The experience might best be described by the Rocky Horror Picture Show’s narrator. He opens the film by saying, “I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.”
And a strange journey it is. But as Halloween approaches, fans of the iconic 1975 film are preparing themselves. It’s the high point of the year for some.
They’re breaking out bustier and fishnet stockings, skin-wigs rimmed with long stringy hair, or any one of the other costumes associated with characters in the movie.
You see, Rocky Horror isn’t just a movie – it’s always been a lived experience.
“Rocky Horror is an institution. It has a cult status … yeah, it’s a cult film for sure,” said Bryon Skinner, program manager at Victoria Film Festival and a coordinator at The Vic Theatre.
The theatre will be offering six screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starting on Oct. 20, and continuing Oct. 27 and 28. There will also be two screenings on Halloween itself.
“The film is an institution. It’s unstoppable and every year a lot of people come in costume. They do shadow casting during the movie and it’s obvious that they’ve memorized the dialogue, the mannerisms of the characters, and they know every note of every song. And, of course, they know how to dance the Time Warp,” Skinner said.
“For some people, it’s a way of life. For others, it’s just a lot of fun.”
But why is the Rocky Horror Picture Show so special?
Well, for one thing, the music is fabulous.
From ‘Time Warp’ to ‘Sweet Transvestite’ the songs are timeless. They’re catchy, campy and have a way of worming their way into your brain so that they can never be forgotten. Those songs are one of the biggest reasons that people keep coming back to see the movie and why the stage musical has been so successful.
Beyond the music is the fact that, let’s face it, the Rocky Horror Picture Show is not a serious film. It’s over-the-top, campy and ridiculous, but that’s part of its charm. The dialogue is full of in-jokes, winks and nods and tongue-in-cheek references that take great joy in parodying films from previous eras.
From the beginning, the movie has also encouraged audience participation. Fans sing along, shout out lines of dialogue, and dress up as their favourite character. There are also points where they may engage in strange behaviors like tossing toast at the screen. (Skinner doesn’t encourage that last thing.)
But perhaps one of the most notable features of the film, particularly in today’s social environment, is its celebration of difference. In a world where the LBGTQ community sometimes struggles for legitimacy and equality, this film doesn’t shy away from that subtext. In fact, it embraces it.
That celebration of those who are different is a breath of fresh air, done in a way that is both empowering and humorous.
It’s only natural then that over at the Roxy Theatre, Shelita Cox and her troupe will also be providing the Rocky Horror experience, but with a bit of a twist. They’re presenting an all-drag, live lip-synch version of the movie.
“This is the second year that this troupe has put on this show,” said Shelita Cox, the coordinator of the show.
“Victoria is the most gender-diverse community in the country and we welcome the chance to highlight the amazing LGBTQ+ performers in the city.”
Roxy is presenting those shows on Oct. 20 and 21, with two showings on each date.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Over at UVic, Cinecenta is screening Rocky Horror no less than five times with shows on Oct 20, 21 (two showings), 27 and 28.
“This is definitely not a move that you sit and watch quietly,” said Amy Anderson, Cinecenta programmer.
“It has this amazing, inclusive storyline and the themes of queerness and sexuality are quite enduring.”
Cinecenta is in the student union building on campus and, since 2019, they’ve screened Rocky Horror to the delight of students and the general public alike.
“It’s incredible, really. Everyone dresses up, even the staff and it’s just so much fun.”
But what about those people who want to come to see the movie and don’t own a bustier?
“It’s not mandatory to wear a costume or even know the movie at all,” said Skinner. “We do, though, have a costume contest each night and it’s a lot of fun just watching the fans of the movie compete for prizes.”
So, whether you come in costume, or just arrive to watch the fun, it’s certain that the Rocky Horror Picture Show will see you smiling and humming some of the songs.
And, perhaps, you may decide to follow the advice of the film’s lead character Dr. Frank-N-Furter when he advises, “Don’t dream it. Be it…”
More information on the screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show can be found at: www.victoriafilmfestival.com.