Bad Movie Night in the Mission showcases examples of terrible filmmaking

Bad Movie Night SF
Spectators watch at the "Green Lantern" at Bad Movie Night's weekly presentation at the Dark Room Theater in the Mission District, Sunday, Feb. 19. Photo by Mihail Matikov.

Predictable plots, lousy special effects and obvious overacting are just three of many elements that make for a waste of money at the movie theaters. But at The Dark Room, they are all welcomed with cynical and open arms for Bad Movie Night.

During the week the small venue on Mission Street hosts a variety of shows, but has been a temple of terrible filmmaking Sunday evenings since March 2005.

“That’s what we used to do, sit around and make fun of movies, and we thought it would be fun to turn it into a party and invite an audience to do it too,” said Jim Fourniadis, co-founder of The Dark Room.

The event is modeled after the cult television show “Mystery Science Theater 3000” in which three hosts with microphones sit at the front of the room where they heckle and mock the movie along with the audience. Ira Emsig has been a part of that audience almost every Sunday for the past three years.

“One of the reasons I’m into this so much is I used to watch ‘Mystery Scicene Theater 3000.’ I still have video tapes from taping it off cable,” Emsig said. “That’s where this comes from, that snarky love to make fun of stuff.”

A decade after getting her degree in film from SF State, Sherilyn Connelly, a self-declared film lover, took over as curator for Bad Movie Night. Her job is to gather the bad movies, arrange them into categories and plan when they will show.

“The movies that are the most fun for us are the ones that are goofy and take themselves seriously at the same time,” Connelly said.

Bad Movie Night usually draws in a crowd of about 10 to 20 people, but some movies sell out all 49 of the venue’s seats. “Red Dawn” and “Snakes on a Plane” both packed the theater, and in March 2009 the 1980 musical “Xanadu” brought in a full house, much to the surprise of Connelly.

Each month has a new theme or genre of films. Upcoming this year are films starring Steven Seagal in March, “The Fast and the Furious” series in July and vampire movies in October.

“If you are coming looking for the well-choreographed or generally socially acceptable comedy, we are not it,” said comedian Mikl Em, who hosts Bad Movie Night on a regular basis. “We’re rag-tag and totally unpretentious.”

When Em is hosting, he’s improvising and usually hasn’t seen the movie before. He enjoys interacting with the other hosts and the audience as they yell out their own crude comments.

For Em nothing is taboo, saying that Whiney Houston references were the go-to joke nearly right after her death. According to Em, celebrity misfortunes always make for great commentary at Bad Movie Night.

“We have very black humor at times,” Em said. “God bless Gary Busey; he’s a wreck of a man and it makes for interesting mockery. Ultimately, we are all sort of raging at Hollywood and how ridiculous and overblown it can be.”

Bad Movie night takes place every Sunday night at 8 p.m. in The Dark Room, located at 2263 Mission St. with tickets costing $7. This week will wrap up the super hero-themed month with “X-Men: First Class,” and a compilation of humorous spoofs and commentary clips about the movie compiled by Connelly plays 30 minutes before showtime.