Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998). I saw this movie opening weekend just exactly as the good Doctor Gonzo would’ve liked me to: stoned out of my pretty little gourd. Too stoned, in fact, to realize that I was on a “date” and not a “seeing a movie together with my coworker occasion” until my date started talking about how much fun he was having on our date. I was noncomittal, highly platonic in all I said and did, and skedaddled straight home after the show.
I tried to go back again the following week with ancient friendoh Paolo and, though it had only been playing in our somewhat rural area for one week, Fear and Loathing had already been pulled from the screen. We saw The Truman Show instead, and, three quarters of the way through the film, someone began beating insistently on the other side of the rear exit door that faced the alley behind the theater. They were pretty violent and persistent — there were obvious kicks and muffled shouts — but finally went away.
However, the startling and dangerous impression the knocking and kicking left stayed with the crowd: when the movie ended, everyone sort of milled around instead of leaving the theater right away. No one openly said it, but I believe that none of us wanted to be the first out the door in case the knocker was still out there. He didn’t sound like someone who’d forgotten his jacket during the last show. But why, then, did not a single one of us get up and leave the theater before? Why did we all sit there during the knocking, just waiting with dread for whatever came next?
It was a weird and surreal experience, a reminder that by its very nature violence is an unpredictable eruption, and that in the face of such an eruption, many of us can only freeze with fear and indecision. We could not have looked more like sheep nervously peering out of their enclosure, on guard for a wolf. But what I’m saying is you can’t really ever guard against that, can you? It’s all bat country.