The Rocky Horror Picture Show continues its legacy after 43 years

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Photo by Madeline McInnis

If you ever see a collection of eccentrically dressed individuals sauntering towards your local cinema this Halloween season with a seemingly random assortment of items — rubber gloves, rice, toast, a newspaper, squirt guns, playing cards — and sometimes even hot dogs, then they might just be going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The movie, immediately recognizable for the trademark pair of red lips that precedes it, has become a cult classic — one that encourages droves of people dressed in their best character costumes towards local theatres who have showings of it around Halloween.

This musical science-fiction horror-comedy film satirizes and plays parody to a number of sci-fi and campy horror movies.

It takes the audience through the unfortunate misadventures of two very plain people whose car breaks down in the rain near a castle, their interactions with one mad scientist hell-bent on finding love, his group of merry misfits and a whole lot of nonsensical fun.

Though it came out in 1975, the legacy of Rocky Horror is such that it may just as well have come out this year — in fact, it’s popularity seems to be growing exponentially as time goes on.

So much so that this year the Stratford Theatre Festival has shown interest in Rocky Horror and has begun doing theatrical performances of it.

Whatever you decide to do this Halloween season, consider making the brave step and checking out your local showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

But why has this movie remained such an influential and popular attraction? What is it about this film that was transformed, through its audience, into such a beloved and interactive activity?

What is it about cult films, like The Room, The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction or A Clockwork Orange, that inspire such admiration and mimicry?

John Tutt is the owner and programmer of the Princess Twin and Princess Original Cinemas in uptown Waterloo and has seen firsthand what the legacy of Rocky Horror is like.

The theatres began putting on annual showings of Rocky Horror in 1986 and now offer up to eight shows that sell out every year  — and Tutt thinks he has a pretty good idea why.

“It’s a funny experience because it’s totally participatory, right? It’s a fun show for people that have never been there before and also it’s a fun show for ‘I’ve never done that! What’s it like?’ so for the [new fans],” said Tutt.

“And it’s a mixture of that, it’s just a wild experience. It’s not like anything else; you get to yell at the screen, there’s characters you get to know, it is the participatory experience … so that’s the allure … it’s a little bit edgy, it’s a little bit rock-and-roll, sexy — sorta ticks all the boxes.”

Aside from the occasional older crowd who comes to the shows to relive the experiences they had years ago, Tutt says that it’s mostly the younger, female-skewed demographic that comes to the showings. And the clean-up, he says, is “horrendous.”

But he understands that comes with the territory, as well as the fun of the experience.

Cult classics are a difficult-to-understand niche of film adoration, but Tutt believes that one of the main reasons that Rocky Horror gained so much popularity is because, like others, “the audiences, they owned it.”

“They discovered it and they just started to own it … it takes on a new life … because they gotta be campy, they have to be a little bit bad … and The Rocky Horror Picture Show … it’s sort of tongue-in-cheek and also it’s pretty brave in [what] it depicts,” he said.

Whatever you decide to do this Halloween season, consider making the brave step and checking out your local showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Get involved in the silliness and the fun. As someone who has gone to two before, you won’t be disappointed.

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