Everybody has one absolute classic film that they haven’t seen, right? The film that will come up time and time again, and excuses for not having seen it get weaker and weaker each time. At Filmoria, our ‘I’ve Never Seen’ feature allows all of our writers to finally banish that monkey that’s hanging over our backs, with ET, Psycho and The Goonies amongst the entries so far.
I had that. I hadn’t seen Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, or Citizen Kane (amongst many, many others). So I watched the entire IMDB Top 250 movies within one year. Whilst this may not match up with everybody’s lists of ‘must see’ films, this certainly filled a lot of my gaps, as well as introducing me to some of my now-favourite films (looking at you, Rope, The Kid and The Killing). So what am I left with?
‘Must see’ movies are usually either incredibly well-reviewed and well-liked, influential on cinema or movies that have nostalgia for people/a cult status. My pick, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is certainly in the latter camp. I don’t think I could name a bigger cult film if I tried.
I grew up having an awareness of the film (and even the fan screenings that followed it). I can remember a specific time when my dad put it on and it was loud, brash, and I was simply too young to appreciate it.
Since then, I’ve begun to understand the unique place it holds in pop culture. I have friends who love it. And I mean LOVE it: dressing up for singalong screenings and meeting the cast whenever possible. I’ve seen people cosplay it at conventions, and I’ve also countless references to it in movies and television shows. This made me all the more curious, but I still don’t think I’d have watched it without this feature ‘forcing’ me. When I told people I was going to watch it for the first time, reactions were very much divided equally between ‘how have you never seen that?!’ and ‘rather you than me.’ But watch it I did!
It got off to a really good start: I love when films do twists on the traditional 20th Century Fox fanfare (e.g. Scott Pilgrim and Pitch Perfect), and that was the case here. What comes next is a whole song being sung by just a mouth on screen whilst the credits flash up. Already this is unlike anything I’ve seen before.
I didn’t actually know a thing about the plot of ‘TRHPS’, and I didn’t anticipate it really having much of one. This proved to be not too far from the truth. A couple, played perfectly by Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick, end up at the house of Dr. Frank-n-Furter (Tim Curry), where they enter a world of the truly weird.
And this is where Rocky Horror really does prove to be unlike anything else. It’s all just so ridiculously over the top, by design. Curry is absolutely fascinating to watch; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performance like it. The costumes, the make up, the songs, the acting, the third wall-breaking – there’s so much going on, and so much to take in, that I flicked between thinking ‘am I enjoying this?’ and ‘this is so cool!’. Overall, I don’t think I completely know what I thought of it.
There are definitely parts of TRHPS that I really enjoyed. I like some of the songs a lot (‘Damn it, Janet’ probably the pick of the bunch), and some of the performances are excellent (I really enjoyed the Doctor, who appears towards the end of the film but has a fun role in the finale). Everybody is so committed and seems like they’ve thrown everything into this that it’s hard not to let their enthusiasm rub off. It’s also really funny in places. And anything with Meat Loaf in can’t be all bad.
Tonally the whole film is absolutely all over the place, which is completely intentional, but it makes it a somewhat hard watch. It’s spoofing cheesy b-movies but didn’t quite convince me it’s good enough in its own right to completely pull this off.
Did I connect with the film on an emotional level? No. Am I glad I’ve seen it? Definitely. Would I watch it again? Yes, but I feel that to fully appreciate this film I need to embrace it and it’s fans, dress up and go to a singalong screening; that’s where this unique film is best understood and enjoyed.
Is there a film hanging over your head that you’ve never seen? Stay tuned to Filmoria where one of our writers will be sharing theirs each week.