The 25th Frame

What makes a cult film, well, cult(ish)?

 I know, I know; it's been awhile. It's been a very long while, sine I last wrote. Fun facts: I graduated college and quickly became homeless for a time. Needless to say, my attentions have been on finding a place in the great city of Chicago to stay.

Now that I have done so, I return to you lovely and amazing readers of HEAVE. I've had a fair amount of time to contemplate film related topics over the summer and want to talk to you about something most readers of this site would probably appreciate: cult hits. What exactly makes a cult hit? Four words: rabid word of mouth.

What brought this up? The summer release of a new personal favorite film of mine: Scott Pilgrim versus the World. Despite a rather large marketing campaign, unfortunately “Pilgrim” underperformed at the box office, despite opening to some of the better word of mouth to come out of the summer releases (second only to the word of mouth for Inception).

In fact, I've met very few people, especially those of the Wired Generation, who did not like (let alone, love) “Pilgrim”. It's a little hard not to, given its rather fantastic blending of comic style, video game aesthetics and indie rock vibe, not to mention its great ensemble (Michael Cera is never my first choice, but he does well here). Regardless of what I may think of a film like “Pilgrim”, it's hard to deny that it caters to a very specific audience, much like fellow cult hits The Boondock Saints, The Rocky Horror Picture Show or the recent Kick-Ass.

 Cult films are fun in how they typically incite such a strong reaction in very specific fields; “Pilgrim” very much made for those raised on video games and MTV. There is something about the characters, setting or both in cult films that leave a lasting impression for better or worse. Certainly in the case of “Pilgrim”, there is more than one scene to leave an impression: especially if you've ever played a video game in your life. Personally, I wish a big “versus” showed up right before one of my many fights in my everyday life.

Another fun thing about cult films is often how they connect to other cult media, such as T.V. I'll admit I squealed out loud when I realized evil ex Roxy was played by Mae Whitman, who worked with Michael Cera as Ann/Bland Veal on Arrested Development (one of the top examples of cult T.V.)

It's a sign that cultists (like myself) are often appreciated by filmmakers with soft (and some not so soft) alluding to other media outlets that don't often get the recognition they deserve, whether they are T.V. shows or films. And why not? If there is one thing cultists are renowned for, it's spreading the word.

Which is why, despite the lack of success at the box office, many believe “Pilgrim” is going to have great longevity into the future (DVD sales, cable, etc.)

And those are just the films. Don't even get me started on cult T.V. shows. We'll be here for some time. Suffice to say, big numbers do not often equate to the overall or lifespan of a film or T.V. show. What counts are the first impressions that keep people coming back for more and eager to start spreading the word.

So get moving/talking already.   

Posted by Max Alborn on Sep 24, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

Scott Pilgram vs. The World, Kick-Ass, Boondock Saints, arrested development, michael cera