What is a Cult Movie? And what is the future of this genre? We want you to weigh in on this important discussion that began last week. At the RetroCon 2013 conference there was a meeting of high-level Cult Movie leaders called together to shape a program of action.
A modest yet respectable crowd of the most dedicated and solemnly nerdy CULT MOVIE fans gathered in the panel room of the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. The lights dimmed and the talk kicked off with the video on this page, edited by CINEMA INSOMNIA producer DIXIE DELLAMORTO.
When the lights came up, MR. LOBO, horror personality and host of CINEMA INSOMNIA, sat at the center of a long table and welcomed the audience.
He introduced two experts who were brave enough to show up for these proceedings. Sitting at the left side of the table, the well groomed and manly CHUCK FRANCISCO of the COLONIAL THEATRE FIRST FRIDAY FRIGHT NIGHTS, and volunteer/performer/technical guru for BLOBFEST 2013–an annual Phoenixville event celebrating cult film THE BLOB(1958) that was shot there on location. On the other side of Mr. Lobo sat the frisky yet lovable NEWT WALLEN, the producer/creator/promoter of an homage to exploitation cinema called MIDNIGHT SHOW and experienced manager and programer for movie theaters.
MR. LOBO ranted about the lack of helpful communication in our “connected” world, and that a lot of the usual semantics and pre-digital revolution buzz words fail to reach potential fans or educate the uninitiated about genres of Misunderstood Movies like Cult Films.
“When we say “B-Movie” we mean low budget genre films. But to those who don’t even know what an “A-movie” is and may not remember double features–it seems to have less meaning. When you explain that they played double features at drive-in theaters, they might say ‘What’s a Drive-in?’ When Mr. Lobo says he’s a Horror Host–many cringe because they only know one kind of Horror movie and say ‘I hate horror movies’ when they really just hate ‘SAW’. or ‘HOSTEL’.
When one says they like “Black Comedy”–many wrongly think of “Big Momma’s House” and when we say we love “Cult” films they think we’re following Charles Manson or David Koresh in some scary religious sect. People don’t even know the difference between “Camp” and “tounge-in-cheek”. What do ‘Midnight Movies’ or ‘Movies on Late Night TV’ mean in a world of ‘On Demand’ when people are watching ‘CINEMA INSOMNIA’ at 2 in the afternoon? Mr. Lobo really hates catering to the Geek Chic of late–but I suppose calling them Geeky would grab attention. People seem to understand the passion of ‘Geekery’ or at least it’s popular to pretend to.”
Mr. Francisco brought up something he calls NETFLIX GRIDLOCK…where he wastes and hour and a half to decide what movie he want’s to watch. “I might not like this….I might not like that.”
Mr. Lobo said that he didn’t know a lot of films that were presented on his local hosted horror show CREATURE FEATURES, that he loved as a kid, were not considered to be good films. “They just poured into your house of Saturday Night and if you loved horror movies you’d watch it and talk about it on the playground on Monday.” Mr. Wallen had a simular observation about showing up at a drive-in or a midnight show at a theater
and watching whatever was playing as a social activity. The consensus of the panel is that the internet has helped nurture a culture of harsh critics.
You can but there are no guarantees it will become one. And if you try to make a “SO-BAD-IT’S-GOOD-MOVIE” and it’s bad–how do you know if you succeeded?
The findings in this first part of the panel seem to suggest that a cult movie does not find an audience but an audience finds a cult movie. An active group of fans continually supports a film in good weather or bad, popular or unpopular, and intellectually obsesses on it. New followers are brought into the fold by sharing and spreading the word but many find the film on their own. Sometimes a cult grows into a second chance for mainstream success.
The Lights dimmed again and the second video portion of the panel began a compilation of trailers from FREAKS(1932) to BUBBA HO-TEP(2002) many of which were teased in the opening montage. Almost half of the audience checked out around ERASERHEAD(1977) but THE REAL CULT MOVIE FANS who stayed participated in the Q and A and added much to the discussion.
Some of the audience members who had to leave, came up to Mr. Lobo in the dark to discuss important matters such as Ringo Starr’s CAVEMAN(1981) and STARCRASH(1978).
The audience unanimously agreed that the films shown could be considered cult films. Some lamented over the lack of fantasy films like KRULL, CONAN, and BEASTMASTER…an oversight partially due on the tastes of the trailer reel editor DIXIE DELLAMORTO and organizer MR. LOBO. CHUCK FRANCISCO who supplied many of the trailers, left out WIZARD OF OZ(1939) and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL(1975) among others slated for inclusion because he felt they were “too mainstreamed”.
Everyone seemed to agree that “re-watch-ability” and other ritual aspects were factors in determining a cult film. Mr. Lobo admitted “I’ve seen BLADE RUNNER(1982) like eighty times!” RIDLEY SCOTT’S BLADE RUNNER was a critical success yet a Box-Office failure. It’s been praised in recent years and has had enormous influence especially stylistically on Science Fiction in general.
Does a film stop being cult if it becomes too popular? When does a cult become a world religion? WIZARD OF OZ(1939) was a flop. STAR TREK(1966) was cancelled. STAR WARS(1977) opened to only 30 screens and couldn’t sell it’s first poster for $1.00 at conventions–can any of huge phenomenons be considered a cult today? That is for your personal taste to decide.
The other side of this, of course, is claiming something is CULT just because it is obscure.
Cults like religion get touchy when you try to reinterpret their cinematic “Bible”–which explains the often passionate and immediate hatred of remakes, re-imaginings, prequels, sequels, and reboots.
How did this picture of the new ROBOCOP(2014) make you feel?
Guilty pleasures were talked about, too–films you enjoy but wont tell your friends about.
There were many exciting findings, but NEWT WALLEN came up with a great solution…“Love what you love and don’t worry about what to call it or what your friends will think.“
We’re anxious to hear about your love affair with certain movies of a type that does not necessarily need to be classified! POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE!