The musical classic – one of my favourite films of all time – was released in 1975 and was met with more than just mixed reviews in the US. With sexual references, skin on display, Meatloaf being butchered and Tim Curry in heels, in less than three years, it was being advertised as a cult film – and still remains thus.
I remember when I first watched the film, I fell in love.
I fell in love with the quirky outfits, the music, the timewarp, Susan Sarandon’s character and of course Tim Curry. I grew up associating the actor with Stephen King‘s Pennywise Clown from It, which terrified the crap out of me. So I was thankful to find a medium where I could appreciate Tim Curry without always hearing “They all float” in my head whenever I saw a picture of him.
The over-the-top makeup, the hair, pearls, corset, toned arms, the ability to walk in heels so well and the whole taboo of it all was mesmerizing and lured me in. The sweet transvestite, from Transsexual Transylvania made the film what it is.
“So come up to the lab, and see what’s on the slab. I see you shiver with antici… pation.”
It wasn’t until I saw it at the theatre that I realised there’s a whole new world out there, and how much of a cult film it really is.
But what makes a cult film? “Cult films differ from popular re-releases, fad films, and films with cult qualities” (Kinkade & Katovich, 1992).
Cult films are often those that don’t seem to follow traditional standards of mainstream cinema. They tend to “involve typical people in atypical situations, sympathetic deviance, challenges to traditional authority, reflections of societal strains, and paradoxical and interpretable resolutions” (Kinkade & Katovich). Originally thought of as just low-budget films that appealed to a small audience of fans, cult films are also popular across a wide nation.
These films have earned their cult status due to a devoted group of followers or obsessive fans who want to celebrate these films as “sacred texts”. The analogy to cults is made through the fans’ promotion and obsessive use of these films to create rituals and belief systems together.
Part of the attraction The Rocky Horror Show has to its followers is that the film exists outside of what we know as popular and often tasteful in society (Gans, 1975). This sense of rebellion re-enacted in films allows the audience to escape real life’s restrictions, and become so much more than just a member of the crowd sitting together watching a film.
Blended with science fiction and horror, this rock and roll musical film “presents a clever synthesis of thematic, visual and verbal elements” that plays upon controversial theses reflected on society, including heterosexual romance, monogamy, sexual stereotypes and identifications, virginity, and in general middle-class American morality (Austin, 1981).
What I find fascinating is that cult members celebrate the the film in together in specific locations, from their living rooms to theatres. They used to be shown as ‘Midnight Movies’ which originally emerged in the 1950’s when low-budget genre films had be shown late at night, often with narration.
It’s definitely an experience being among audience members who interact with each other as much as they do with the characters and action on the screen, Throughout screenings, fans not only dress up as characters but also respond to the character’s comments in the film, call for camera cuts and character actions, add lines to the film, and even “help” characters when in trouble in the film.
If the film wasn’t surreal enough, the atmosphere completes the experience. If you haven’t gone to a theatre showing of The Rocky Horror Show, you should, and dress up too. Hell, make the most of it.
It’s crazy situations like this that make you realise there are other people out there that are into weird-ass things like you, and people willing to shout about it…from their plush theatre seats.
As Dr Frank-N-Furter says: “Give yourself over to absolute pleasure. Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh – erotic nightmares beyond any measure, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Can’t you just see it? Don’t dream it, be it.”