Rifftrax Plan 9: A Fathom Event

Posted on August 21, 2009

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This is a review of an event that my wife and I attended last night.

Fathom Events digitally broadcasts entertainment events around the country, enabling audiences to witness concerts, operas, sporting events, theatrical performances, and similar things from the comfort of a movie theater in their own hometown. Last night’s event was broadcast from Nashville, TN, for example; and we watched it in Kent, WA.

Rifftrax is the direct descendant of MST3K, formally known as Mystery Science Theater 3000. What they do is make audio recordings providing a humorous commentary on films. You download the recordings, put your DVD of the film in your player, and watch the DVD while listening to the Rifftrax – and laughing your butt off.

Last night we watched a live Rifftrax performance. Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett sat in a theater in Nashville, TN with a bunch of lucky filmgoers, and mocked the Ed Wood “classic,” Plan 9 from Outer Space. If you’re unaware of Plan 9, their description of it as “the Caddyshack II of bad movies” is entirely apt.

Never been to a Fathom Event? Neither had we. The most important thing that I can share is that you mustn’t think of it as a movie. Think of it as theater. Specifically what I mean is, when the origin theater is full, the broadcast begins. In our case, it was scheduled for 8:00 PM and actually started at about 7:40. Not as important, but equally worth knowing, is that there may be additional material beyond the title event. In our case, we got a short film (Flying Stewardess, skewered mercilessly by Rifftrax), a couple of mock commercials, and musical performance by the always awesome Jonathan Coulton. People in 43 theaters across the country accompanied him on the chorus of “Re: Your Brains” last night, and we had a blast doing it.

As for Mike, Kevin, and Bill, I should give you some background. I first watched MST3K on the now-defunct Comedy Channel, by accident. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why there were three silhouettes blocking part of the screen, and why they were talking during the movie. I changed the channel and forgot about it, until my good friend and co-worker, JD Wiker, showed me some of his favorite episodes. Back in those days, we watched the VHS tapes that he’d made of episode broadcasts. Once I saw an episode from the beginning, I was hooked. I’m not going to waste your time explaining the concept, since you can follow the MST3K link, above, to tons of information. I’ll just say that Joel, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot said the kinds of things that I only thought while watching a B-movie on late night TV. I found them hilarious.

So last night was a real treat. It was like watching an episode of that beloved TV series all over again, albeit without the silhouettes. The movie is phenomenally bad, but moves fast enough that there was always something for the guys to riff on. We laughed for two straight hours.

Would I buy a Rifftrax after this? Hell yes. Would I go to another Fathom Event? Absolutely.

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Posted in: Movies