film study: what IS a cult film, anyway??

good question there, Henry.. what IS cult?

In my history of watching [a fuckton] of movies, I’ve been asked by a lot of friends what a ‘cult film’ truly is, and/or what it even means. In today’s edition of ‘film study’, I hope to elaborate on the subject, and maybe even mention a few of my personal favorites. [shockingly – they’re not all horror films!]

a ‘cult film’, by definition is:

“sometimes referred to as a cult classic, a cult film is one that has acquired a ‘cult following’. they are known for their [extremely] dedicated fan-base and feature an elaborate subculture that engage in repeated viewings and/or quoting of the dialogue”

This meaning of course, that it’s like an actual cult: that it’s a film that has a ‘certain’ group of people who follow it. Another example is that it’s a film that was considered bad, but got such a following for it – usually because of it’s weird, yet likeable feel – it ended up as a commercial success! [I can think of a few!] Who knows? you may even know some without even knowing it was considered it was a ‘cult classic’!

Some cult classics are fairly well known though; with films like Eraserhead [as seen above], The Toxic Avenger or other strange, obscure films. But how does one know if a film is ‘a cult film’? In order for a cult film to work, it is usually defined by four main elements. These elements are:

  • Anatomy: this is talking about the film itself, including [but not limited to] it’s actual content, it’s film style and the story’s formatting.

  • Consumption: meaning the ways it’s received, through the audience, and critics. Did it do well? Was it generally ‘liked’? What was response?

  • Political Economy: here we talk about the financial and physical conditions of the film. Was it a big budgeted film? how much money did it end up bringing in, in the first place? so, basically – the money/budget side of the ‘Political Economy’

  • Cultural status: lastly, how did it work with it’s surroundings? Did it achieve what it was trying to do through exploiting something/someone, critiquing a topic[s], or even offending someone. this could be intentional

  • Note: While not all of these are necessary together to make a cult film; they are important to consider.

In this next part, I’m going to share [with pictures!] some of my personal favorite cult films. I’m going to mention a few that may be ‘unknown’ [so don’t expect obvious choices haha!] also, obviously, there are a ton of cult classics out there, so be sure to check a few out: they’re weird, they’re strange and they’re a fun time – I’m sure a bunch are even on Netflix [don’t quote me on that last part!]

Office Space is [in my opinion] the definitive cult classic. it has comedy, it has romance, and it’s certainly quirky. Just don’t let the head boss move you to the basement level – without your piece of cake.

If someone told you that aliens had arrived on Earth, disguised as humans, and the only way to know who wasn’t an alien was through a pair of sunglasses – what would you say? I’d say you’re probably watching the movie They Live.

easily my favorite anime of all time, Akira has quite the story-line. it follows a secret military project that turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psychopath [who also turns out to be a psionic] that only two kids and a group of psionics can stop from destruction. This film also has a live action film coming soon, but we all know how that usually goes..

I hope I’ve helped you understand a little bit more about cult films: with where they come from, what they are usually comprised of, and some of my favorites. Also, be sure to tune in tomorrow morning for my next post. [which I’ll have figured out what it’ll be about, and mentally written by tonight]


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