As Johnny Depp's new depiction of Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary, finally reaches theaters, his first film adaptation, 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, returns for a "Cool Classics at the Colony" screening. The long-gestating project involved just about every cinematic anarchist in Hollywood, from John Belushi to Martin Scorsese to Repo Man's Alex Cox, who wound up with a co-writing credit on the finished film. The result flopped critically and at the box office, but never underestimate the power of a drug-induced comedy to build a cult following, which resulted in a Criterion DVD and a place on many "best cult movies" lists.
While the meandering plot and Depp's insistence on speaking through his cigarette holder make for some rough going, it does in many ways capture the anything-goes sensibility of Thompson's raucous take on American excess and the end of the 1960s ... or at least doing lots and lots of drugs and seeing weird shit. This movie came out my senior year of high school, and Thompson's writing style was actually one of the things that inspired me to go into journalism, though my sheltered suburban upbringing convinced me I should try to write like that without all the drugs. See the world through the eyes of Hunter S. Thompson when Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas plays the Colony at 8 p.m. —Zack Smith