When a film has been in theaters for over three decades, you would expect that film to be either culturally significant, so bad that it’s just that fun to watch or the best damn movie of all time. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is none of these.
Playing in limited release since 1975 and hitting the Magic Lantern Theater this Halloween, this movie is most famous for its huge cult following of cross-dressing twenty-somethings who don’t have anything better to do on a Friday night. What stumps me is the fact that these kids aren’t discouraged even after they find out that their parents wore the same fishnet stockings and push-up bras to the same show when they were that young.
This film follows a happy couple, Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), as they get lost in the woods on their way home from a wedding. They end up at the mansion of a transvestite scientist named Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, in a breakthrough role), and they enter a world of mad science and Eastern-European stereotypes with Frank-N-Furter gleefully skipping ahead of them.
“Rocky Horror,” which was originally written as a stage musical by Richard O’Brien, aims to satire science fiction and B-movie horror, but misses both. Instead, it takes you through 100 minutes of uninspired songs and grotesque images of men in drag that are neither funny nor scary, just disturbing. Some of the musical numbers, such as “Dammit Janet” and “Sweet Transvestite” are catchy enough to stay in your head for a little while, but since the show usually run’s at midnight, you will wake up the next day having forgotten all of them. The film tries for a sentimental denouement, but quickly follows into an abrupt, unsatisfying ending.
If this were simply a review of the movie, I wouldn’t be so harsh. After all, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little B-movie cheese with some of your more eccentric friends. But what makes the “Picture Show” aspect of “Rocky Horror” so excruciating is the fact that the entire audience is led by its hosts in a shouting match with a film that was never meant to be taken seriously. Throughout the whole performance, the audience screams profanity and penis jokes at such specific parts of the film that you would pity the drag queen next to you in the theater if you didn’t know that he had willingly submitted himself to this dozens of times before. What’s worse is that the show runs at midnight, so if you aren’t training to be a vampire like the rest of the group, you will probably doze off before someone wakes you up, screaming, “ASSHOLE” whenever Brad’s name is mentioned.
However, you cannot watch this as a standalone film. There is something appealing to the sadomasochism of its fans, and watching the actors have so much fun is enough to get you somewhat excited. My only concern is that after 35 years of brilliant comedy since the release of “Rocky Horror,” you would think that its adult-only audience would have found something better to yell about.