Late Night TV, The Force & Cult Films

Well, the good news for the multitude of eager Jedi enthusiasts and their galactic ilk is the wait is finally over…

Those anxious moments spent out front of cinema houses in Boba Fett sleeping bags has come to an untimely end. And alas, thanks to Disneyʼs $4.05 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm, the force has awoken… again.

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With the resurgence of the towering monolith that is the Star Wars franchise, comes with it the question of what in essence defines the cult film. Some would argue that the term does not extend to include box office hits or mainstream cinema. Others would even go so far as to accuse the Hollywood machine of trying to artificially create the ʻinstant cult classicʼ or use the term as a marketing tool. But try telling that to the devoted mass of loyalists and collectors that have morphed a subculture the size of a G10 country.

In light of this recent intergalactic phenomenon we take a brief look at the rise of the often recited, frequently discussed and obsessively viewed cult film.

When referring to cinema, the term finds itʼs roots early on in the 20th century. But it wasnʼt really until the 70ʼs that the definition of the cult film as we know it today came about with independent, underground and B-grade movies… the likes of which every other decade pales to in comparison. Such all-encompassing films that included science fiction (The Man Who Fell To Earth, Mad Max, Eraserhead), horror (Dawn Of The Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Wicker Man), to musicals, action and the coming-of-age film (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Warriors, Harold And Maude).

Some have initially bombed on release only to amass a significant fanbase in later years, with new generations rediscovering them on late night television or digitally restored releases. Such films as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Carnival Of Souls (1962) and White Dog (1982) have each attained cult status after falling short at the box office.

A select few- like the Star Wars franchise, have even gone so far as to necessitate their own film festivals and subcultures. There is also of course those directors and filmmakers that assemble a cult following when anything is released under their name. In some cases the names Stanley Kubrick, Dario Argento, Sergio Leone and Quentin Tarantino on a film poster is enough to lure an audience.

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But whatʼs a list of cinemaʼs cult inclusions without that quirky, left-of-field decade of the 80ʼs? Who could forget such frightful gems as Evil Dead (1981), Scanners (1981) or Re-Animator (1985)? Mind-warping science fiction like Altered States (1980), Blade Runner (1982) or Repo Man (1984)? Or teen targeted classics like Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982), Weird Science (1985) or The Breakfast Club (1985)?

In fact, anti-establishment filmmakers like Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz gained most of their notoriety in the 80ʼs with cult films like The Toxic Avenger (1984) and Class of Nuke ʻEm High (1986), that made the Troma Entertainment name synonymous with cult movies.

Nowadays, with the inclusion of the internet and social media, the walls that once restricted the reach of entertainment to a wider audience have all but toppled… and the definition of cult cinema is reinventing itself all over again.

In the near future- or a galaxy not too far away, such defining factors as censorship, social taboos, politics and financial backing will shape the landscape for cult cinema and itʼs loyalists.

(Article written for Oliver Grand, USA, 19/12/2015)

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