Rocky Horror Remake: It’s Astounding!

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Sean Koepfinger

A cloud of controversy has surrounded the “Rocky Horror” remake since Fox first announced it last year. Anytime a beloved cult classic is remade, there is substantial backlash from the community that loves it, and arguably, no cult film is loved more than “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

At a recent Rocky Horror convention, I was lucky enough to witness a special screening of the first 25 minutes of the remake, and I can honestly say that it’s really good.

The opening number replaces the iconic lips with Ivy Levan as the “Usherette” who leads costumed fans into a midnight viewing of Rocky at the Castle Theater that also serves as Frank’s castle in the film. This introduction sets the tone for the remake, which presents itself as an homage to both the B-Movies that inspired the original and as a loving nod to Rocky itself.

This nod to the original is what makes the remake so enjoyable–it serves as a love letter to the cult classic and never tries to surpass it. And everyone involved in the project gets that. The first character in the remake who truly stands out is Ryan McCartan’s Brad Majors. McCartan actually lives up to Bostwick’s original performance by embracing the campiness of the film and over-acting everything. His comedic timing is impeccable–particularly during “Dammit Janet” where he is serenading his fiancee, Janet Weiss (Victoria Justice), in a graveyard while a funeral procession passes in the background. This scene is pretty indicative of the remake in general with plenty of references to the original without being a shot-for-shot remake.

Director Kenny Ortega understands what made the original a cult classic and embraces that absurdity by using the original script as his framework (so any rumors about rewritten songs can be dismissed).

The other inhabitants of the castle are equally fantastic, with the exception of Christina Milian’s Magenta who is lackluster and unmemorable at best. Reeve Carney’s Riff Raff welcomes our ill-fated couple into Frank’s castle with a spectacularly creepy performance. Carney embraces the jokes surrounding his character and adds an extra layer of perviness to Riff Raff that simultaneously separates his take on the role from Richard O’Brien’s and fits the characteristics of the sex-obsessed Transylvanians.

Annaleigh Ashford then steals the show with her punk-infused Columbia. Ashford’s attitude is perfect for the groupie, and her New York accent is a fitting replacement for Nell Campbell’s iconic voice.

Laverne Cox’s entrance as the mad scientist, Frank-n-Furter, is absurdly dramatic and definitely makes a statement. While her new look is definitely going to be a source of argument between old and new fans, no one can say that she doesn’t look incredible. In an effort to make Rocky more TV-friendly, costumer William Long trades Frank’s lingerie for something more alien. Frank’s iconic corset is replaced with a red dress complete with gratuitous amounts of other-worldly black webbing, and fans of midnight showings will be cursing Long’s name in their attempts to replicate the stunning costume.

But Cox’s performance is not memorable by looks alone. She previously mentioned in an interview her excitement about using her naturally deeper voice in the role of the “Sweet Transvestite” and actually does an incredible job belting out the song of the same name. While her voice is definitely a change from Tim Curry’s infamous performance as Frank-n-Furter, she manages to hold her own and leave the audience hungry for more.

And that brings us to the best addition to the remake: Tim Curry himself. Many fans who were initially outraged at the announcement of the remake changed their tune when it was revealed that Curry would be returning to the film in the role of the Criminologist who narrates the film. There is no better man out there to tell the story of Rocky Horror than Tim Curry and his casting represents a stamp of approval that should be reason enough for fans of the original to go see it.

As a whole, the remake looks incredible. The majority of the casting is strong enough to overshadow those who fail to live up to their predecessors, and the new music is incredibly catchy. The remake provides a fresh take on the insanity that is Rocky Horror while simultaneously tipping its hat at the original that it owes its existence to.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” premieres on October 20, 2016 on the Fox Network, and after seeing the first half hour, fans across the country are ready to scream “Let’s do the time warp again!”