They love crap, and they want to spread it.
As I walk into The Book Club on East London’s Leonard Street, it could be any other night – the upper floors are replete with Swedish modernism, organic beverages and non-prescription tortoise shell spectacles. Sauntering (alright, timidly creeping) downstairs into The Book Club’s trendy dungeon, however, I am greeted with an unexpected warmth by Anna, Will and Paul, the founders of the Crap Film Club and purveyors of all things “crap” and film-related.
I take a seat by the first of two wall-mounted projection screens, passing via the bar and, of course, the home-made cake stall and, along with the 100 or so others, ready myself for the evening’s entertainment. Tonight we are watching Sharknado, a so-called cult classic about a tornado full of sharks hitting the west coast of California; tag line: “Enough Said.”
Needless to say, the film is both absurd and superb. Like all truly great crap films, it has to be experienced to be truly appreciated, and the copious mixture of alcohol, film banter and sharks getting chainsawed is a heady mix. Together, Will, Anna and Paul have managed to create a truly unique event: an inviting and unpretentious night in Shoreditch.
After the film, I asked them a few questions about all things Crap.
What inspired Crap Film Club?
It started out as four blokes going to see trashy films at the Cineworld [consumer advisory warning: other cinemas are available] and sneaking in a few beers, before evolving into a sort of ‘niche DVD’ night at Will’s house, watching shit films – now, fortunately, with women as well as men. At that time Scalarama (a film season inspired by the Scala cinema, which was once upon a time sued by Stanley Kubrick) were encouraging people to start up film clubs in London, so we put two and two together, and the Crap Film Club was born. The Bad Movie Club in Athens, Georgia also inspired us. We started out in Highgate, but wanted to be more central, and so we moved to Shoreditch. We wanted to make a genuinely fun and funny social event that wasn’t just people sat around in sombre observation.
What is a crap film?
Well, there are levels. There’s a ‘bad film’, which no one wants to watch – it’s boring. A ‘shit film’ is traumatising; it’s not even that bad, it’s a two-star film. When it comes to what makes a crap film, we do actually have quite strict criteria – first and foremost it has to actually be entertaining; it has to be so bad that it’s good. A crap film is where someone has set out to make a good film – where they think they are making art – but because of a lack of ability or talent, they have come up woefully short. We try to avoid big budget studio films, and you have to be wary of films that try to be shit. The real gems of crap are where everyone involved in the film – the director, the scriptwriter, even the actors – thinks they are involved in something great or profound, that they are ‘niche auteurs’. A crap script is a necessity.
Sharknado was self-consciously riddled with formal cliché and parody; do you have to know what a good film is to know when you see a crap one?
There is definitely a language of film. And people increasingly understand it. A lot of the pleasure comes from films that are an explicit and unabashed rip-off of others. Cine-knowledge does help, but is not a necessity- the clichés in many of the movies we show are not only relevant in the world of film, but in the everyday social absurdities we are all familiar with.
At Crap Film Club, are you celebrating how crap a film is, or criticising it?
We’re loving it. We revel in how bad these films are. This is not just a commercial venture – we used to do this in our own spare time. It’s a passion. We have all worked and work in film, and we feel we know what it is that we are looking for. These films lack the publicity budgets of the blockbusters, and we want to create a place where as many people can see them as possible – they have their own value. Jason Statham is the Crap Film Hero.
Why celebrate crap films?
Because they’re fantastic! In this age of super-slick overproduction, it can be really interesting and enjoyable to watch something that is consciously or unconsciously clunky, or inept, or horrific, or ludicrous, but which has a good heart. They have a certain economic and opportunistic democracy about them as well – anyone can make a crap film. It also means that people can enjoy the social environment; they bring people and friends together. They’re communal.
What films have you shown in the past / do you intend to show?
Well we know we are going to show Troll 2, Samurai Cop, and Miami Connection, but as for what we are going to screen after that you will have to wait and see! In the past we have shown For Your Height Only, Chopping Mall, Star Crash, Birdemic, and Frankenhooker.
Which of the following would Crap Film Club be most likely to host?
– Crap Porn Film Club
– Crap Political Documentary Club
– Crap Bollywood club
We can’t do porn. We could do politics, but I think it would have to be Bollywood, although we would have to be clear that we were not ignorant, not simply dissing Bollywood films in general. But we have actually had a lot of recommendations for Bollywood films that are absurd: there’s one with a tractor fight, for example. But actually I think a lot of these films have political undertones anyway. Sharknado, for instance, is an attack on corporate America…[Will: “Is it?”] Paul: No.
Crap Film Club will next be screening Samurai Cop at The Book Club on 15 October.
All images: Giulia Mulè