I first became aware of Savannah’s Psychotronic Film Society back in November of last year, when I went with a friend to a screening of Dario Argento’s Suspiria. The screening took place at the Lucas Theatre, but the man who served as the event’s emcee made sure to let audience members know the society held film screenings once per week at The Sentient Bean, a local coffee shop and miniature home for the arts. I noted these details then, but it wasn’t until this past week that I got around to visiting the place for a screening. Before checking the venue out, however, I wanted to dig a bit into the history of the film society and find out exactly how they got their name.
Do you know what “psychotronic” means? I didn’t, though I had a vague idea. Turns out its origin is pretty scientific, but its contemporary use is less so: in 1980, a sci-fi film called The Psychotronic Man was released, and it’s since become a cult film. A film magazine, Psychotronic Video, was published later that year, and the term “psychotronics” began to refer to lower budget, cult films which were thought by fans to be under-appreciated by critics and audiences. After learning more about the term, the concept of the film society began to make more sense. According to a society website, its founder, Jim Reed, started showing films in 2003 and has been at it ever since. He’s a friendly guy, and describes the venture as “ultra DIY”, though it’s been steadily growing over the past fifteen years.
The night I attended, Jim was showing a 1988 Godfrey Ho film called Robo Vampire. I felt special knowing this beforehand–generally the Psychotronic Film Society waits until right before a screening to announce what title they’ll be playing, but I follow the group on Twitter and caught the title there. I looked up Godfrey Ho, but there’s actually not a ton of information available on the filmmaker–his reputation suffered as a result of his art, and he used several different names throughout his filmmaking career.
Like any respectable indie institution, the Psychotronic Film Society serves fancy snacks. Before the film began, I purchased a quesadilla (courtesy of The Sentient Bean) and a can of beer. I was told part of these proceeds went to the film society–a pretty terrific deal, I’d say. The audience for Robo Vampire numbered about twenty, and everyone seemed eager and excited to see the film. Jim Reed provided a bit of film discussion immediately after welcoming patrons, and the film began. The atmosphere and audience never felt snobbish or cold–the people around my girlfriend and I were only ever warm, charitable, and really open to discussing the film and how they came to discover the Psychotronic Film Society. I absolutely plan to go back.