Cause Some Midnight Mayhem

Nostalgic for the days of yore (a.k.a. pre-streaming services)? MSP Film Society’s got you covered. Its new monthly film series, Midnight Mayhem, brings back the charm of nights at the drive-in or staying up late watching the best that cable had to offer.

The first Saturday of every month, head to the Main to catch a double feature from the series its creators describe as “equal parts retro movie time capsule and modern celluloid celebration.”

Chaz Kangas, on-air personality for The Current and co-curator/host of the series, told us about how Midnight Mayhem came to be.

Why on Earth would you want to stay up that late to host movies?

Who doesn’t love staying up late? There’s something freeing about having fun after dark. Late enough where there’s no professional obligations, no chance of getting an unwanted phone call or text, a space wide open for a unique personal experience. Midnight movies have always had that vibe of feeling like you’re getting away with something. From the drive-ins of the ’60s and ’70s through the late night cable airings of the ’80s and ’90s, there’re some films that may not really fit the screening schedules during the day but seeing them when everyone else has gone to bed, really is like being a part of a secret club. Whether you love the movie or hate it, you’ve experienced it. 

Hosting movies like these allows me to—in addition to putting this BA in Cinema Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to good use—ensure the audience is seeing them under the best conditions and context possible. There’s the fun of curating and giving things likes She-Freak a chance to be on a Minneapolis screen for the first time since its world premiere here in 1967, and setting the stage for maximum enjoyment of Freaks but acknowledging its place in 1932 both after a decade of body horror in the silent era as well as as a thoughtful response to the eugenics movement. It’s the chef in me finding just the right seasoning to add to the steak and giving it one or two more ways it can sizzle.  

Is this series a direct result of the new THC laws?

Ha, funny enough the first email I sent to the MSP Film Society to get the ball rolling on bringing midnight movies back predated the new THC laws by a few months, so I think there’s a greater likelihood the THC laws are in response to the series. (Kidding of course, just some *high*-brow humor)

Seriously though, I think there’s something to be said for the timing of the legalization and these movies having a joint appreciation (pun somewhat intended). There was a time when the content of these movies, and even some of the movies themselves, would have been outright banned and illegal to run on a theater screen. We may look back at how silly those laws of 1961 were in the same way people decades from now will recall comparable laws of 2021. 

Additionally, I think there’s something to be said for the timing as a fun escape from the recent collective trauma we’ve all gone through. I personally recall in the autumn and winter of 2001/2002 after the September 11th attacks where there was a hesitancy for concerts, that’s when midnight movies in the Twin Cities really started having a resurgence. It could be that timing was coincidental, or it could be that this was a specific timed reason for so many of us to come together as a community and watch so out-there beyond our world and/or a snapshot of a long by-gone era that there was a comfort in it. Two decades later as we’re all still adjusting to live almost three years into the pandemic, it feels like midnight movies could really provide a similar comfort.

Once a month seems like a smart move so the fanbase can develop, how intentional was that, and what’s the approach to programming the whole evening with the mix of trailers and movies and more? 

Thanks, and yes that was very intentional. It allows us to really curate the events to make each one special. Having two Christmas classics in Black Christmas and Dial Code: Santa Claus (the French film that Home Alone allegedly borrowed significant cues from) and being able to run them with Holiday themed drive-in interstitials and announcements and trailers is great for a fun night as well as a level of cinema preservation, allowing not just the clips themselves to be preserved but the experience of seeing them as well. We just secured Andy Warhol’s Blood For Dracula and Flesh For Frankenstein for January, the latter of which is in the old school red-and-blue 3D, so Minnesotans can kick off their 2023-D in style!

Right now the approach  to curating the trailers specifically is to provide both a familiarity to the midnight movie loyalists, as well as give anyone who is having their first midnight movie experience a little taste of the medium’s range. For our first show, trailers included the blaxploitation classic Dolemite, the grindhouse horror The Undertaker and His Pals and the silly family western about cowboys on camels named Hawmps. Being able to throw those between selections from the long-dead genre of ‘No Smoking in the Theater’ PSAs and vintage ‘selections of our refreshments’ helps set the tone of letting the viewer know they’re in for a new ride at a familiar carnival. It may be an older model, but you’re still going to want to strap in.

The Main Cinema, 115 SE Main St, Mpls
Nov. 5 – Pink Flamingos / Polyester (in Odarama)
Dec. 3 – Black Christmas / Dial Code Santa Claus
Jan. 7 – Andy Warhol’s Blood For Dracula / Andy Warhol’s Flesh For Frankenstein (in 3D)

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