Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett have made a career out of laughing at bad movies. From their days on Mystery Science Theater 3000 to their current project, RiffTrax, the trio, along with a team of co-conspirators, have been talking through movies since the ’80s. And audiences love them for it, just as long as they refrain from texting during the show. Now, by popular demand, two films that have become favorites among the RiffTrax faithful—Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (originally riffed in May) and Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (originally riffed in August 2013)—are returning to the big screen for special “Best of RiffTrax” one-night engagements on January 14 and January 28, respectively.
“There are certain movies that every choice the filmmaker makes is the wrong choice,” Nelson tells The A.V. Club about The Room. Corbett adds, “they’re bad in a way that when people try to make ‘bad movies’ they can’t come up with the weirdness of some of the choices.” So how does one riff on something so bizarre? “We were diving deep into his subtle dark comedy that he obviously did on purpose and made no mistakes doing,” Nelson jokes. (Wiseau initially claimed The Room was a drama before seeing how hard people laughed at it. Now it’s a “dark comedy.”)
According to Corbett, RiffTrax had been getting requests to do The Room for years before the crew finally approached Wiseau about doing it as a live show. Wiseau approved the screening, but wasn’t completely on board: “Tommy Wiseau supported us 40 percent,” Corbett says. “He didn’t like what we did but he 100 percent supported our right to do it, so that amounted to 40 percent.” “[We were] just marveling at his Paul Verhoeven-level satirical chops,” Murphy quips.
Speaking of that particular Robert Heinlein adaptation, Corbett says that while some seemed to think Starship Troopers was un-riffable because it’s a satire, “I don’t think it’s particularly good satire. I think it takes itself incredibly seriously. And we had a lot of fun making fun of bugs.”
Asked about one of the most notorious movies in Mystery Science Theater 3000 history, the former cast is willing to take full blame for the Manos: The Hands Of Fate renaissance that is sweeping America right now with a crowdfunded restoration of the film by Synapse as well as the soundtrack getting a vinyl release. “It’s interesting that that movie, which we saw on a dusty VHS tape so many years ago, is now the subject of a Playboy feature story,” Nelson muses. “I think at this point all of us are a little sick of it but it’s amusing to watch.” Corbett chimes in, “It does seem like a homemade snuff film to me,” prompting Nelson to recall: “My wife thinks Manos is a thing of evil and made pagan signs as she threw a copy of it out the back door.”
But while they’re sick of Manos, Murphy is excited about the next, all-new live RiffTrax event. “Santa And The Ice Cream Bunny … is [a] head-scratching, ‘how was this even conceived, much less made’ sort of a film. I’m looking forward to delighting and terrifying audiences with that one,” he says. The never-before-seen live riff of Santa And The Ice Cream Bunny takes place tonight, December 3, at 8 PM ET/ 7 PM CT. And if you’ve already got plans tonight, don’t worry—there’ll be an encore showing on December 15.
Meanwhile, RiffTrax Live: The Room (1/14) and RiffTrax Live: Starship Troopers (1/28) will take place at 7:30 PM local time in 550 select theaters across the U.S. You can find one near you, and buy tickets to all the upcoming RiffTrax screenings, on the Fathom Events website.