I really am enjoying this solitary life at home (while fully acknowledging that the circumstances suck and the existential dread is real). I’m settled into a routine full of movies and yoga and cats and crochet and work I guess. I see my friends for our weekly trivia game and keep in touch on socials. The only thing I’m really bummed I’m missing out on is going to the movies, Alamo Drafthouse in particular. We’ve already passed all the Alamo events I had tickets for, and I’m sure there are others I’d have squeezed in by now. That’s really the one void I’m feeling.
Enter Alamo At Home. They’ve set up a way to access VOD content that supports the theater and their causes, and has lots of their little touches. A lot of it is kinda obscure content, but one thing they’re doing is trying to keep up with their Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays (which was a lot of obscure content to begin with). I don’t typically like VOD content (the Roku at least took care of being able to watch on tv, but if I’m gonna pay I’d prefer either a theater or a physical copy I can keep) so I was holding out for a title I was really interested in. In the wake of all the Tiger King hype, Alamo offered a Weird Wednesday that fit right in: Roar.
This movie had actually been on my radar for some time. I’d seen a trailer for it at one of the indie theaters in Boston I occasionally visited. What stuck with me was the tagline: No animals were harmed in the making of this film, but over 70 members of the cast and crew were. Color me intrigued. Not sure why I couldn’t go to the screening then, but I’ve kept an eye out for it since. I gladly paid my ten bucks and hooked up Vimeo to my Roku and sat down on the couch with my own little cats nearby.
Before getting into the movie itself, one regret is that I didn’t take full advantage of turning this into a total Drafthouse experience. Not just because I haven’t made the buffalo cauliflower yet, but because I didn’t notice the bonus content until after I watched the film. I had a vague memory that they’d mentioned a filmmaker Q&A, but I wasn’t too interested (although I did end up playing it in the background for a bit while writing this up). What I didn’t know was that it also included a filmmaker intro and, even better, a preshow!
I love the preshows at Alamo. They’re a big part of why I get there early (well that and not wanting to be denied entry) and I don’t even mind sitting thru the trailers because I know I’ll see some weird and funny stuff first that goes with the feature. The preshow package didn’t disappoint AND it even included trailers for their upcoming at homes AND one of their No Talking/Texting PSA’s that of course was appropriately chosen to fit the film. I wish I had known to play that on my screen before the movie cause I’d have been in a better mood for it. Turns out, the movie itself wasn’t worth all I’d hyped it up to be over the past few years.
Right what exactly is this movie anyway? Where do I even begin. Actress Tippi Hedren (yes, from The Birds) and her then husband Noel Marshall were inspired by a house they saw in Africa that was overrun by lions to build a movie around that. And they’d make it a familiar affair, using themselves and their children (including Melanie Griffith) as the cast. They spent the next few years acquiring a multitude of lions, a few tigers, and some other assorted wildlife. Oh this isn’t even the movie yet, this is just the backstory. As you can imagine with untrained wildlife, there were many um setbacks and injuries and delays that plagued this film that would come to be known as the most expensive home movie ever made, and one of the most dangerous films as well.
The movie itself doesn’t really have a whole lot of plot. Dude lives in a big house with big cats. His family is coming to visit. There’s a miscommunication and they end up there alone. And the cats have their way.
Basically what they did was just let the cats run around the set and play with the actors and they filmed it. It’s billed as an “adventure, comedy, thriller”. Not sure where the comedy is, but it mostly plays out like a thriller as the family is running for their lives. Again, the animals were untrained, so they basically did what they wanted. A lot of the attacks that are seen on screen are real. Pretty much every person involved had some type of major injury as a result.
The thing is, the story of the film is far better than the film itself. Because there’s no plot or real direction to it, it’s hard to stick with. It basically feels like watching a car crash. You’re not necessarily enjoying it, but you can’t look away because you know something insane is going to happen. It’s just so bizarre and a perfect Weird Wednesday choice.
I’m glad I got to finally see it and satisfy that curiosity, but I don’t know how worthwhile it is to actually watch it. The story around it is so much better than anything that actually happens in the film itself. It can’t help but be a bit of a letdown.