My post yesterday lead me to think further about B-movies. That thought process drove me to the topic of cult films. I am not saying that all cult films are B-movies. Cult films come in all shapes and sizes. Some are huge movies with massive production budgets others are not. One common thing about cult films is they tend to escape under the radar until the reach the at home market. Cult movies are fascinating, but the fans take it to another level.
Like I already mentioned, cult films can emerge as a production of any size. The budget on Starship Troopers(Paul Verhoeven 1997) was 105 million. Almost on the other end of the spectrum, The Big Lebowski(Joel and Ethan Coen 1998) cost 15 million. And while I haven’t seen the thriller Cube( Vincenzo Natali 1997)had a budget of 305 thousand. The point I’m trying to make here is that size has no bearing on what makes a cult film a cult film. Although, the production costs do trend toward the lower end of the price range, they generally aren’t bottom of the bucket.
So Freaking Good
Some of the films that are cult films are cult films because they are amazing. I’m talking so good, I can’t understand how the movie didn’t make hundreds of millions of dollars in the box office. Sure, the number of theatres it plays in and the buzz has a lot to do with it, but some I just don’t understand. I would bet good money some of these fantastic movies are overshadowed by large blockbusters people can hardly remember ten years later. The cult movies last. They cement themselves into the culture and the fans embrace it like hot sauce on eggs.
When I first watched Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo 1988), I flipped a shit. The movie was amazing from beginning to end. I was drawn into the characters. I wanted to see the bond between Tetsuo and Kaneda restored. It was upsetting seeing everything spiral out of Tetsuo’s control until he eventually consumed the people who meant most to him. The movie gives me the chills every time I see it. I also get very nervous, when the live action production kicks back into gear every few years. In my opinion, the overall film is genius. A few flaws in early rationalizations by Kaneda, don’t bother me because the characters are engaging.
So Bad, I Can’t Look Away
Other cult films fall under a very different umbrella. I am talking about the movies that are ass. You know what I mean. Movies that are so bad they make you cringe yet, you can’t look away. They pull you in. These movies are some of the worst movies ever made and people continue to watch them just to see how bad it is. An interesting phenomenon that I am also noticing is films that are trying to top which movie is worse.
In high school, a good friend of mine practically forced me to watch Plan 9 From Outer Space (Ed Wood 1966). Dear Lord, that movie was a flaming piece of shit. I have since purged the movie from my memory. Though the acting and stiff reading of lines stick out prominently in my memory. I don’t think they’ll ever go away. But after watching it, I realized why it had it’s cult status. Anyone with eyes or ears could see how terrible that movie was. In its awfulness, people have been able to rally together in mutual awe of its suck.
What Makes A Cult Film
With tons of movies made every year, there are only a select few that stand the test of time as the greats. The rest fall to the wayside never to be remembered again, except when dredged up by someone searching for the obscure. For every few great movies remembered, there are a similar amount of cult movies that survive. A good cult film is able to tap into the truth of human nature in some way. Sometimes that is having great scenes that feel like real life. While others stretch so far into the absurd that people remain intrigued. Sometimes they are just great movies that capture the people of an era and their essence. But it is some truth, whatever it may be, that people connect with. Cult movies are movies that you can watch again and again. With every viewing, something knew emerges for the viewer. It is a great feeling pulling out good ol’ reliable and knowing you won’t be let down.
Clueless is the quintessential 90s movie. I was only a kid in the 90s, but it wraps up everything I love about the 90s. The characters are kind of vapid. The plot isn’t really all there. But who cares, I wanted to be around these characters. Watching them interact and find their own way in the midst of California Valley culture was damn entertaining.
And because I promised to discuss The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi 1981), here it is. The Evil Dead is a little piece of horror film history. There is no denying that it falls under the category of a B-movie. It’s low budget, the plot is ridiculous, yet it lives on. Have I mentioned it has a ridiculous plot with a possessed demon girl being trapped in a basement while tormenting the others. for goodness sake, Ash loses his hand and in the next movie they run with it. Yet, the movie is entertaining. The crew had issues during filming, but that wasn’t going to stop Raimi. It is one of the best horror movies I have ever seen. Even if I was never really scared. And the best part about it all is how enthusiastic other people get when discussing the movie. That’s how you know when a movie is a true cult movie.
I hate to just list movies that are amazing cult movies, but I have to list some of the greats that I love. Because I love order, in alphabetical order. I know I am forgetting a bunch, but I can’t get enough of the list here.
- American Psycho
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
- Battle Royale
- The Big Lebowski
- Black Dynamite
- Bubba Hotep
- The Evil Dead
- The Goonies
- Mad Max
- Office Space
- The Princess Bride
- Reservoir Dogs
- Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
- Shaun of The Dead
- Spirited Away