Warning: The following is NSFW.
Sherlock Gnomes is a pointless, brain-dead, idiotic excuse for a movie, but that’s hardly interesting. I can only assume that a maximum of four people on the planet thought it would be anything else after they saw the trailer, which prominently featured a little garden gnome in a thong, twerking his sunburnt plaster cheeks like there was no tomorrow (and it’s scientifically verifiable that at least three of those four people are Hitler). This, too, is hardly worthy of any particular note. By any reasonable metric, Sherlock Gnomes is the kind of bargain-bin misfire whose best hope at longevity is to eventually become a meme, a la Bee Movie.
What is interesting, and bordering on mentally damaging, is the fact that I paid real, actual dollars, US currency, to see this fucking thing in theaters.
In my defense, I did it with the best of intentions. I was running low on new movies and games to review and started wracking my brain for a new project to work on. Eventually, I decided on something tentatively called: “Why Did I Do This To Myself: Movie’s With Terrible Trailers Triple Feature.” The wordy and awful title aside, it seemed an elegant solution; I would go to the theater and watch a few movies in which I had absolutely no interest, and attempt to transform my pain into your pleasure. Simple, right?
In theory, yes. In reality, as evidenced by the fact that that particular article was never published, not so much. I’ll spare you the riveting details of my myriad scheduling conflicts, but suffice it to say that I only got around to seeing one of the movies on my list.
That movie was Sherlock Gnomes. And the odyssey of my viewing experience will haunt me for years, nay, decades to come.
Here it is.
It began, as all visits to the theater do, with buying a ticket. I, being alone 99% of the time I see movies, tend to favor the self-help kiosk for my purchasing, but have found it impossible to avoid the Gate Guardian: the kind individual who takes your stub, informs you where your screen is located, and politely ignores it when you tell them to enjoy their movie too.
My relationship with the Gate Guardian is tense under the best of circumstances and becomes even more so when I attend a screening of which I could not be more ashamed. I had a moment of panic when I realized that this was just such an occasion and that I needed to somehow communicate to this person that I wasn’t completely unhinged, which would hardly be an unreasonable assumption on his part.
So there I stood before him, a fairly well-dressed, appropriately hygienic twenty-something with no children and no friends, holding a ticket to see Sherlock Gnomes, which had been in the theater for a few weeks by this point. The look he gave me was a unique combination of consternation, uncertainty, and unbridled judgment. I managed to fumble out some unconvincing (but entirely truthful) comment like “oh yeah, I heard it was terrible and I needed to see it for myself,” as an attempt to mitigate the effect that this interaction would have on his view of me every time I passed through his Gate from that day forward, but I fear it only served to make him suspicious.
Once past the Gate Guardian, I hightailed it to theater 3, henceforth known as “The House of Undying Shame.” Upon my arrival, I let out an audible sigh of relief when I found that the auditorium was empty, save for myself. I chose an inconspicuous seat towards the top, and near the corner, hoping to avoid detection should anybody else come in unexpectedly. As comfortable as I could be in a room for which I had paid an entry fee to watch a terrible children’s animated film about a garden gnome-detective nearing the end of its theatrical run, I braced myself for an hour and a half of pain.
And then He walked in.
He was a bald man, normal height, caucasian, and average build. He appeared to be in his late twenties or early 30’s, but it was hard to tell through the hot flush of shame that overcame both his face and my vision as we made horrible, horrible eye contact.
The moment couldn’t have lasted more than a quarter of a second, but I would like to pause here for just a moment, to soak it all in. Two grown-ass men, both alone, neither with any concessions, in a theater at 1:45 PM on a Monday, intentionally sitting down in a screening of Sherlock Gnomes, just looking at one another in abject terror.
After a few more quarter-second glances back and forth, He landed in the row directly behind mine, about four seats to my right. During the previews, I tried to sneak a few glances behind me to see what in the everloving hell he was doing here, but eventually, the lights dimmed, and my attention was demanded elsewhere.
Of course, the movie was a wretched bore, so I occupied my mind by coming up with a list of reasons that this man would find himself alone in a screening of Sherlock Gnomes. I have compiled a few below.
- He is not so different from myself. He too is an independent critic with a passion for really shitty movies, and he came here to gather the requisite knowledge for his upcoming review.
- This reason seemed unlikely, primarily because the only reason I found myself in this theater at all was so that I could leverage my lack of punctuality in seeing a few movies I expected to be terrible. If He is also an independent critic who had the exact same plan as me at the exact same time, down to the hour, then something fishy is afoot, and I don’t much like it.
- He is a very, very lonely man. Some dark times have come over His life, and He uses movies as an escape from His own demons.
- It’s fairly likely that actual real demons created Sherlock Gnomes, so if this was his plan, He chose astoundingly poorly.
- He is the film equivalent of a shoplifter – He buys one ticket, then spends all day watching every movie he can find. It makes him feel alive.
- It’s possible, but even under these circumstances, why would Sherlock Gnomes not be the last possible movie on His list? I can assure you that this particular theater shows movies until well after 1:45 PM, and this was not the last screening for this particular film.
- He is the world’s most active parent, and insists on personally pre-viewing every film before He allows his children to watch them.
- This is possibly the most practical option yet to appear on this list, but I feel terrible for His children.
- He is a MoviePass fanatic and wants to see a movie every single day. This is either because He is a crazy couponer in his life outside of the theater and needs to extract the maximum value from his membership regardless of the mental scarring this action incurs, or because He’s secretly a double agent for one of MoviePass’ competitors, and is trying to run them out of business.
- Although I wouldn’t be surprised, it kind of seems like MoviePass is doing a decent job of that by themselves. Or is that just the doing of AMC’s elite band of saboteurs?
It was around this time that a far more horrifying, far more damning, and far more likely scenario dawned on me:
___6. He came here to masturbate.
I was, needless to say, disturbed by this revelation. Was He the kind of man who got His jollies sitting in the back of children’s movies while tickling his turtle? What kind of person would do that? I don’t condone it when it’s two horny teenagers, let alone one sad dude in the back row with only ol’ righty to keep him company. Moreover, how pissed off must He have been to see me sitting there, near enough to the back that he would be unlikely to get away with it no matter how far away He positioned himself? And worst of all, it’s Sherlock Gnomes! How far off course must a life have gone to get a man to the point where pleasuring Himself during a matinee showing of the sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet sounds like a solid way to spend His Monday?
And then the most profoundly, viscerally unpleasant alternative came crashing down upon my head.
___7. He works for the theater, and they sent Him to make sure I wasn’t masturbating.
I cannot be clear enough about this: I did not attend a screening of Sherlock Gnomes to use it as a private JO-den. That is disgusting. That is not funny, and it is nothing that has, or ever would, cross my mind to do under any circumstances.
Still, though, it makes sense.
It would explain the Gate Guardian’s look of concern at the sight of my ticket. It would explain the delay between my arrival in the auditorium and His. It would be one explanation as to why he sat behind me and at an angle; to get a better vantage point. It would explain why, even after I unwittingly foiled his solo romantic afternoon at the movies, he stayed for the entire film. The evidence is equal parts upsetting and compelling.
It didn’t take him long to vacate the premises once the credits rolled, and I made sure to put a solid couple of minutes between his exit and mine, then look squarely at the ground until I reached the safety of my car.
I may never know exactly what happened that day, and I’m not sure I want to. I may have stumbled into a man’s secret perversion, or I may have gotten my name a spot on some list I’d much prefer not to be associated with. Perhaps I missed an opportunity to connect with another critic who was just as embarrassed and terrified as I was, and continue to be, about the afternoon’s events. It’s possible that I could have done something to help a very sad, lonely man out of a rut in his life other than sit there and make him feel even more self-conscious. All of these possibilities exist in superposition with one another, simultaneously occurring and webbing out into an infinite network of consequences and pathways; ends, and beginnings. It will go down as one of the greatest mysteries of my time, and haunt me even into the autumn of my life.
But my money’s on option 6.