Sneaking Into PULP FICTION Made Me The Nerd I Am Today
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I grew up in a household that watched a lot of movies. I also grew up in a household without any brothers and sisters, which meant that once I reached a certain age, my folks had no problem dropping me off at the movies by myself in lieu of hiring a babysitter. Sometimes I'd bring a school friend with me, but on many, many occasions I flew solo (thus learning, at a preposterously early age, one of life's greatest lessons: going to the movies by yourself whips ass), and on many of those occasions I would sneak into movies I hadn't purchased tickets for. Sure, my folks were fairly permissible when it came to what I was allowed to watch, but for movies that contained lots of sex and violence, I was on my own.
I recall Pulp Fiction as one of the few movies they ever drew a line in the sand over. Apparently, my mother had seen someone on a talk show talking about how one of the film's characters "gets shot in the face, and then everyone's laughing about it!", and this cruel-sounding piece of misinformation shook her to the core. I don't recall what it was that made me so determined to see Pulp Fiction - at that age, I still hadn't seen Reservoir Dogs; I didn't even know who Quentin Tarantino was - but the buzz surrounding the film (which I'd picked up reading Entertainment Weekly) was strong, and my parents' refusal to let me see it only made the whole thing more attractive. Once I'd been told "No" for the third time, I decided it was time to plan my crime.
This was easier said than done. Whereas other films I'd snuck into were of a standard, 90-120 minute length, Pulp Fiction was a behemoth at nearly three hours. If I asked to be dropped off at the theater to see something else - the latest Jim Carrey comedy, for instance - I'd have to account for needing that amount of time before being picked up. This meant that I needed to say I was seeing something long, like over two hours long, and it had to be something my parents would believe I'd be interested in seeing (this was an important mission, and I didn't need them getting suspicious). Eventually, I settled on a scapegoat: Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump, which ran roughly two and a half hours.
Shortly after choosing Forrest Gump as my patsy, a weekend rolled around where my parents announced they were going furniture shopping, and that they'd be willing to drop me off at a nearby theater if I wanted to see something. Sensing an opportunity, I snapped up the morning paper to check out the day's showtimes (this was in 1994, people), and there it was: the theater near the mall had a screening of Forrest Gump starting at roughly the same time as an afternoon screening of Pulp Fiction. I returned to my folks and told them I'd be taking 'em up on their offer, and even had a movie in mind.
"You already saw Forrest Gump, though," my mother said. "I thought you didn't like it."
Thinking fast and knowing that everything was on the line, I went into Fib Mode: "Yeah, but I'd like to give it another chance."
And so it was that my parents dropped me off at the theater. I purchased my ticket for Forrest Gump, made my way inside, picked up a pack of Twizzlers and a giant Coke, and cased the joint: two people behind the register. Teens, neither of them paying much attention. Some guy in a suit loitering near the ticket booth, looking at a clipboard. Probably a manager. Beyond this trio of oblivious souls, the theater lobby was dark and empty. I looked across the way from where I was positioned: a door on the left led to Gump; the door directly to its right led to the forbidden pleasures of Pulp Fiction. Despite having done this on countless occasions, this particular mission had me thrumming with adrenaline. I waited for the man with the clipboard to enter the ticket booth, and then I made my move.
Upon entering the theater screening Pulp Fiction, I was horrified to find the room empty. This increased my visibility one hundred times over! If someone happened to poke their head in the door - perhaps someone who was all too aware that this particular screening hadn't sold any tickets - I'd be immediately busted. For safety, I positioned myself at the far end of the very back row, right in line with the door. Someone would need to do some real snooping to spot me back there. And besides, what choice did I have? I'd put all my chips on Pulp Fiction, and lord knows I wasn't about to sit through Forrest fucking Gump again.
Minutes before the movie started, the door open and I held my breath. An older couple entered, shuffled to their seats, seemingly taking no notice of me. As I exhaled, the lights dimmed. The trailers started. I'd done it! I was home free! And then, the movie began.
It is not an exaggeration to say that I emerged from that theater, hours later, a changed person. Not a boy, not yet a man, but definitely a person who'd seen Pulp Fiction. Of course I'd seen countless movies by that point in my life, most of which offered a perfectly pleasant way to kill a couple of hours, but I'd never seen anything quite like this. I felt drunk on the movie, rocked off my axis. The dizzyingly intricate dialogue. The sudden, darkly comic acts of violence. The weirdo structure, which forced you to do some guesswork in order to reconcile the narrative's tangled web of storylines. The way Tarantino gave his characters far more room to live and breathe than the average filmmaker. The unsolvable mystery of The Briefcase. Bruce Willis triumphantly killing a man with a samurai sword. The dance contest. All that glorious profanity.
Pulp Fiction immediately became the first movie I ever truly obsessed over, and when it hit the Dollar Theater in my town a few months later, I spent many months sneaking into a great number of other screenings with my pals. One by one I made sure they all saw Tarantino's film, if for no other reason than I wanted other people to talk to about it. Those conversations inspired my social circle to sink its teeth deeper and deeper into the world of film, starting with the titles that had apparently inspired Tarantino and then reaching outward towards the films inspired by those films.
Seeing Pulp Fiction led me to Reservoir Dogs. Reservoir Dogs led me to Ringo Lam's City on Fire, which led me to Chow Yun-fat, which led me to John Woo's The Killer. Reservoir Dogs also brought me to the films of Harvey Keitel, which led to the filmography of Martin Scorsese, which of course only emboldened me to dive straight into the work of Stanley Kubrick, and then Hitchcock. On and on this went - and, indeed, on and on it still goes. It'll never stop. You'll never see all the movies. You'll never know everything. There will be no end. But there was a beginning, and I know precisely when it happened and how it occurred.
Pulp Fiction is quite literally the movie that got me into movies. It rewired my brain and established a strong throughline for my entire life, one that continues to this very day. It's rightly hailed as a classic now - its impact on pop culture really cannot be overstated - but the impact it had on my life is truly immeasurable. To me it is more than a special film - it is a holy one. There's no telling what might've become of me had I not snuck into that screening on that otherwise-unremarkable Saturday afternoon, and for that, I will be forever thankful and a lifelong QT fan.
And, yeah, I guess Forrest Gump deserves some credit here, too.