A Salute to Classic Midnight Movies, from Rocky Horror to Eraserhead
One of the best parts about growing up in Houston and finally having friends that could drive, or being able to drive yourself, was attending midnight movies at Landmark River Oaks Theatre.
This weekend's feature on Friday and Saturday is Dazed and Confused. You don't have to go, but it would be a lot cooler if you did.
The first summer that I had friends with wheels, we all packed into someone's beat-up Camry and went to see things like Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and then would waddle over to Late Nite Pie to talk about what we saw.
Aside from the theatricality and fervent fandom behind the Rocky Horror showings ("SLUT!"), midnight movies are now novelties to the younger generation, who can roll over and dial any flick up on YouTube or a torrent site any time of day.
Attending a showing surrounded by a few hundred other people makes you not feel so weird for knowing every line from The Room, or laughing hysterically at American Psycho and empathizing with Patrick Bateman.
The snob cachet is totally there, too.
"Where are you going tonight?"
"I have a midnight screening of The Big Lebowski to attend," you say with your nose turned up and your bathrobe right out of the dryer.
Sometimes if you are lucky, The Room's Tommy Wiseau will even be at the screening, throwing a football around outside with fans and engaging you in awkward conversation.
I remember seeing showings of Office Space with people carrying red staplers, or being in line with a few dozen Raoul Dukes, of varying authenticity. The night I saw Cannibal Holocaust, I didn't go to sleep until the sun came up, with the images from the movie rattling in my teenage brain.
Poor, poor turtle.
We could have all easily sat at home and watched these movies alone or with friends, but instead we chose to leave our cocoons and meet humans. It made us not feel so alone.
"That's stupid, why go see some old dumb movie in a theater when you can rent it at Blockbuster?" friends would ask. Yeah, you can also listen to a CD of your favorite band at home, but then you wouldn't get to meet others who were obsessed just like you.
After the recent shootings at an Aurora, Colorado, midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, some people called for the end of midnight movies, though they really meant the tradition of huge Hollywood blockbusters and comic-book adaptations getting late-night bows. Even the idea of banning costumes at theaters was brought forth.
The 2005 Stuart Samuels documentary Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream is a good primer to check out if you are looking to do your own midnight movie marathon at home. All hail Alejandro Jodorowsky.
As the '00s approached, a lot of movies had the "midnight movie" tag foisted upon them, even though they weren't that oddball, awful or subversive. Films like Fight Club or Back to the Future are just better on the big screen.
Cult hit Donnie Darko gets a lot of midnight play around the country, but it isn't as weird as, say, Pink Flamingos is. The last modern film to attain the level of ick and wonder of the classic midnight movies was The Human Centipede.
SPOILER ALERT: Jake Gyllenhaal doesn't eat dog shit at the end of Darko. Also, Bubble Boy is way creepier than Darko; why not show that instead?
Here are a few of the most enduring midnight movies, plus a few of the new-schoolers that are slowly taking their place in the pantheon.
Harold and Maude
The Harder They Come