So bad, they’re sensational
If you happen to venture into Uptown Waterloo this weekend, it shouldn’t shock you to encounter an enthusiastic group of eccentric moviegoers decked out in cabaret costumes and yelling incoherencies such as, “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”
Halloween weekend isn’t just an opportunity to drink in a costume – it is also a well-established cult movie weekend. Whether you’re a veteran to these fun-filled cinematic events or are considering your first midnight screening, this weekend will make any movie buff drool.
Waterloo staple Princess Cinema, located on Princess St. behind the Heuther Hotel, will be showing many of these cult classics, including 1975’s Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Rocky Horror is one of the most popular films at midnight screenings throughout the world and boasts the tradition of encouraging audience members to dress up as their favourite character and actively participate along with the movie. Actions include singing and getting up and dancing with the songs, throwing rice at the wedding scene and blasting off water guns.
Rising cult favourites — slightly less obvious than Rocky Horror — will also be showing at Princess Cinema. Melodrama The Room will be bringing about a new breed of wackiness at their showings.
Laurier film studies professor Katharine Spring discussed her thoughts on why large groups of people still carry on the traditions established decades ago at midnight screenings.
“The communal aspect of the cult film tells us something about the value the community,” Spring noted. “Increasingly students are watching films on their own, on smaller screens and in isolated environments. There still seems to be a need and a place for a social, communal film-going experience and the cult film has shown to serve that purpose quite well.”
Cult films, a genre consisting of mostly B-rated and low-budget films that generate an underground audience following, give groups of people a different reason to go to movies. There is something special being able to laugh and participate openly in the theater with other admirers.
During a typical movie outing — even comedies — audiences must sit in silence in order to observe what is occurring on screen. However, cult screenings are able to offer a more social and fun aspect of going to the movies — the conservative attitude at most movies is traded in for excessive exhibitionism and celebration.
Though Princess Cinema is normally home to Oscar-nominated, foreign or well-respected independent movies, their promotion of cult movies has drawn a larger-than-normal and very enthusiastic buzz.
However not everyone who goes is necessarily a long-time admirer of cult films, nor not really aware of the actual participation that accumulates within the theater. In fact, to many people going to a cult screening — especially for the first time — view it as an extremely foreign experience.
Third-year student Hayley Shaughnessy is one of those apprehensive students. “I just would not know what to do and would only go if my friends were going,” she explained, adding that while she would love to attend a midnight screening of Rocky Horror to see the movie for the first time, she likely would feel too nervous to participate along with the audience members.
Her intimidation was echoed by fellow third-year student Priscilla Galvez. “I feel intimidated because you show up and there are audience members who have gone to the screenings for a very long time,” Galvez admitted. A newcomer to midnight movie screenings, Galvez is looking forward to her first experience if yelling at the big screen and singing along with the songs.
Fifth-year student and former Princess projectionist Kevin Hatch has seen it all. “People have this whole script that they do,” he explained. “They recite certain lines during different parts. The audience [yells] out and not knowing the lines. It generates a lot of laughter amongst the theatre”.
Hatch and other veterans have noted that audience members at the Princess Cinema are extremely welcoming, and that those considering attending a cult movie screening for the first time this year should not feel nervous.
Though it is expected to recite lines, active participation in cult films is not mandatory and only enhances your experience. Chances are that there will be other audience members who will be in the same boat as you.
“The nice thing about the open participation is that it is never an excluding kind of thing,” Hatch pointed out. “You can go to Rocky Horror and not know all the rituals and you can just have fun by watching everyone else.”
Though it does not feature musical numbers or the same caliber of costumes as Rocky Horror, Tommy Wiseau’s notoriously low-quality film The Room yields all sorts of screening traditions.
Having never screened in Waterloo before, The Room is screened once per month at Royal Cinema in Toronto. Because of this, plenty of new fans will be attending Princess’s upcoming screening. The cinema is anticipating a large crowd nonetheless, which is why they have booked three nights for the film.
Traditions which have emerged from past screenings include hurling spoons at the movie screen, tossing footballs around in the audience or merely yelling along with absurd lines such as “I got the results of the test back — I definitely have breast cancer.”
Old favourite Rocky Horror is consistently one of Princess’s guaranteed sell-outs.
“We always knew that it was going to be a sell-out,” Hatch remarked, reflecting on his years of working at the Princess. He jokingly added, “The shift that you did not want to work was the day after the Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Hatch says this because one of the typical characteristics of Rocky Horror screenings is for audience members to throw food around. Princess discourages this and instead provides other props for participation themselves.
That being said, those who will be going to their first Rocky Horror and The Room screenings should be warned: it gets very messy and extremely vocal. If you are merely seeking to appreciate the aesthetics on screen or prefer a more intimate movie-watching experience, it may be in your best interest to spend the night with Netflix and turn your ticket over to an eager film buff.
However, if you have an interest in attending campy, so-bad-they’re-good musicals, cross-dressing, or want to witness what is called “the Citizen Kane of shit movies,” then head over to the box office right away. Regardless if you see both or just one of them, The Room and Rocky Horror Picture Show will not fail at offering a unique and one-of-a-kind moviegoing experience.