SOUND OFF! "Is it ever OK to heckle a film?"
I'm hoping to stir the pot here and get a strong talk back going in the comments section below. The idea for this came to me while writing my review for Womb. Womb is a film that's getting a lot of love here at Twitch and I'm certainly a strong supporter of the film and was dismayed by the amount of heckling that took place at the April 10th screening at Cinefest 2011. But I can also understand the reasoning behind many of the comments, apart from the homophobic, ignorant comments being made by some imbecilic frat boys. If it weren't for my own personal connection to the material, I probably would've hated the film as much as the people who sat around me. Art is subjective, DUH! I'm sure there are those out there that think Ghosts of Mars is John Carpenter's masterpiece. There are those out there that think Casshern is a masterpiece (heh).
There used to be a film festival here in Philadelphia called The Back Seat Film Festival. Touted as "the drinking man's festival," the organizers would spoon feed attendees free beer and vodka while encouraging audience interaction, both positive and negative. The opening ceremony consisted of strippers and porn stars destroying the screeners of films rejected from the festival with large sledge hammers. It was essentially the Gong Show of film festivals. If a film sucked and was heckled, the programmers had no problem stopping the film and moving on to the next. It was a raucous fun time, and it completely ruined me.
As an artist and fellow maker myself, I understand the importance of paying respect to someone who's spent a lot of time and hard work on making a film even if I don't like it. Yet, there are times when I feel insulted, even offended by someone who actually thinks that their terrible picture is worth a public audience's time.
Case in point, Tron Legacy. I loathed Tron 2. Apart from being completely stupid with no story or even a cohesive plot line, it was boring and lacked fun. I went in wanting to like it. I was hyped, particularly after reading Harry Knowles FAN-tastic review.
My best friend kept falling asleep during the screening and was audibly snoring. A few people made some snide remarks enabling me to feel more comfortable in joining in. Oh, peer pressure. As time went on, the majority of the audience turned on the film. This was a packed house of stoned, drunk hipster nerds growing anxious from the lack of action and suspense promised by the trailers. Random hysterical catcalls were being shouted by numerous attendees, and before I knew it, the entire screening became one huge shit show. The audience actually booed during the credits. And as much as I hated the film, making fun of it with a theater full of strangers became the most fun I had at the theaters in a long time. I also have a long standing tradition of seeking out bad Hollywood horror movies with a group of fellow filmmaker and writer friends with a bottle of Jack in tow with the singular intent of heckling the film. Doom might have been one of the worst films ever made, but I never laughed so hard in my life.
But when the audience spooled out into the lobby after Tron, I heard one young woman complaining to her boyfriend that she had honestly loved Tron Legacy and the audience completely ruined the experience for her. She was livid, and at 15 bucks a pop to see the damn thing in 3D, I understood her anger and felt guilty that I partook in the inappropriate behavior. Ironically, I normally just walk out of a film if I dislike it that much, but just like her, at $15 a ticket, I couldn't let myself walk out.
After reading Tim League's long response to inappropriate behavior at a recent screening of Rubber, it begs the question, "Is there a ever a time when it's OK to heckle a bad movie in a theater environment?
Share experiences of seeing a movie heckled that you enjoyed and vice versa.