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Trash cinema in Antwerp: ‘Big budget horror films lack passion and soul’

Cyrus Vercammen hosts Trash Tuesday at De Studio in Antwerp. ©Kevin Lau

Movie lovers, horror fans and fellow Antwerpians, brace your diapers. Not only is art venue De Studio hitting the diamond city with a new monthly horror concept called Trash Tuesday. They have also blessed us with the exclusive news that they are working on a brand-new movie theater.

De Studio can currently seat 49 moviegoers at a time. De Studio let us know that by February you can add 160 seats to that number, which makes a total of uhm — we write stuff, ok? Go ask a numbers person. So, having extra seats is nice and all. Now we just need something to watch in these brand-new chairs.

Enter Cyrus Vercammen, high school ethics teacher during the day and horror curator at night. This born and raised Antwerpian will be providing the finest selection of horror and thrash films that you never knew you needed. Horror as a genre is self-explanatory, enough beds have been wetted. But what in Tarantino’s name are trash films?

Hi, Cyrus. Please elaborate: what is Trash Tuesday?
We want to show people another side of film than Hollywood and I mean that in the best possible way. It doesn’t always have to be bright and shiny, nothing wrong with cheap, dirty and inappropriate every now and then. That’s trash cinema.

I will be programming and hosting the evening, giving a short introduction with some interesting facts to put the film more into perspective. You don’t just come in to watch some gore and trash for ninety minutes.

Why the need for trash cinema in Antwerp?
Because it doesn’t exist yet. If we’re just talking Antwerp, no one offers trash films right now. As far as I know there used to be two video rentals in Antwerp that provided B to Z-movies: The Forbidden City and Schlok. But they’re gone now, and I felt like that gap needed to be filled.

‘It’s almost a form of art, one that includes pushing borders, making mistakes and offending a lot of people, but an art nonetheless’

So, supply is missing. But to be honest, I’m not entirely sure if there is any demand for it in the first place. We’re not doing this for the money, obviously. I just really enjoy this genre and I would love to be able to share that love.

How did you get into trash movies?
As it tends to go with most people and interests, I inherited mine from my parents. They’re both baby boomers, they experienced Hollywood in the late sixties and went looking for something more alternative. They were protective at first, of course, I didn’t see Freddy Krueger at the age of six or anything irresponsible like that, but you pick up bits and pieces here and there.

Then you grow older, become a teenager, your rebellious side starts to surface, and you start to wonder: what else is there? That’s when you arrive in the Italian movie scene in the seventies and those movies are: full speed ahead and fuck all the rules. ‘Animal cruelty? We don’t care. We cut turtles open and shoot pigs dead on camera. Women rights, #MeToo? Never heard of that.’ Looking for extremes, basically.

Cyrus Vercammen, high school ethics teacher during the day and horror curator at night.

Of course, the VHS culture and the rental stores I mentioned earlier played a part too. Late eighties, early nineties there were still video rental stores and they secluded horror and erotic films in a separate space. How exciting is that? ‘Yeah, sure I am sixteen and allowed to go in there’, is what I usually made up as a thirteen-year-old (laughs). And then you discover movies like The Hills Have Eyes, Ratman and some other bizarre shit.

Name three trashy movies that made you.
First off: Nekromantik (a man takes a corpse home for him and his wife to enjoy sexually, red.). Because it’s European, super low budget and so incredibly extreme. It really feels like the director, Jörg Buttgereit, went the distance just to kick the audience in their moral nuts even harder. Shocking people for the sake of it and then selling it as a piece of art, now that’s ballsy (laughs).

Second would be Bad Taste (aliens hunt down humans to use their flesh for intergalactic fast-food, red.), from the late eighties. A lot of gore, very explicit and the very first full-length film of Peter ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Jackson.

And lastly: Cannibal Holocaust (an American film crew disappears while documenting indigenous cannibalistic tribes, red.). Not naming this one is impossible, I mean just listen to the name. It’s a bit of a cliché, but Cannibal Holocaust remains the biggest of that era and genre.

Is Trash Tuesday your way of flipping off Hollywood?
I have absolutely nothing against regular Hollywood movies. At the end of the day I’m still a film lover and that’s exactly why these trashy movies interest me. Trash productions don’t have a hundred-million-dollar budget or a George Clooney. They do what they do purely out of passion.

‘My personal focus — and it has been for years — is a middle finger, flipping people off’

Some of the worst actors you’ve ever seen, working with barely any lighting at all and a microphone that sporadically pops into the screen. But it’s done with so much love and passion that even these mishaps become something beautiful. It’s almost a form of art, one that includes pushing borders, making mistakes and offending a lot of people, but an art nonetheless.

Could it be that some viewers prefer watching trash at home because it’s so explicitly offensive?
I can imagine some people being ashamed to openly watch and love this genre, but I’m definitely not. It’s really a shame that horror and trash movies still get treated like it’s just for outcasts. Though some horror franchises like Saw, which was also a very modest production initially, became incredibly popular overnight. Maybe there is some magical formula? I don’t know.

A lot of mainstream horror flicks nowadays, like The Nun for example, are known to make a lot of money on a small budget. Does this bother you?
Well, those are usually the horror movies I pass up on. They lack passion and soul. And even though that’s something a casual moviegoer probably won’t pick up on, I do. I call them fillers instead of killers (laughs). Though I don’t want to generalize. I’m sure that even on the production team of The Nun, most of those men and women got into the job out of love and passion for the industry.

Back to Antwerp. Why should moviegoers go to De Studio rather than a multiplex to catch a movie?
You still get the experience that comes with a movie theater: buying a ticket, getting some snacks, sitting down and waiting for the lights to go out. A sort of ritual, almost. At the same time, you can see certain films you would never see in a multiplex, which is designed for broad audiences. See it as a cosy little restaurant with four tables compared to a huge and busy Lunch Garden. I still get the feel that in the small restaurant, you know who’s in the kitchen.

Themed night at De Studio. ©Anton Fayle

What kind of horror can we expect to see during Trash Tuesdays?
My personal focus — and it has been for years — is a middle finger, flipping people off. Maybe it’s my rebellious side, I don’t know. But to answer your question and to throwback: late seventies, Italian movie scene. ‘Cannibals and zombies? Sounds great. Let’s have those zombies be cannibals as well? Even better.’

Why would someone who has never seen a horror flick come to Trash Tuesday?
Push your limits. No offense but try watching something else than De Slimste Mens Ter Wereld (popular gameshow in Belgium, red.). Have an open mind, let the movie engulf you and walk out surprised thinking: ‘I have never seen anything like that before.’

 

Every last Tuesday of the month you can have your horizons broadened at the De Studio in Antwerp.

The current theater can seat 49 moviegoers at a time. ©Jonas Camps

Tekst: Kevin Lau, foto: ©Kevin Lau, Jonas Camps, Anton Fayle