Has Cult Accidentally Become Popular?

In Commentary, FILM, THEATRE & TV, HOME by Melanie Christie

I would like to argue that the cult film genre has begun to take over Hollywood, and as a director, who favours the non-normative, I want in!

At first I think I should define, very unprofessionally, what I mean by cult. It is a genre of film that often gains a devoted fan base after its initial, typically not overly successful, box office run. Think Donnie Darko (2001), or The Big Lebowski (1998). Basically it is an outlier film, one that doesn’t fall into Hollywood blockbuster convention. Even more basically, it’s a film that’s just plain weird, but extremely likable.

I can’t argue that cult films are starting to become box office hits. Although films by Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino (both prolific cult film directors) have steadily grown in audience size, their box office success rarely comes anywhere close to that of a Michael Bay blockbuster. But, I can argue that cult elements have been steadily sneaking their way into mainstream films, and audiences love it!

This new breed of film is exactly what I want to make – a commercial success that is a rebel at the core. I am hopeful that I have a chance because I see that the place where cult meets mainstream is starting to grow, even at the studio that put the M into mainstream, Marvel Studios. Specifically, lets look at Iron Man 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy.

ironman3colliderFrom the sight of it, Iron Man 3 is just another addition to the Marvel canon. Bigger than its predecessors, yet still following the same formula. But doesn’t it seem just a little weird? What about the fact that Tony barely spends anytime in the suit himself? Or that Tony’s greatest threat is his own panic attacks? Or that henchman who surrenders to Tony by saying ‘Really I hate working for these guys, they’re so weird!’

This weirdness could be explained by the fact that Iron Man 3 is directed by cult filmmaker Shane Black, his first feature being the must see meta-noir film Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (starring Robert Downey Jr. himself). Black doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel with the latest Iron Man outing, but he clearly gives the movie a cult soul.

And now for the imposter of a movie that is James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Although Guardians is this year’s biggest box office success, it is at heart a cult film. A talking raccoon. A walking tree. Set design that looks like punk-gone-cyber and a very odd sense of humour. Is this film weird or what?

Even the director is as cult as they come, his previous releases being the super-hero cult favourite Super (2010) and horror darling Slither (2006). Going even further back, Gunn started his career in B-movie land (Troma Entertainment, or ‘Tromaville’), and traces of that time are all over Guardians of the Galaxy. So – does the success of Guardians show that cult films started to make their way into the limelight? I certainly hope so!

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy-wiredWhy are cult directors starting to become A-listers? I would argue that it’s because these guys are coming up with something new, something bold, something fun, and even big Hollywood execs see the appeal in that. Both box office success and critics reviews of these movies suggest that even blockbusters benefit from an injection of something cult, be it humour, self-referencing or something just a little weird.

Let’s hope, not only for the sake of my career but also for the sake of good entertainment, that this new trend grows and grows, and eliminates the box office blockbusters of the past by bringing in a new era of weird, weird film.

Anton Kudryashov Jr.

Anton Kudryashov Jr. is a Director at Outer Limit Productions, a production team based out of Edinburgh. He is very, very witty and enjoys long walks on the beach. His favourite pastime is napping. His natural habitat is the quiet corner of your nearest cinema, where he is not sleeping.

If you’re interested in getting involved with PTL – drop us an email on prancingthroughlife@live.com.

(Images sourced from: www.screenrant.com, www.collider.com, www.wired.com)