By Colleen Goodhue
Every Tuesday night for the past ten years, cinephiles have gathered for a movie night at the Main Street Museum, a weekly screening of films of a particular nature; movies that aren’t necessarily just “bad movies,” but are perhaps hidden gems or something that just missed the mark in an interesting way.
For the first seven years, the group—helmed by Chico Eastridge and Ben Peberdy—was first known as Knights of the Mystic Movie Night. In 2017, Matt Mazur and Ben’s brother Drew Peberdy took up the mantle as Revenge of Movie Night. In a celebration of satisfyingly strange cinema, this weekend will be the biggest Movie Night yet; the culmination of a decade of films with a surprise “celebrity guest.” (Hint: Mazur and Perbedy claimed to have snagged the guest whilst sneaking through the woods in camouflage and seeking its ‘distinctive, musky scent of celebrity.’)
“The Movie Night 10,000th Anniversary Extravaganza” is Saturday September 5 [rescheduled from the rainy August 29] at 7:00pm behind the Main Street Museum in White River Junction. The event will feature a “drive-in” style movie night complete with cartoons, a feature presentation, and the aforementioned guest. Attendees will be asked to socially distance and bring their own bowls for snacks and chairs for sitting. It is open to all and totally free, though donations to the museum are welcome.
We caught up with Matt and Drew in advance of the big night...
Colleen Goodhue: So I think people tend to describe Movie Night as “Bad Movie Night,” but I know that’s not necessarily the case. How would you describe the movies that you curate?
Drew Peberdy My brother Ben used to be the host of Movie Night with Chico Eastridge. Ben used the term “misfit movies,” which I thought was pretty apt. So these are not necessarily terrible movies. It's more that there’s a certain kind of Movie Night movie, which is difficult to describe. It is usually cheaply made... old, unusual, sort of weird, bizarre. Sometimes it's forgotten about. Sometimes it's unfairly hated, but there's actually something to it.
We watch a lot of cult movies, science fiction and horror movies and crime movies: the things that don't really fit into categories easily. That's what we strive for. The goal is that each week we show a movie that leaves people having a hard time describing what they just saw. The next day at work they’re like, “I saw this movie last night and it was…”
That's kind of what we shoot for. If a movie leaves people feeling depressed, we failed at our jobs. We failed even more if it's boring. Boring is the cardinal sin.
Matt Mazur: People will call it “bad movie night” without any prompting. I never call it “bad movie night.” It's movies you don't know yet that you want to watch. And you might not realize you wanted to watch them even after you've shown them. I mean, that happened to me with the original Movie Night. There were a couple that Ben and Chico showed that I just hated, but over the course of time, I realized how important that experience was. I was like, “Oh, yeah. I wouldn't trade having watched that movie with something else.” Except for maybe Home for the Holidays (1972).
Colleen: What’s Home for the Holidays? What kind of movie is a miss at Movie Night?
Drew: Everybody thought Home for the Holidays was going to be a slam dunk. It was a made for TV movie from the seventies.
Matt: Starring Sally Fields.
Drew: It was a horror movie set at Thanksgiving and I think everybody was just really excited for a Thanksgiving themed horror movie. There's a killer in a yellow rain slicker just killing off people one by one with a pitchfork. I think everybody really wanted it to be more of a Thanksgiving movie. Everybody wanted a scene where they were gathered together eating turkey, and then somebody gets killed with a drumstick.
And that never happened. It’s this unbelievably boring TV movie and nothing happens. I can't remember the secret. There's a reveal at the end. They pull up the hood and reveal “I'm the embittered second cousin twice removed and you didn't invite me to the family Thanksgiving. That's why I'm killing you all off.”
Occasionally, very occasionally, there's a misfire, a boring movie we show, and that's too bad. I think Home for the Holidays might be the most boring. What do you think?
Matt: Yeah. Yeah.
Drew: It's just there is no there is no kinetic energy anywhere in that movie.
Colleen: Now I want to watch it… So for you, what is the quintessential Movie Night movie? Something you saw that really turned you on to it, or something that’d be good for someone coming for the first time?
Matt: Zardoz (1974) is hard not to mention. I would say Brother From Another Planet (1984) really hits a lot of the things. It's very weird. It's totally under the radar. You could see why it's not popular, but there's just a lot there and a lot of heart. John Sayles specifically let it go into the public domain. There’s just something about that movie that makes it a good Movie Night movie.
Drew: I remember a couple early movies from when I first moved to White River Junction. There was Shock Treatment (1981), which was the sequel to Rocky Horror. It was just totally bizarre. There was a movie called Slime City (1988), which has an unforgettable final sequence where a man is possessed by Himalayan yogurt and it turns him evil and his girlfriend has to kill them. His skull opens up and his brain actually crawls on this linoleum floor. I think we watched that during the summertime and it was 90 degrees and we were all there in the Main Street Museum watching this movie. And that was something special.
Matt picked My Winnipeg (2007), which is a very, very, very strange movie, made by a Canadian filmmaker named Guy Madden. He was hired by the Canadian Government Arts Council to make a documentary about Winnipeg and what he delivered was a fake documentary about Winnipeg and it's this haunting black and white journey into Winnipeg. He hired an actor to play a fictionalized version of himself who’s unable to escape the confines of Winnipeg. And it's a totally bizarre movie. There's a scene where he talks about how there is one cold snap during the winter and all these horses got frozen as they're trying to cross the river and so there's all these dead horses frozen in ice. He talks about how it became a popular picnic and tourist destination and youngsters would go out and ice skate and have picnics around all these frozen dead horses at the middle of the river. Something like that for a crowd is very, very rewarding.
Colleen: Even in the pandemic, I know you are all still watching the movies remotely together with a text chat. Why is it so much more fun to watch these kinds of movies with other people?
Drew: I think it's an entirely different experience when you're watching a movie, particularly a strange movie, particularly a movie that is sort of delightful or shocking or weird, with a crowd of people. You're very present in the moment. You can see people's reaction as it's happening, get people rocking back and forth and shaking from laughing, or throwing things at the screen because they hate it so much. Or just silence from disgust, a hand over the mouth, because they're so distraught by what they're doing. That's kind of cool. That's something that can only happen when you're in a crowd of people and it just makes it more memorable if it's if it's a shared experience. It feels more like an event.
We all remember where we were when we went on that crazy expedition, when we all watched Chopping Mall (1986) together. Watching it solo you can go on to “streaming.com” and then an algorithm will recommend whatever movie you click on it and watch it. Maybe I'll have to watch it while I'm cooking dinner and then forget all about it.
Matt: Yeah, I mean, there seems like there are reasons why a lot of these movies failed. That's something that's really interesting to talk about. One of the things I love about Movie Night is having discussions after the fact. Sometimes it's asking “How the hell did this get made? What's the subtle element here that's causing this movie to fail?” It’s obvious why it wouldn't be a commercial success, but sometimes it's hard to parse out exactly why. It makes you think critically about film in a different way.
Drew: It is sometimes really interesting just to see a movie and a lot of these films were made 20, 30, 40, sometimes even 50 years ago. And a lot of them just have aspects that just totally wouldn't be commercial nowadays.
Seeing this movie and watching the chain of events that allowed this movie to exist is often pretty fascinating. Sometimes it's multiple systems failures that allowed this movie to come into being. And there's something kind of nice about it. It's a little miracle. It's a little miracle that this movie exists and got to that stage and there were craft services and people working to put together this movie. And that's always fun. That sort of astonishment that this movie is available to the viewing public.
Colleen: Thinking about how these movies get made… If you could travel through space and time, but only to a film set, where would you go?
Drew: I really, really like dirt cheap, like Poverty Row, science fiction thrillers from the late 50s and early 60s. They're always out of California and you can tell everybody is sweating bullets and they go to Bronson Canyon, just the one cave and they got a terrible monster suit that they're parading around, like Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957). They had one giant crab and it's got these big claws. And you can tell that they had maybe two weeks to shoot the whole thing. And the idea of being present for something that frantic is sort of appealing in a morbid way that would be sort of fun to check out, seeing actors who were on cowboy shows at the time playing the desperate scientists trying to stop all these giant spiders or giant crabs or whatever that would obviously want to be present for that. That would be fun.
Matt: That would be really good.
Drew: What would you do, Matt?
Matt: Well, what just popped in my head... Well, actually, yeah, there are two that I like, I think, both of them were shown on nights that I wasn't able to go and I’ve really only missed a handful of Movie Nights, but they're both movies I own and really like. So either Repo Man (1984). Or Hausu (1977).
Drew: Those are way better choices than what I picked.
Matt: Well, it took me the entire time you were speaking, I couldn't think of anything else. And it was like, you've got the right idea. But I would love to see what happened during the filming of Repo Man. That's just being present in a very specific era. I can't really imagine what it must have been like.
As we chat over videoconference, Matt leaves to receive a package at the front door. He returns with a brown paper bag and pulls out fistfuls of DVDs in clear plastic jewel cases; a gift of bootlegged movies from a friend.
Drew: Matt and I were talking a couple of weeks back about how you could find tapes like this at flea markets and junk stores and the Salvation Army. I think because everyone was transitioning over to DVD and Blu-ray. So just en masse, hundreds and hundreds of VHS tapes were getting released onto thrift stores. A lot of them were just really weird stuff. You would find like seven thousand copies of Apollo 13 and Jerry Maguire. But there would also be kind of weird stuff in the mix and it was just very, very plentiful for weirdo culture vultures like us. Those were the boom days where we could just go out and rake in all these movies. And now, part of the reason it's become a little bit harder to find movies for movie nights is because there's actually a collectors’ market for those old VHS tapes. So if you try to go on eBay, it'll be sometimes thirty dollars, forty five dollars, a hundred dollars to find some of these out of print weird movies.
So we just have to compete with other culture vultures out there, which is a bear. They should just give up and let us take all their stuff. It was fun when we were doing it, but now that everyone's doing it, it's terrible!
Colleen: Out of all these obscure movies, you still have to find something new to watch every week, over the course of ten years. How do you find new titles?
Drew: Back in 2010, there was still a certain obscurity surrounding a lot of these movies. There are labels specifically for cult and exploitation movies. There are streaming services that cater specifically to horror and science fiction fans. There are countless review shows on YouTube that discuss odd or unusual or cult movies. So it's gotten a lot harder to try and find stuff that nobody has heard about or seen before.
The very first movie shown at Movie Night back in like August 2010, was the movie The Avenging Disco Godfather (1979). Rudy Ray Moore plays the owner, proprietor, and top DJ at a happenin' discotheque. And he uses kungfu to thwart a bunch of PCP dealing bad guys. At the time that was a fairly obscure movie. It was a Rudy Ray Moore movie and it came out in 1980 and it was on VHS and that's how we became aware about it. Last year, an Eddie Murphy/Rudy Ray Moore biopic came out [Dolemite Is My Name (2019)]. There's sort of an increasing awareness of older exploitation movies and weird science fiction movies and this sort of stuff has entered kind of mainstream pop culture in a way that I don't think it ever has before.
So weirdly enough, I think I don't know about you, Matt, but one thing I find helpful is actually not searching online for movies, but looking for old out-of-print books about cult movies, because that's stuff that was written when you had your real weirdos out there watching this stuff.
Colleen: When we moved here, I somehow came across Movie Night and sent it to my partner Dave, but I can’t remember how I found it. I just remember being surprised seeing something this cool in the Upper Valley. How do people find you?
Matt: We get word of mouth a lot.
Drew: There's a minimal presence on Facebook. Years ago, we would submit things to Seven Days and actually they picked it up once. It was the featured event of the month in like January when it's pretty slim pickings. “Go drive out to White River Junction in the desolate, coldest month of winter.” That was when we were doing a month of weird Westerns and that was showcased on the Seven Days website.
Matt: I was going to say that [regular attendee] Paul found out about it through the Main Street Museum calendar and it was really funny because he was messaging with the museum for almost a year, possibly more than a year. And we kept saying, “Yeah, come on down whenever you can!” And he never made it out for like a year, but he kept messaging us every once in a while. Eventually he just showed up and he's been doing every single Movie Night since. And he's such an incredible fixture there. That's kind of the same with a lot of the word of mouth stuff. We're always happening. And I can tell somebody that, “Oh, yeah, Movie Night. It's Tuesdays every time.” I can tell someone thirty times and, you know, at their leisure, eventually they come around and they're like, “I'm going to actually check that out tonight!” And then they're pleasantly surprised. Usually.
Drew: Sometimes we really just get totally random people out of the blue. That can be fun because sometimes folks just show up and literally wander in like, “What’s going on here?” And usually one of three things happens. They’ll end up having a great time and say, “This is great. This happens every Tuesday? I'm definitely coming back.” And then they never come back and just just go off and start a family, have a career, accomplish things.
The second thing that happens is that they're just a very strange person. There was the one thing that happened last summer. We were watching Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), and this guy wandered in and he was pretty drunk. He came in and started doing weird British accents, all these Monty Python jokes, and then he started talking about how he was once the manager of UB40, how he helped popularize reggae music in the United States.
Matt: In Vermont. Yeah.
Drew: Vermont in particular. Yeah.
Matt: The first reggae fest in Vermont.
Drew: And I just had no idea who this person was. He just came in, just manifested like this phantom.
Matt: He said he didn't have an email.
Colleen: What’s the third kind of person?
Drew: You have the third kind of person who shows up, has a good time, and sticks around and that's the rarest person of all. And those kinds of folks are always nice to encounter because, you know, we've all lived here for a number of years now at this point, it's really hard to meet people and it's always sort of nice. It's very pleasant when folks show up out of the blue and you meet somebody new and they stick around and they'll show up again. They'll watch the movie and you get to know them. I like that a lot. I think that's one of the nice things about Movie Night, this opportunity for folks to get together and watch something ridiculous and to hopefully meet new and exciting individuals.
Colleen: Cool. So how are you celebrating 10 years of Movie Night?
Drew: Movie Night had a tradition of having an annual or semi-annual celebration with just a lie about what anniversary it was. I think they did a real one year anniversary. And then they did a 25-year anniversary and then a 50-year anniversary and then a golden anniversary. There's a long tradition of that. Chico and Ben hosted for seven years and this will be the third year that Matt and I have done it so it was an actual ten year anniversary. We wanted to somehow celebrate all the movies we'd shown in like a really big month. Then everything went to hell.
We still wanted to do something to celebrate, something that folks will hopefully enjoy and maybe look forward to. It's something a little bit celebratory because I think it's nice especially now to have just the dumbest little thing to celebrate. I think it's important right now.
So what we talked about doing was doing so this is all about quantity! It's a big month. Everything is big. Prior to the big night, we've shown a bunch of movies, all about bigness and some like Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and The Big Friendly Giant (1989), the cartoon movie from the eighties. And we watched Big Man Japan (2007), which is a really weird Japanese movie from like 2007. So we're going to do it like a drive-on event. It's going to be outdoors behind the Main Street Museum. There's going to be a cartoon. There's going to be some shorts. There’s going to be the main feature, which is going to be sort of built around this mysterious celebrity guest that Matt and I have gone out into the woods to find.
Colleen: Ok, so for this celebrity guest, how big are they? What is their Kevin Bacon score?
Matt: Oh, man.
Drew: Even bigger than, I would say, even bigger than Kevin Bacon. Do you think that's hyperbole? I would say many times bigger than Kevin Bacon.
Colleen: Did this celebrity star in a movie with Kevin Bacon?
Matt: No. No. But somebody they're related to might be.
Drew: This is somebody who's had a long career in Hollywood since the late 60s at least, so it's possible, certainly possible.
Matt: I'm pretty sure it's like between two and four degrees.
Drew: There's going to be a retrospective of films that Matt is editing right now, which is really, really cool. And I think folks are really going to enjoy seeing.
Matt: A mini retrospective!
Drew: We're going for what we can do right now with limited resources during the middle of viral pandemic. So it's going to be the biggest thing we could do under the circumstances.
Matt: Maybe chips.
Drew: Yes, maybe there'll be chips.
Matt: Chico used to make posters for Movie Night in the early years. And the tagline would just say a bunch of stuff, but it always said, down in the corner, “Maybe chips.”
Drew: Yeah, that was the hook. It's like if you come, maybe there’ll be chips.
Matt: And there always was chips. I made it a point to always bring chips.
Drew: When you and I took over the hook was that chips will be guaranteed. We really wanted to one up. This is a new era.
For more about Revenge of Movie Night, folks can attend the Movie Night 10,000th Anniversary Extravaganza on Saturday, September 5 [rescheduled from the rainy August 29] at 7:00pm at the Main Street Museum, in White River Junction or connect with the group on Facebook for weekly virtual screenings during the pandemic.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Colleen Goodhue is a videomaker and writer living in West Lebanon, NH. She loves archives, long layovers, and all kinds of friendly competition. She performs with Valley Improv, the Upper Valley’s best and only improv troupe.