halloween movies

The Film Playlist: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Since it’s the week of Halloween, I figured an extra blog post was due. I had to feature a cult classic film that inspired a one-of- a-kind theater experience. Let’s get one thing straight though. I hate musicals. However, I love music. Strange right? Eh, a little. There’s just something I find odd about singing the story of your life instead of just saying it. I’m a bigger fan of having a soundtrack to life. You know, like songs you love just playing in the background? That said, there are a handful of musical films I can tolerate (and maybe enjoy a little bit??). Surprisingly, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) is one of them.

Around Halloween, there always seems to be Rocky Horror events popping up more frequently. Maybe it’s the extremely odd nature of the film, the fact that people like to dress-up as characters from the movie for the events, or that RHPS performances began during the Halloween season, but it’s become a Halloween time tradition. Unfortunately, I never attended a RHPS showing (I have seen the movie though). It’s always been on my list of things to do, but for whatever reason, never worked out. So yes, if I do ever attended, that will make me a “virgin” (seeing the movie in a non-live performance setting doesn’t count). But before I get into these events, it’s best to tell you about the 1975 film starring, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a satirical musical/comedy/horror film that is a tribute to old time science fiction/horror movies. It’s directed by Jim Sharman and based on the 1973 British stage production of the same name written by Richard O’Brien (O’Brien starred as Riff Raff in the film). Sharman and O’Brien actually teamed up to write the screenplay. In the film, a young, recently engaged couple’s (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) car breaks down during a rainstorm. Fortunately, they break down near a castle where they decide to ask for a phone to use to call for help. However, a mad scientist alien transvestite dressed in a corset, briefs, garter straps, fishnet stockings, and platform heels named Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and his band of eerily costumed creatures/friends inhabit the castle, which leads the couple to become wrapped up in the ensuing musical mayhem. At the time of release in the fall of 1975, the film was a flop, drawing small audiences nationwide (except at the Westwood Theater in Los Angeles). It wasn’t until the film began its midnight showings in the spring of 1976 at the Waverly Theater in New York City that the cult following grew.

At the screenings, the theater manager would play the soundtrack to hype the audience before the movie began which created a fun, care-free, party-like atmosphere. Then, during the film, people began randomly shouting responses to things the characters would say on screen. Audience participation during the movie became the norm. Around Halloween in 1976, people came dressed as characters from the film. It spurred a whole revelation of Rocky Horror regulars lip-syncing the soundtrack before the movie and performing a mini-floor show, much to the delight of all who attended. It became the standard for RHPS screenings.

Now all over the country, and more-so around Halloween, midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show happen on a regular basis almost 40 years after they began. Casts of regular performers dress-up and act out the film as it plays. People shout at the screen, shoot water guns, and throw rice and toilet paper during appropriate parts. There’s also rituals that take place for Rocky Horror “virgins” a.k.a. those who have never seen the RHPS live. The rituals vary from theater to theater but may include dancing the “Time Warp” (it’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the right…) or receiving a lap-dance from one of the cast members. All the virgin initiations are in good fun though because that’s what Rocky Horror is about.

The music in the film is typical of musicals, but features somewhat of a glam rock style. Some of the most notable songs include the “Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me”, and “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul”. After I first saw the RHPS, I felt like I went through a strange mind blowing experience. It disturbed me a bit at first, but then slowly I became more interested in the songs. I learned how to dance the “Time Warp” and the rest is history. Despite enjoying the songs and catching parts of the movie on occasion, I can honestly say I’ve never seen the movie in its entirety since that first time. It really is that strange and will take a lot for me to watch it again (a live showing would absolutely get me to do it). RHPS is a cult phenomenon though and loved by many. I guarantee there are showings this weekend if you want to check one out. Just search the web. You probably have one near you without even knowing it. Even if you miss out this weekend, there are several places that have monthly showings all over the country. It should be a one-of-a-kind thrilling, chilling, and fulfilling experience.

In case you want to know a few songs before you go, I recommend these (my faves):

  1. Time Warp
  2. Sweet Transvestite
  3. Dammit Janet
  4. Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me
  5. Science Fiction Double Feature
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Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment to Sparkle Motion

Warning: R-rated movie = R-rated blog post for some strong language.

Sometimes movies make us laugh. Sometimes they make us cry. Sometimes they make us feel like a total badass. And sometimes they give us an insane mind fuck and make us think about them for a while after. That’s exactly how I felt after I saw the movie Donnie Darko in the late summer right before my junior year of college.

I had this intense feeling of confusion after I watched it. I wasn’t even sure if I liked the movie or not. I sort of felt numb to the world too. It was so strange. After watching a movie that involves time travel though, maybe it wasn’t. A few hours and days later, I realized I did indeed like and then love the movie.

Donnie Darko was first released in 2001. It had limited box office success which may be attributed to the fact that it was released shortly after the 9/11 attacks. It gained popularity through a series of midnight showings that began in New York City and caused other theaters to follow suit. Once the DVD was released, you could say sales surpassed expectations.  A director’s cut of the film was also released 3 years later. If you look back on it from a 2014 perspective, the cast was pretty stellar as it included Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead character Donnie Darko, his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal who also played his sister in the film, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Jena Malone, Seth Rogen, and countless others who I’m sure you’d recognize from other film and television productions you’ve seen.

Believe me when I say this though, you will either love or hate this film. I really don’t think there’s an in between unless of course you’re a supernatural apocalyptic drama connoisseur. It’s an odd movie and if you do end up liking it, you’ll probably watch it a few more times trying to figure it out (I remember reading something after that compared Donnie to Jesus so see if you can make that connection). Hate it or love it, either way, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend watching it at some point in your life. Maybe you’ll end up like me, love it, decide to dress up as Donnie for Halloween (the skeleton suit, gray hoodie combo…I was awesome), and learn a few things from the movie along the way, such as:

1. Cellar Door is the most beautiful phrase in the English language.

2. Following and listening to a giant, scary talking bunny named Frank could lead to your demise.

3. The world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.

4. It’s impossible to suck a fuck.

5. Smurfs are asexual.

6. You may not always get caught if you flood your school and commit an arson.

7. It’s worth telling people off who are full of shit because they are probably in the child porn business. (Jim Cunningham was “the fucking anti-Christ” and we all know it.)

8. The giant, scary talking bunny might just be a man in a costume with a bloody missing eye who is trying to help you save the world or face your fate, whichever perspective you want to take.

9. Gary Jules does a much better version of “Mad World” than Tears for Fears even if it was their song.

10. The more committed you are to Sparkle Motion the more likely you are to die in a plane crash. (Unless time travel somehow comes into play)

As you can tell, these are important life lessons. But on a serious note, if you’re looking for a movie to watch this Halloween season that isn’t necessarily scary and still relates to this time of year (the movie is set entirely in October up until Halloween), I recommend Donnie Darko. I mean you can probably combine it with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and truly have a science fiction double feature. It’s one of those movies that has different meaning for everyone and can spark a philosophical discussion. It’s worth it for the occasional comedic relief and even for being able to see some early work of these great actors. Most of all, it’s worth all the confusion and thoughts that you won’t be able to wrap your head around the first time you see it.  So I hope that when you do see Donnie Darko, you can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.