Three years ago, Webster alumnus Danny Ruzicka was bored on a summer night. He flipped through the newspaper in search of a last minute evening excursion. What he found would become a monthly tradition for him and his friends.
“I looked at the movie times in the paper and saw that this movie, ‘Phantasm,’ was playing at midnight. I had heard of the movie before, but never saw it,” Ruzicka said. “I knew it was a 70s horror flick, and I was in an adventurous mood so I went and checked it out.”
What Ruzicka discovered was Late Nite Grindhouse, an event hosted at the Hi-Pointe Theatre at 1005 McCausland Ave. in St. Louis. Every first Friday and Saturday of the month, 35mm prints of horror and genre-exploitation films are shown at midnight.
Late Nite Grindhouse creator Andy Triefenbach met Hi-Pointe Theatre co-owner Brian Ross at a midnight screening of the exploitation film “Black Dynamite” in 2010. Triefenbach said he approached Ross with the intent to book nights of horror and exploitation after learning the theatre booked independent shows. Ross gave Triefenbach a chance and allowed him to book a May showing of “The Evil Dead,” a 1981 horror film with a cult following. It would be the first Late Nite Grindhouse program.
Triefenbach said his goal for Late Nite Grindhouse is for it to become more than a midnight screening. He said he hopes it can be a communal event for people who love grindhouse films.
“When you get a lobby of people after a film, ecstatic about a film they just saw on the big screen for the first time, it is one of the most rewarding things to me,” Triefenbach said.
Ruzicka said Late Nite Grindhouse is one of those “St. Louis things.” He said Late Nite being hosted at the Hi-Pointe Theatre and the fact that it is small, makes it a city treasure.
“It is a gem … because it’s a rather small, obscure thing,” Ruzicka said. “It’s been going on for about two, or maybe, three years and still has a dedicated audience. A city gem doesn’t have to be widely popular in order to be a gem. The treasures that are more difficult to find are the ones worth keeping.”
Ruzicka said Late Nite gives him and his friends a place to bond through humor.
“The guys who run it make the whole vibe and atmosphere of the place very friendly. They don’t take it too seriously, and plus, it gives me a chance to get a group of friends together and enjoy a bad movie,” Ruzicka said. “I guess it’s a bonding thing … it brings friends together. Whenever I get a big group together and we see a truly inept film that is so bad it’s hysterical, those are the best.”
Triefenbach, 32, has lived in St. Louis his entire life. He said that growing up watching horror and exploitation films on VHS was a major reason he started the Late Nite Grindhouse program.
St. Louis was a grindhouse market waiting to be tapped, Triefenbach said.
“I believe that St. Louis has a great fan base for horror films, and it was untapped when it came to genre-centric film programming. I thought it would always be great to have a public venue to watch these films,” Triefenbach said.
Ruzicka said the Hi-Pointe Theatre is the “cherry on top,” of his monthly tradition. He said the theater’s vibe meshes well with the movies Triefenbach shows.
“It’s an old theater with an old theater vibe; classy but not elegant, casual but not sleazy,” Ruzicka said. “It creates this nuance that these exploitation films would have ran there back in the 60s or 70s.”
Triefenbach said Late Nite Grindhouse feels like a full-time job, but it is not his main job. He runs www.destroythebrain.com as well, a site featuring his weekly podcast and reviews of horror and genre movies.
“As a guy who works a 7-4 job during the day, my off hours are divided between the site and Late Nite Grindhouse. It gets crazy … but it is not only rewarding … it is my passion,” Triefenbach said.