For those not in the know, the Rifftrax crew is a trio of Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni: Michael J. Nelson (head writer and host), Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Bill Corbett (Crow T. Robot). They joined together to create a great series of downloadable audio tracks that could be played along with a film on DVD and featured the crew's signature barbed jokes and obscure pop references. Every one that I've heard is very funny and harkens back to the best days of MST3K. Occasionally they will broadcast a live show to theaters across the country, billed as Rifftrax: Live. This is my favorite way to experience a film that they skewer. Watching at home is fine, but there's no comparison to seeing them on the big screen with an appreciative audience full of fans.
The jokes start right as soon as patrons walk into the theater. Instead of the usual elevator music and slide show or ads, Rifftrax makes their own pre-show entertainment. The slides range from amusing to hilarious and their original songs are great. This time the show featured a series of movie quotes ("Whoa, Wilford Brimley is in this?!" - Anyone seeing John Carpenter's The Thing for the first time. ), announcements of upcoming films ("Coming next Halloween: Freddie vs. Jason vs. Milo vs. Otis") and interesting trivia ("Pennywise from It: scariest clown every... except for the ones in Congress.") They're pretty funny and serve to warm the audience up quite nicely.
The live broadcast started right on time and the first item on the agenda was a short: Norman Gives a Speech. A few of the other Norman films have been riffed at the earlier live events, and if you've seen one of those you'll know what to expect: one weird short that lends itself perfectly to the Rifftrax style. These inexplicable movies revolve around a man (who never talks, just sighs and grunts) who lives a horrible life where nothing goes right. They are not funny, they're not dramatic, and there's not a morality lesson. The reason they were made is a mystery. This time Norman, "the man Eeyore the Donkey called the most miserable son of a bitch ever" is ordered by his boss to prepare a 10-minute speech at the last minute. In typical fashion it's a disaster. As Mike comments "Norman's entire life is like the 'before' part of an infomercial."
After Norman messes up, the main event starts: George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. They came up with a very nice looking print (my main fear was that they'd use one of the washed out scratchy prints that are in wide circulation) with great contrast and detail. The movie is a classic, but whether you've seen it before or not (and judging from the reaction of so people in the audience at the end, a lot of them had not seen it) the riffed version was hilarious: "It reminds me of 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' without the 'Pride and Prejudice.'"
As you'd expect for Rifftrax, there were a lot of pop culture references thrown in both old (when the zombies first start appearing: "Wait a minute... isn't that Bernie from 'Weekend at...' fame?") and new (when a group of zombies are eating: "A logical end to the Honey Boo Boo saga.") Several jokes got huge laughs, with one of the biggest occurring when the African-American hero, Ben, first arrives at the house that's being besieged by the undead: "Young President Obama! Thank God you're here!"
The Rifftrax crew hit another home run with this hilarious and entertaining show. It comes Highly Recommended. If you missed it, mark your calendar for December 5th. They'll be doing another live event, this time riffing that classic holiday film Santa Claus vs. the Martians.