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Cult Film Manifesto
By: Mickael
I’ve recently read a study on the internet which says that there are more Brooklyn hipsters with podcasts than there are people on earth. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that the culture of social and mass media is largely dictated by these types of trendy, trust-fund millenials. They are a spoiled batch of cookies, concocted from a mixture of entitlement, artificially inflated egos, and sriracha sauce. They all ride fixed-gear bicycles to get to their friend’s apartment (which they’ll insist on calling a “flat”), where they’ll eat bacon-infused anything and play Cards Against Humanity while drinking either the hoppiest craft IPA on earth or Pabst Blue Ribbon (for some reason). How do I know everything about their routine? Because they’ve posted it on Instagram, Tweeted about it, made it their status on Facebook, wrote a blog detailing it, Periscoped it live before uploading a recording to their YouTube channel, and of course they mentioned it during the latest episode of their Podcast. I’m not denegrating the concept of using technology to better connect with your loved ones, to stay in touch with old friends, or even to celebrate your modest life successes before moving on to bigger challenges. I get all of that, it’s natural.

What I don’t understand, however, is this need to put yourself over by knocking others. If you’re a big strong athlete who shoves a smaller nerd into a locker at school, we call it bullying and we send you to detention. But if you’re a faceless amoeba rotting in the cesspool that is the internet and you try to hurl insults at things or people that you don’t like, suddenly you have 15,000 followers and are “internet famous”. The thing is, you aren’t actually any better than the people you mock. You merely feel that way because of the validation you receive from the strangers that clicked the “Like” button on your mean comment. There’s a whole cottage industry abounding from this modern version of The Dozens. Popular YouTube masters like HISHE, Honest Trailers by Screen Junkies, and CinemaSins’ Everything Wrong With... series solely exist to knock down entertainers and artists. They take well-produced and funny potshots at familiar pop culture entities, but they aren’t really adding any value. Entertainment-wise, these channels could have never existed and I think I’d enjoy all of those movies just the same, or maybe even a little bit more. So often, I see Tweet or comments after a flop is released that insist, "well at least the Honest Trailer for this will be BRUTAL!" I almost miss the way we used to talk about movies, back, before the internet...
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly... But Mostly The Ugly
In hushed tones (so as not to be overheard by the teachers) three young children, no older than nine years of age, huddle up in the school yard to discuss what they've seen. One young girl, called Wendy, tells the boys about a scene in Lethal Weapon that features a drugged-up blonde woman perched on the narrow railing attached to her balcony. It's the middle of the night, the wind blows open her unbuttoned blouse to expose her breasts, and she can't keep her footing. The woman drops to the street below and her delicate frame is transformed into a deadly missile as her corpse crushes the roof of a parked car below. The boys “ooh” and “ahh” at the idea of the woman’s naked body, but the girl reassures them that you only get a glimpse.

The next child, a little boy, shares that he just watched Robocop and witnessed the brutal dismemberment of police officer Alex Murphy. He describes, in great detail, the way that the sadistic gang leader steps on Alex’s arm, takes aim with his shotgun, and blasts Alex’s hand into a red smear on the concrete slab floor of an empty warehouse. “Then the guy says, ‘Give the man a hand!’” the other boy interjects, stepping on the first boy’s punchline. “Frankie! You’re such a jerk!” the first boy exclaims as he pushes Frankie in the shoulder. “Well, everybody’s seen that one,” Frankie retorts, “and it ain’t got nothin’ on what my grandma got me!”
“An abandoned sailboat drifts into New York Harbor,” Frankie begins, “but it’s gonna crash if someone doesn’t stop it, so the harbor patrol pulls alongside it in a boat and two cops get on board. They look around to investigate, and the whole place is wrecked. There’s garbage all over the cabin, and big ugly bugs crawling around. One cop moves something out of his way, and a severed hand falls on the floor! It has big hunks of skin missing and you can see all the gooey bloody bits and everything!” The other two kids make sour faces and yell “YUCK!” This does not deter Frankie. This let’s Frankie know that he has them right where he wants them.

“Just then, a big fat zombie jumps out and throws the cop down. He bites the cop and rips out a huge chunk of his neck. Blood spurts everywhere! The other cop shoots the zombie like five times and it falls into the ocean. That's just the start! Then there’s a naked lady scuba diver who gets chased by a shark. As she tries to get away from the shark, she swims right into another zombie! She fights him off, and the zombie ends up fighting the shark!” Frankie breathlessly ends his synopsis with, “That’s just the first half hour... It’s the best movie ever!” Frankie’s parents weren’t around anymore, that’s why he lives with his grandmother, and he sometimes makes things up for attention. The other two kids are skeptical and call him a liar. “Am not!” Frankie yells defensively, “I got it on tape! It’s from Italy! It’s called Zombie! I’LL SHOW IT TO YOU!”

This is how it all starts, with the simple sharing of what you saw over the weekend. We all had a friend like Frankie. Someone who, through great siblings or bad parenting, had access to the movies that you weren’t allowed to watch. Frankie wasn’t lying, by the way. Apparently, nobody in Italy has parents. Frankie got his friends hooked on the bloody and macabre that day. Soon, they were holding weekly meetings where they’d spend the whole afternoon throwing in VHS tape after VHS tape and fast forwarding to "the good parts". The challenge of any friendship is that they can’t last forever. Before any of them even reach their teens, Frankie’s two friends have moved out of town because their parents changed jobs. Frankie didn’t have that problem, so he had to stay put. He would always find new friends to pull into the addictive realm of films, and thanks to his efforts with Wendy and what’s-his-name, there were now two other pushers out in the world. Hasta la vista, Frankie.
There's No Place Like Home...
Wendy wasn’t excited about her parents’ decision to move. She’d have to make new friends, get on a new bus, and deal with being “the new kid”. Being very shy, Wendy was never particularly good at making friends, especially with other girls. At least with the boys, she could go on and on talking about all of the gross things she saw in her favorite movies. Wendy’s biggest fear, though, was getting lost and ending up in the wrong classroom. She would have nightmares about going through an entire quarter of school and only finding out on Report Card day that she was marked absent for something because she had been sitting in the wrong classroom for weeks. This fear kept her up almost all night for a week before school started. Luckily, her parents had finally given her an old second-hand TV for her bedroom.

Even when it wasn’t a school night, Wendy’s family had a strict bed time policy. To circumvent her parents’ rules, Wendy would lay in bed with her eyes closed and pretend to be asleep until she heard them leave the living room and go to bed. She would then silently slip out of bed and tip toe to her bedroom door, placing her ear against it to ensure that there wasn’t a sound anywhere in the house. Once she was sure it was safe, she would turn the volume nobs all the way down on her TV set before gently pushing the power button. As the screen flickered on, her face was lit up in its glow. She would slowly turn the dials between VHF stations, hoping to find something other than the Tonight Show or the news. After the VHF dial turned up nothing, she ventured into the unpredicatble territory of UHF.
The UHF dial was enough to stress a girl out. The 70-something clicks she could turn sounded like firecrackers compared to the silence of the house. She would use both hands to slowly turn the nob, hoping to muffle any noise created by the old set. Each click could yield a new, undiscovered channel airing some amazing movie... or (as was more often the case) she would be greeted with white noise. And more static. Oh look, white fuzzy lines! Followed by more snow. Eventually, after seemingly endless searching, a picture! It was in black-and-white, but it was a picture! She turns the volume up ever so slightly, grabs her blanket, sits on the floor, and wraps the blanket around her like a shawl. An eery voice on the TV warns, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara...”

A few hours later, her parents enter the room to wake her for the first day of school. They find her bed empty and the television set still on. The father turns off the set and the mother says, “Wendy honey, time for school...” On the floor, a tightly wrapped blanket starts to jostle. “Don’t shoot! I’m still alive!” Shouts the blanket burrito. Wendy’s head pops out of the end of the blanket, her face awash in wild-eyed panic, “I’m alive!” she exclaims. Her father says, “I’m taking your TV away for one week. I told you not to stay up past 9.” Wendy wondered how they always knew she’d been up late watching scary movies. She now had something greater to worry about than showing up to the wrong classroom, though. Now she worried about where she would get her next film fix. A week was just too long to wait.
Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe...
One evening, while watching television with his family in their new home, young what’s-his-face is dismayed at his older sister. They don’t have cable, just the 5 local channels, so a couple shows have become essential viewing for him. America’s Funniest Home Videos is one, and The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr is the other. She keeps ruining the show by referring to Brisco County Jr as “Ash” and Bowler as “Sho’Nuff”. “That’s not their names,” he whines, “Shut up so I can find out what happens with the orb!” His sister seems to know something that he doesn't. After the show, she drags him into her room and says, “You like the guy in Brisco County, right?” He nods. “I’m gonna show you something and you better not tell mom and dad.” He agrees, and she puts a tape into her VCR. It’s a movie called Army Of Darkness.

For weeks, he sneaks off to hang out in his sister’s room. At first, mom and dad are happy that the kids are taking care of each other. They know that moving can be difficult and that the kids might not have many friends at school yet, but at least they have each other. After a while, mom becomes suspicious as to what they could be doing behind closed doors so often. The four-year age difference meant that the kids normally had different interests and never spent much time together before. One day, she hears muffled giggles from behind the door. Paranoid, she barges into the room to check on them.
Who was your first film pusher?
Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark
Joe Bob Briggs
MST3k
The Crypt Keeper
Vampira
Morgus The Magnificent
Other
Poll Maker
She sees them rolling around on the sister’s bed, laughing hysterically as a young George Clooney hawks random products to help offset the costs of the movie he’s in. Next to the TV is a cardboard sleeve that reads “Return Of The Killer Tomatoes”. The kids leap up at the sight of their mother and pause the movie, convinced they’ll get in trouble because she doesn’t let them watch horror movies. “It’s not really a scary movie, mom!” explains the boy, “It’s just a funny movie that makes fun of scary movies. Honest!” Mom sits down on the bed next to them, grabs the remote, and presses play. “Oh, I know all about it,” their mother says, “Every Saturday night in college I dressed up as Columbia and went to the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

A few months into the new home and the new school, and the kids have two things to look forward to: 1) The first break of the year, for Thanksgiving, is coming up; 2) Their parents are finally getting cable installed! Despite his outward excitement, the young boy is a little sad because he fears that his sister won’t let him watch movies with her anymore. Still, it’s very exciting and in the days leading up to the cable installation, he pours over the TV guide and circles any cool-sounding movies that are playing during the break. One thing in particular catches his eye: a 28-hour-long block of something called “Mystery Science Theater 3000” on Comedy Central. Intrigued, he made a note to at least check in on it if nothing else seemed good. Sleepy-eyed on Thanksgiving morning, he grabbed his cereal and was quickly evicted from the kitchen so his parents could start preparing dinner. “It’s 9 a.m.,” he said, confused. He sat on the wooden living room floor and turned on the television, which gave a familiar sight: the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Bored, he switched over to Comedy Central. His sister sat down with him, and the TV didn’t change channels again until dinner was served.
Down, Down, Down The Rabbit Hole....
Now 15 years later just look at this pathetic little junkie, working two jobs to support his habit; one is a normal occupation as a manager of a store, the other sees him a dealer in used celluloid sleaze, as he resells his wares on auction sites for a loss, which he then reinvests into his lurid addiction. His obsession is repugnant, a constant cycle of financial mismanagement as he spends his paydays compulsively searching the $5 DVD bins at Wal-Mart for something, anything, that looks different. He scours deep, leaning over the sides of the bin like a child hocking a loogey from a second story balcony. His head is now completely submerged in cheap, plastic, shrink-wrapped cases. After several tense minutes his body goes limp... another few seconds pass with no sign of life-- until, finally, a quiver emerges from his fingertips and spreads through his hand. Eventually his whole arm lifts up and grasps the side of the $5 movie bin. He pushes against the bin and his head emerges from the depths, DVD clamshells erupting from his head like droplets of water. He has found nothing to fill the void in his soul.

At the FYE in his local mall, a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” sale on used DVDs yields a few rare horror films, most notably Nekromantik, but he knows it's not enough to keep him satiated for more than a few days. By Sunday afternoon, he will be roaming the filthy open air corridors of the old flea market - grabbing 5 for $10 discs of schlock that no respectable person would keep on their shelves in view of their friends or loved ones. He doesn’t care. He’ll watch them all, keep the best, and sell the rest to keep going until he finds his next great flick fix. Will Cherry 2000 satisfy him? How about the entire Hanzo The Razor trilogy? No, nothing will. He will keep on chasing that dragon until the day he dies.
If you’re like our nameless hero, you may have already explored the catalogues of Troma, Full Moon Features, and even all the old Hammer horror films. If so, you know what this hobby is like already. For many people, it's no problem to just drink one or two beers a week and go about their lives as normal. For alcoholics, they simply can't stop consuming and they drink until it damages their relationships and career. For some addicts, they become consumed by drugs, often jumping from one all-consuming chemical dependency to another, seeking the feeling they got when they first got high. For us, and many cult movie fanatics like us, it’s easy to identify with those addicts. Movies become more than just a hobby, they become a habit.

Perhaps, you’re just scratching the surface of your film fandom and you would like some guidance on what to watch next. Every one of us needs a Frankie, a UHF station, or an MST3k in our lives to help kickstart the habit. Hopefully, we can be that for you. Unlike most movie sites, we don't have any ads. No clickbait. No promotions. Nothing to sell you. We are not the #hashtaggingest, re-watching, unboxing, blog-pod channel that will blow your mind. What we are, or at least what we aspire to be, is your new drug pusher. We are passionately addicted to films, and we want to share that passion. We want to be the friend that always recommends the perfect hidden gem. We want to start building a community of people that live for the taboo, the macabre, or the offbeat types of entertainment. Above all, though, we want to welcome you. Welcome to the cult of film.
Are you fixing to pitch a bitch fit over what I had to say? Please let us know at: cinemaniac@cinemania.co
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