Black lipstick stained the rim of the bottle of Captain Morgan. I had spent a good ten minutes trying to get the perfect cupid's bow with the cheap lipstick bullet. Earlier that day I had done my makeup for work with appropriate pink hues and subtle eyeliner. Now, twelve hours later, I had a dramatic cat eye and a face completed with pale powder and dramatic rose blush. I drew a heart on my left cheek in eyeliner and filled it with lipstick.
On the other side of the dorm room, my roommate was dressed in a corset and leather skirt watching videos online to prepare for the night. I had forced her into watching any material pertinent for the night to prepare as much as possible. Months before, I bought her a ticket and tried to prepare her for what she would have to deal with for the night. I had her watching interviews and music videos. We were getting ready for to go see the midnight premiere of the second installment of "The Devil's Carnival."
I doubt anything could have prepared her for a few hours later when she would be sitting in a movie theatre full of people chanting "Hail Satan."
"The Devil's Carnival" is a movie in the same realm as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." It's a goth rock musical with a cult following. At midnight in theatres across the United States, doors would open to lines stretching around the block. People arrive in costumes and gothic attire. My roommate and I took our places in line outside the Ritz East in Philadelphia around ten at night. Even though the earliest doors opened at eleven thirty, the line was pretty lengthy when we showed up. A group at the very front had been there since six. Clad in all black and leather attire, I fit in perfectly. In line, people were dressed as lovely angels or fully made up devils. People broke out of the line to show off their talents. Behind my roommate and I was a group of teens showing off juggling skills. The girls in front of us talked to us about the merits of the different kinds of corsets.
The people I stood in line with wanted the experience more than the movie. The movie premiered like a concert tour. The director, Darren Lynn Bousman, and writer, Terrance Zdunich, would travel to different cities and host the midnight premieres. Occasionally, actors from the movie would make an appearance as well. Before each show they would host a meet and greet for those who paid for it. I opted for the cheapest tickets possible. This gave me a ticket to the movie and admission to a Q and A with Bousman and Zdunich afterwards. I was most excited to see the two discuss the movie and all their other projects.
I had been a fan of Bousman and Zdunich since their first project together "Repo! The Genetic Opera." I fell in love with the rock opera due its goth aesthetic and mix of horror and musical theatre. It felt like a perfect mesh for me. The gore in the middle of musical numbers and operatic score created the perfect movie for the weird sixteen year old me. I was a fan of Bousman for his work with the Saw series. Zdunich's writing and acting in "Repo!" captivated me. His style was something I wanted to mimic in my own work. I jumped on the chance to watch the first "The Devil's Carnival" once I was able to. Bousman and Zdunich working together again was a combination for another perfect movie. Zdunich reprised his writer/actor credit by playing Satan himself. The concept alone was enough to draw me in: a war between heaven and hell told by Aesops fables.
I dragged my roommate as close to the front of the theatre as I possibly could. This is a movie seeing foul I never allow if I can help it. However, this night, I needed to be as close to the front as possible. The movie theatre was packed. Looking back into the seats you could truly see the masses. It took me a while to realize that, I was looking at a packed theatre for a little independent movie that before a few hours prior I had never met another fan. The show was practically sold out.
There was entertainment before the movie. Dull moments were not allowed. Jugglers and circus performers put on a show in front of the movie screen. All the people in line who showed up in costume lined up for a costume contest. The youngest member of the audience, a little girl of about six, won the contest for her adorable jester costume.
The movie played and my stomach flipped in excitement. The next ninety minutes were filled with me nudging my roommate and annoying her with my excitement. I pointed out inside jokes laced throughout the script and emphasized my favorite lines in the songs. I had been playing the soundtrack on repeat since it had been released. I
anticipated each song in the order I had memorized from the soundtrack. The people behind me were singing along and shouting at the screen. People stood up to dance along to one of the songs. The convention of being silent during a movie went out the window to make room for everyone to let loose. The cheers and singing often became louder than the movie itself.
I hung on every word Bousman and Zdunich said after the movie. My cheesy grin was starting to hurt my face. They talked about their passion for the movie and their departure from the conventions of big Hollywood movies. Bousman in a blog post after the first premiere said, “I make weird movies. I want to do weird shit. It’s who I am. Some day, I aspire to make a film that is embraced by both my peers and my fans… But I guess when you make a kooky rock opera featuring David Hasselhoff, and Tech N9ne you can’t expect unilateral love.” I saw the passion and love they had for their projects. A lot of their talk fell into hokey advice about doing what you love and sacrificing what you have for it. But I loved everything they said. I’m a weird kid who likes to make weird shit. Surrounded by angels and devils and everything in between, I felt vindicated in my weirdness. The hokey cliché advice coming from two people I admired made sense to me. Going out in black lipstick and combat boots while spending a lot of money on a movie made sense to me.