Written by Mike Watt; Foreword by Lloyd Kaufman; 245pp, illustrated, McFarland and Co., Inc. ISBN 978-7864-7044-2; McFarland Books
I think that Cult Film is Dead—personally, I blame the Internet.
What I mean by that statement (that many are going to disagree with, I know) is that the very definition of what we understand as ‘cult film’ has been undermined and misconstrued due to the very nature of the Internet to highlight and champion the obscure. In the pre-Internet age, most of the guides into the dark recesses of the film world were the Danny Peary “Cult Films” books and the efforts of freelancers working for mags like “Cinefantastique,” “Psychotronic Film,” etc.
When the Internet came upon us, it did allow for wider exposure of film treasures—which led to ‘overnight experts’ popping up to spread around equal amounts of information and disinformation, which was accepted as gospel. Whereas before it took some searching to find any sort of film guide pertaining to cult film, one can now walk into almost any bookstore nowadays and stumble over several volumes sitting in the aisles; most of said guides usually feature the same lineup of films that have been discussed and re-discussed over and over again.
It (the Internet), and to a degree, the MST3K Effect ((Mystery Science Theater 3000 Effect – the need to loudly and humorlessly belittle the gaping flaws in a film.)), changed the definition of Cult Film from “films which didn’t get their due” more towards “bad films with a following”; which, indeed, may be an apt description of some cult films (*cough* Manos: Hands of Fate, The Room *cough*), but it shouldn’t be the sole definition.
Anyway… when it comes to cult film, there are a lot of pseudo-experts out there, flogging the same old titles on blogsites and books, but fortunately the pretenders haven’t squeezed out die-hard stalwarts such as “Shock Magazine,” “Video Watchdog,” and a couple of others. Of course, such harsh words aren’t leveled at Mike Watt (who is a writer for publications like “Cinefantastique” and not the ex-Minuteman punk musician, despite what the Internet will tell you). He’s written about cult film for quite a few years and has a review site, Movie Outlaw, that I discovered sometime back.
When the site went on hiatus, I was concerned that Watt had decided to throw in the towel as far as reviewing/blogging went; fortunately my concerns were smoothed over when I discovered that he was taking the time to work on a book: “Fervid Filmmaking: 66 Cult Pictures of Vision, Verve and No Self-Restraint.”
As Watt defines it, the films featured in ‘Fervid Filmmaking’ are examples of “Kitchen Sink Cinema,” films that throw in “everything but…” said sink. Such films are rarely the result of committee; rather, they tend to be of a singular vision and fueled by passion. They rarely find mass audiences, but do get small and highly devoted audiences.
Among those sixty-six films that Watt mentions are Head, Tideland, Santa Sangre, Tromeo and Juliet, Repo! The Genetic Opera, which are probably not surprises to any serious cult film devotee. But Watt goes much further, unearthing gems such as Shanks, The Final Programme, Forbidden Zone, Coonskin, Twice Upon a Time and even lesser known films such as The Baby of Macon, Sixteen Tongues, and Fearless Frank. His selection of films is refreshing. He doesn’t limit himself only to movies made within the past 20 years or so, and his breakdown on each film is thorough. Best of all, most of his selections will be familiar to regulars of 366 Weird Movies. There’s even a mention of the site in the section on Dr. Caligari (of which, there is a big difference of opinion on… sorry, Greg!)
Being published by McFarland Books means that this title will be pricey, but like most of McFarland’s genre releases, it’s worth every penny. :”Fervid Filmmaking” is a “must-buy” for any cult film aficionado.