views out a screening window to make sure the movie is playing correctly for the audience at the Parkway Theater on Friday, Nov. 10.

by Haley Bennett

Grindhouse, trash sci-fi and kung fu films, experimental 3-D — these are the territory of bizarro cinema. The Twin Cities Psychotronic Film Society, which has been operating since March, screens one-off hits like “RoboCop.” They also host mystery screenings and series like “Analog Assault” (screenings on VHS) and “Girl Gang Night.”

TCPFS will be hosting a 12-hour “Masochist Movie Marathon,” a benefit for Scares That Care, that will take place at the Parkway Theater on Chicago Avenue Saturday at 2 p.m. The group will serve 200 pounds of free fried chicken. There will also be a Thanksgiving feature of “Cannibal Holocaust” (complete with homemade beef jerky).

The TCPFS often holds mystery screenings, and this event is no exception. 

“One of the things we’re going to show at the Movie Masochist Marathon is like a gay version of ‘The Room’ — as ridiculous, but more charming,” said Dan McNellie, TCPFS’ head programmer.

TCPFS typically holds screenings at the Parkway Theater, but it’s been up for sale for about as long as they’ve been in business. When it’s finally bought, TCPFS doesn’t know whether they’ll still be able to show psychotronic cinema, but they aren’t too concerned about finding a new home just yet. 

“We’ll find a place. Parking lot, bathroom. Something. I’m not worried about it,” said McNellie. “Everything we do is DIY and totally out-of-pocket. We hope to make the money back, and everything we make goes to the next one.”

They show movies like “The Dragon Lives Again,” where Bruce Lee enters the underworld, befriends Popeye and battles Dracula. How did that even happen?

“It was China. Seventies. Awesome,” McNellie said.

Where does one find such bizarre cinema, anyway?

“I’ve always been attracted to the oddball films because they have a more interesting story than your standard movie,” McNellie said. “My parents would give me 10 bucks and say, ‘Go to the movies all day.’ So I would strategically plan with the newspaper to see everything that was playing … all the garbage I saw was from then. That’s how I thought movies were — the really shitty ones. It’s more fun when there’s something a little off.”

So trash film consists of movies that make no sense. But that’s the whole appeal.

“That’s my favorite part about trash films — since you have such a low budget, and you don’t have a studio over your back, there’s more flexibility with what you can do,” said Maddie Austin, the group’s graphic designer and the host of Girl Gang Night. “Like, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ was made for nothing. It was shot on a farm in the middle of nowhere. So was the original ‘Friday the 13th.’”

Alongside Austin and McNellie, the heads of the group are Andrew Lahlum, Earl Luckes, the group’s projectionist who also runs Kung Fu Night, and Erling Stoehr, video editor and a Psychotronic co-founder.

The group operates like the movies they show — on a DIY, haphazard basis. “Everything here is totally Frankensteined … it adds to the charm,” McNellie said.

These movies require a sense of cinematic bravery, but the whole point of seeing trash film is to try something unusual.

“Even if you’re not super interested in cult films, if you have any interest in movies at all, why not check it out? It’s probably not gonna be back here,” McNellie said. “We’re making shit up as we go. No rules. Just have fun with it. We’ll show whatever we want, for better or worse, I guess.”

The Masochist Movie Marathon will include a sliding scale entry, collectors’ prize giveaways, free food from Raising Cane’s — all to raise money for Scares That Care, an organization that aids children with illnesses, burn victims and those with breast cancer. Why not check it out?