Glitter & gore

A trip to the Screening Room for the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'

Audience members cover their heads with newspaper to mimic Janet as she runs through the rain.
Audience members cover their heads with newspaper to mimic Janet as she runs through the rain.
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Jessica Brannen wearing a gold and glittering garb as she enjoys the Rocky Horror screening.
Jessica Brannen wearing a gold and glittering garb as she enjoys the Rocky Horror screening.
Photo: 
Ellen Handyside (middle) posing with her friends in their Rocky Horror costumes.
Ellen Handyside (middle) posing with her friends in their Rocky Horror costumes.
Photo: 

This past Friday night, I lost my virginity to the Rocky Horror Picture Show along with Janet and Brad.

I had never felt more normal. It was one of the most liberating and horrifying movies I had ever seen.

Rocky Horror is a British musical film adaptation of the original theatre play of the same name. It follows a newly-engaged and naive couple, Brad and Janet, to the house of Dr. Frank N. Furter when their car breaks down. Chaos promptly ensues.

As soon as I walked into the theatre, I saw a man dressed up in fabulous lingerie, fishnets, tight panties and a lacy corset — not your typical Friday night attire.

As more people trickled in I saw too many sequins to count. They were sewed onto elaborate costumes I wouldn’t even know where to find. Lingerie was the uniform, apparently.

Inside the theatre, people were shouting at the characters and throwing things like toast, rice and toilet paper at the screen. I had no idea when to throw things, but everyone else seemed to be on the same page.

Since I had never gone before, I didn’t expect the movie to be as dark as it really was. People who had told me about it made it out to be a nonsensical, lighthearted affair.

Despite that, it was quite the spectacle bringing everyone together — all the craziness was welcomed.

This is the second year the Screening Room has showed Rocky Horror. With the show’s overwhelming popularity – the three screenings’ 86 seats all sold out within the week — Wendy Huot, owner of the Screening Room, added an extra showtime.

“I just thought it was a no-brainer,” she said. “All the great independent cinemas play the Rocky Horror Picture Show around Halloween.”

Back in the 80s and 90s, Huot said she believes the Princess Court Theatre, formerly on Princess St., played Rocky Horror, but there wasn’t a screening in downtown Kingston for over 10 years.

“It’s been this cult phenomenon for a long time,” she said. “I think now you have multiple generations of people to discover the film.”

Huot said she first saw the film in her early teens.

“Even though the film was from the 70s, I felt a personal identification with it,” she said. “I think it becomes a certain coming-of-age, rite of passage.”

In the late 60s and 70s, Huot said there was a rise of the midnight movie, a class of movies made for late night.

Rocky Horror is widely considered the first or most popular midnight movie.

“People go out to nightclubs [and then] people would go see these movies at midnight and there would be things like drinking and drug use going on in the cinema,” she said.

Huot said that bigger cities often put on shows with a shadow cast that would mime out the movie while it was playing on the screen in the background.

“People can get totally obsessive about it. Lots of people have seen it hundreds of times,” she said.

The Friday night showing drew a wide audience to the Screening Room; fans included anyone from students to Kingston’s older generation.

“[It’s] just the idea of being in the cinema and having this permission to do things that you otherwise just can’t do,” she said. “I think that’s the appeal. That’s just fun.”

With the film’s flamboyant dance numbers and cross-dressing characters, Rocky Horror seemed to reflect what Huot called a “wide and inclusive” concept of sexuality.

“In terms of mainstream culture, the 70s was not a gay-friendly time,” she said. “I think [this movie] means a lot for people who maybe their sexuality, in any way, falls outside the mainstream.”

Ellen Handyside, Sci ’17, dressed up as her favourite character for the event — Magenta, a housemaid for the scientist and self-proclaimed transvestite from Transylvania, Dr. Frank N. Furter.

“She’s got a very sultry aura around her,” Handyside said. “It’s just kind of her attitude ... she’s got this amazing voice ... she’s a little bit evil, very sexy and mental like the rest of them.” Handyside first experienced Rocky Horror with her parents when she was 12.

“I don’t know why they made me watch it. I guess they’re weird, but I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It’s just so strange and bizarre and you don’t see anything like it around these days.”

There wasn’t a midnight showing in Handyside’s hometown of Halifax, she said, so she was excited to be able to attend the show with the Kingston community.

She said one of her favourite aspects of a showing is how everyone is encouraged to be in costume; she spent $80 on hers for the evening.

“Now I’m here, I’m all dressed up and I look like a whore,” Handyside said excitedly.

Kristina Miller, a Queen’s exchange student from Australia, decided to come dressed up after her friend told her of the showing.

Screenings like this one are done in Australia as well, Miller added.

“When I was younger and the movie came on TV my dad would say, ‘we used to go to those at midnight’ and I always thought it was so strange, but I now understand,” she said.

Miller said she might even make this a tradition.

“The whole movie is pretty wacky ... it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before, it’s just really unusual and it’s fun,” she said. “I think that kind of attracts people ’cause you don’t have to be normal.”

Jessica Brannen, a Kingston local who dressed up in fabulous gold and glittered attire, was excited at the prospect of attending her first viewing of Rocky Horror in a theatre.

“It’s really fun and I like that,” she said. “All types of people enjoy [the movie] together, there’s no judgment or anything.”

John Weaver, also from Kingston, was dressed up in full Rocky Horror-style costume as well.

“It’s literally my most favourite film of all time,” he said. “Every musical number is excellent, the acting is excellent, everything is colourful ... it’s just the perfect movie.”

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