Sike Trike's local short films are long on laughter

See their lowbrow work Saturday at the Ottobar

Scene

November 13, 2003|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Some of them sported an old-school look, their sailor tattoos peeking out from under too-tight T-shirts and ankle-length jeans.

Others, preferring an '80s motif, rocked thrift-store skirts and synthetic-blend button-downs.

And, of course, all of them tied their ensembles together with heavy-soled tennis shoes that looked like they were prescribed by an orthopedist.

Straggling into an almost empty Mount Vernon cafe, the twenty-somethings sat down one by one and played meekly with the menus, staring, aloof, at the rolled-up silverware.

But as the posse grew larger - the awkwardness broken by hellos and high-fives - their quiet, timid personas were shattered, and the true, loud and goofy colors began to show.

These weren't run-of-the-mill indie rockers, deep art-school kids or disaffected youth.

This was Sike Trike, a local and surprisingly lowbrow film collective.

Before the waitress could bring out the coffee, the college-age young adults, all members of the strangely named group, started fooling and chanting like frat boys at a kegger, the potty humor almost as ubiquitous as their hipster clothing.

For years, they've been making movies that celebrate their inanity, though the Trike was not officially founded until mid-2001, when they purchased a camera with member Kevin Coelho's college graduation money.

After that, the group, most of whom attended or are still attending local universities, began to crank out films whenever they had time, ideas or energy.

They don't use props, and they never write scripts. In fact, they don't even edit the tape.

"We have no set, no costumes, no budget" said member Dan Janssen. "We'll say, `Hey, let's make a movie tonight,' and anyone who's around will be in it."

The resultant works have frequently been based on roommates and house parties because they're among the usual people and events encountered.

In all, the group has made more than 140 comedic shorts since their first two-minute bit, Spiderphobia, was shot on a backyard deck in 1999.

Some of the films, which run the gamut from snarky commentaries to gratuitously vulgar vignettes, are good, even great.

But the group readily admits that many are just plain awful.

"The quality fluctuates as much as the people involved," said member Laura Webster, who is a full-time student at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

She's right.

Teacher's Big Day is a puzzling and boring bit that includes long, quiet scenes where four players speak either softly or not at all, while another hilarious short, dubbed Sorority, features fluidly shot, action-packed scenes in which three aggressive yet dorky guys visit the local chapter of the fictional sorority Alpha Sigma Sigma.

The guys try to show off their seduction skills, but after a game of truth or dare reveals the sisters' nymphomaniac tendencies, the trio ends up fleeing from the mayhem.

It's a movie that's a little stupid and a lot funny - and that's just the kind of work that Sike Trike likes to produce.

"We really want accessible humor. We're not trying to make an art movie that appeals to a select few," Coelho said.

The group, he believes, has yet to grow out of "cheap" college humor.

"And I, for one, am proud of it," Coelho quipped.

Janssen agreed.

"The less plot, the better."

Sike Trike will throw a screening party Saturday at the Ottobar. The first film is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. The Ottobar is at 2549 N. Howard St. For more information, call 410-662-0069 or visit www.theottobar.com. For more information on Sike Trike, visit www.siketrike.org.

For more club events, see Page 36.

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