Alcohol and black men-spiked anatomy jokes turned Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles’ (DFFLA) free screening of Night of the Living Dead, on Friday the 13th, into a nerve-eating nightmare.
Before the movie started, attendees were told to text jokes to a MuVChat number and the jokes would appear directly below the pre-CGI cult classic, an inventive way to push dialogue, however the pairing was abused as soon as the lead actor Duane Jones, a black man, playing Ben, ran out of breath on screen. MuVChat is the interactive technology used to display the text messages.
Showing snide comments alongside tweet-worthy movies is a growing trend called HeckleVision – think director commentary on a DVD meets reality reunion show, with verbal hair pulling and whosever wig gets snatched off does not get a spin-off show.
DFFLA tweeted this, “Celebrate Friday 13th being a smarta** @ free ‘Night of the Living Dead’ screening,” a few hours before pressing play and a link within the tweet said, “prizes for best audience members’ tweets.”
Being a smarta** or making snide remarks is always welcomed but there is a difference between being a smarta** and being just an a**.
The first comment, “she’s more scared of the black man than the zombies,” forced the room to howl in laughter but then the comments, within seconds, turned butt ugly.
“She’s thinking how big his d*** is.”
“His wood is ginormous.”
“He stole the rims.”
“She doesn’t understand Ebonics.”
“OJ’s hiding out in the house too.”
Like Night of the Living Dead’s famous tagline, “They won’t stay dead.” The comments did not stay dead.
Those were only a handful of HeckleVision-approved comments that were texted in.
The more inappropriate the comment was, the harder the room belly-laughed and the crowd, drunk off free Stella Artois (one of the event sponsors), allowed to be as loud and obnoxious as possible, loved every second of it.
The Facebook page for the event said there would be a “filter to prevent the dirtiest words from soiling virgin eyes.” It was not used.
What did all the texts from the HeckleVision showing have in common?
They were seen in front of a room full of moviegoers, supporting a young festival supporting downtown Los Angeles. Film festival attendees typically are college-educated, still in college, movie nerds, or in the industry.
During the screening, a photography student tweeted “@dffla #hecklevision at @HayworthTheatre is hilarious! Great way to end the festival!”
When attendees first texted the number, they were informed how they could include a screen name. One particular attendee was making the worst comments.
My friend I went with sent a text to that commenter asking was he a racist or Republican?
The attendee responded yes that he was white.
At one point I thought the DFFLA staff was going to pause the movie and inform attendees that the texts were becoming offensive, but that never happened. What did happen is my friend and I left twenty minutes into the movie. I had never seen the original Night of the Living Dead, directed by George Romero, and really wanted to, but the scrolling white lines made it impossible to sit through the insults.
Interesting enough, during the time that the movie premiered on October 1, 1968, racial tensions in the states had exploded with the recent death of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4 and sweeping protests. Duane Jones was the first African-American to be cast in a lead role, getting top billing, of a major motion picture that did not have a black actor written as the lead actor or with a racial theme. However the movie about the walking dead does highlight the struggle for equality, with Ben being the smart-thinking hero who has to fight racial bias. Ben survives the zombie attack until the very end of the movie, only to be shot in the head by a redneck zombie hunting party.
Later, I watched the movie on YouTube minus HeckleVision.
HeckleVision is coming to a screen near you, with MuVChat showings popping up in theaters, libraries, and even museums, across the country.
If the opportunity comes up for me to attend another HeckleVision screening for a cult classic like Showgirls or Twilight, I will turn it down. HeckleVision is one trend I have to unfollow.
- Have you heckled any good movies lately? (popwatch.ew.com)
- Pencil This In: ‘Eureka’ Cast at the Paley Center, Sapphire on ‘The Kid,’ an Afro-Cuban J.A.M. Session and the DFFLA (laist.com)