Now that we've recently wrapped up the 8th Cavalcade of Schlock event, wherein a seminal horror classic that is fondly remembered by most, bombed with the crowd at the event badly enough that we stopped it and threw in another movie. This got me thinking about the previous Cavalcade events, which ones were more successful, and why.
1. Know your audience.
Do you have a bunch of gorehounds who love to see people zombies jump-roping with the intestines of a clubbed baby seal? Is your crowd rowdy and talkative? Having the answers to questions like these allow you to tailor your film selections appropriately.
Our group is rather diverse, as it ranges from 8-14 people on average with a rotating cast of characters, depending who can make it each month (if they all came at once, I'd say we've had 20-23 different attendees). The primary common theme is that we're a rowdy group, who as a group like movies that move quickly, or have enough things in it to openly mock. Medium gore is about as much as I'd throw at them, as only half are real gore aficionados, while the rest are simply there for a good time. We've found that you can err on the side of more gory though, those who don't like it simply turn their heads and laugh with those that love it.
2. Know your movies.
This ties-in directly with number 1. You should, as the host, have a rough idea of what your movie is going to be like. In our group, movies that are going for "suspense", or have a lot of padding for time (which a lot of the really low budget movies do in order to justify their run-times), are not going to be successful. As such, a film like the original Halloween, which is comprised mostly of stalking shots and fake "gotcha" stingers, is going to fall flat on its face. However if we'd thrown in Freddy vs. Jason, which none of us actually enjoyed originally, is of a fast enough pace, and filled with enough idiocy for us to gab about, that it would do well.
Be careful though, this can be a difficult edge to walk on. A movie like The Fallen Ones, which was very mockable (as it had no redeeming values whatsoever), but so bad that it felt like it was wasting your life, can bring an entire gathering to a stand-still.
A good knowledge of your movies can also help you adjust the play order. We've found that the first movie needs to be higher pitched as everyone is settling in and still catching up with each other. As the night progresses, you can move to more deliberately-paced pictures as people are relaxing. Sometimes a movie falls flat solely because it was played at the wrong time of the night.
3. Have a backup plan.
If a movie is bombing badly enough, don't be afraid to stop it and move on to another. It's always good to have a backup plan in place. I've gotten in the habit of having two or three other movies that fit the vein we're going for that I can throw in at the last minute if the whole group votes on spiking the one we're watching. This has led to some very successful choices. When a movie didn't arrive on time for this month, I substituted Idle Hands, which is a bad movie, filled with cliches (and some fairly lame jokes), but fast-paced enough that it went over really well.
Don't fret if a movie you're particularly fond of dies with the crowd. Sometimes its not about the movie as much as its about the audience.
4. Good Snacks/Drinks can save you.
If you have a beer or mixed drink that particularly matches the theme well enough, or a munchable that does the same, you can enjoy that and mix it up with your participants while the films play-out. The ultimate goal is to have all the pieces come together. For us this means a good mix of food, movies, and audience participatory fun, but sometimes we have to rely on one aspect more than the others.
The key is to just relax and not to get discouraged. Remember, this is a night of friends and movies. It's easy to have a good time in that senario. However, if you follow these steps, you'll find that the evenings will be even more enjoyable, leading to more meetings, and more Schlocky fun!