The 1975 film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is easily one of the best known cult classic films to date. The film follows Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), a dreadfully traditional couple as they find themselves spending the night at the residence of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), an alien ‘transvestite’ who is hosting a party for the reveal of his hunky Frankenstein-like creation, Rocky (Peter Hinwood). Once Brad and Janet step through the doors of Frank-N-Furter’s castle innocence will be lost, sexuality explored, and nothing will ever be the same.
However, it didn’t start off with this level of fame and pride. After its premiere in theatres, critics quickly shut down the satirical homage to science fiction and horror films. It wasn’t until around a year later that Rocky Horror began to start its midnight screenings. After that, it wasn’t long until fans began to show up to screenings in costume and supplement the film with props to be taken out at the appropriate cues and shouting responses to the screen. Soon enough, fans were lip syncing and acting out the scenes in front of the screen and thus emerged the added layer of a shadow cast. Now, over 40 years later, Rocky Horror lives on.
Excited Mental State, Toronto’s very own Rocky Horror shadow cast, bring the film to life with their adaptations: imagination runs wild. With the films exuberant nature, having an equally excitable cast is essential. The film viewed by itself is fun and quirky but seeing it with a shadow cast in a live audience brings out new levels of thrill and antici…pation. No two shows are the same. The cast doesn’t just act out the film scene for scene, they add in their own little twists. Whether it’s in the form of gender bent characters, showcasing their erotic twist on events, or encouraging audience participation, the cast puts their all into their performances. Whether you get branded with a V in red lipstick to display your Rocky Horror virginity for the whole theatre to see, buy a prop set filled with newspapers, toilet paper, water guns and more, or simply sing, callback, and dance along to the film, you will have just as great of a time in the audience as the cast does on stage.
Some view The Rocky Horror Picture Show as controversial with explicit themes of sex, ownership, and violence taking a role in this film. With what seems like blurred lines of consent and perpetuated stereotypes of the LGBTQ+ community, Rocky Horror can be seen as problematic. However, there is no doubt that it has become a staple in queer culture. The film takes an exaggerated satirical approach on the then views and stereotypes placed upon the LGBTQ+ community and critiques the mainstream society through subliminal references spotted throughout.
Through this satire, Rocky Horror is taking a stance on these issues and working towards regaining autonomy in relevance to them. Tim Curry’s performance as Frank-N-Furter is the most enjoyable part of the film itself and quite frankly, he rocks that corset and fishnets with pride. The Rocky Horror Picture Show opens up a space that welcomes anyone and everyone and that is the true beauty of it. You become a part of a community. It’s not just a film, it’s an experience.