David Wain visits Chicago for special ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ screening

By Amanda Murphy

The chance to return to your childhood summer camp might seem like a dream—unless you’re one of the characters from “Friday the 13th.”

That’s just one of the ’70s summer camp movies referenced in the definitive parody, “Wet Hot American Summer,” which was screened on Oct. 5 at the Music Box Theater, 3373 N. Southport Ave., with a special appearance from the film’s co-writer and director David Wain. The event, which drew hundreds of fans, included a viewing of the film and a short Q-and-A session afterward with Wain and the A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias.

In the 10 years since its release, the film has become a comedy phenomenon. When “Wet Hot American Summer” first opened in theaters, the film grossed under $300,000, which Tobias said is pitiful even for an independent film.

In fact, the Oct. 5 viewings sold more than 940 tickets at $10 each, which is more than the movie made in its opening weekend. Wain said it wasn’t until a few years later in 2003, when the movie was released on VHS and DVD, that it started taking on a life of its own.

“[The popularity] started [with] this very slow but sure build, and little by little people started talking about it,” he said.

Tobias said one thing that’s unique and daring about the film is that it took a sketch-comedy style of episodic vignettes and created a film out of it—something rare for 2001.

Now, he said the compilation of short comedy skits approach to film is more popular, and many people who are making comedy films come from that type of background. Tobias said that makes “Wet Hot American Summer” not only an enjoyable film, but an important one as far as being a trendsetter.

“Cult movies are odd, quirky, tough to market [and] tough for people to comprehend when they first come out,” Tobias said. “Often times, it takes a while for them to find appreciators.”

During the Q-and-A session, spectators got a glimpse into the making of the film from Wain’s many horror stories of how the cast and crew had to endure constant rain, cold weather and horrendous camp food that later caused a mutiny.

He also shared some stories regarding how the film got started and some of the personal childhood camp experiences he used as writing material. The questions ranged from particular ones about the movie regarding actors, music and certain scenes to broader ones on his career.

The big question and news of the night was that a prequel or sequel is in the process of being made.

Amidst a cheering crowd, Wain was able to say,“Michael Showalter and I are in the writing process.”

“Most of the people seeing this movie have seen [it] many times before,” said Bobby Mittlestadt, a fan of the movie and spectator at the event “They know the movie. But I think being able to share the experience with hundreds of fellow fans made it more enjoyable.”