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Cult Feedback

Metro readers respond with passion and suggestions to cult-film picks
office space DID YOU GET THAT MEMO: Apparently, we missed the memo and left 'Office Space' off the cult-film list—and we're in Silicon Valley, no less. Van Repin/20th Century Fox

WHEN I WROTE the Metro cover story on top cult films a couple of weeks ago, I invited readers to send in their own picks. I was expecting to get flak for some choices, plus plenty of attitude about the countless cult films I didn't include in my list of 10 new cult films and the 10 top classic cult films.

I did get all of those things, but as Marty DiBergi says in This Is Spinal Tap: "I got more—a lot more." What I didn't expect was the amount of thought and time some readers put into their responses. I was thinking simple lists or even just one or two names of films I'd left off, and I did get a lot of emails like that. But I also got some lengthy replies that not only debated the choices on the list but also engaged the actual philosophy of what constitutes a cult movie.

Interestingly, not too many people seemed to have much of a problem with the list of classic cult films, though many had their own favorites they would have put on it. It was the list of new cult films that was more controversial. Louis Pantelakos Jr., who wrote one of my favorite emails, actually took the time to go through my list of new cult films and write a detailed analysis of why I shouldn't have included certain films and which movie I should put in the place of each; e.g., Mallrats instead of Anchorman, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas instead of Fight Club and Oldboy instead of Audition. I gotta admit, that last one is just too close to call, although I guess I went with Takashi Miike's Audition over Chan-wook Park's Oldboy just because the former seemed to have a greater impact on the moviegoing psyche at the time. Oldboy is nearly as disturbing, in its own way, and probably the better film, but to my mind Audition paved the way for the cult of extreme Asian films that has sprung up since.

Central to Pantelakos' argument was the idea that "to begin with, a true cult movie has to be a bona fide bomb. If a movie is popular right off the bat, even with minor success, you are playing lose with the term 'cult.'" I simply don't agree with this; even Blade Runner made its budget back (eventually). And I don't see how anyone can argue that Fight Club, for instance, is not a true cult film.

I'm more enamored of how a cult of fans can turn the popular perception of a film from "bomb" or "turkey" to "underappreciated classic" or "undiscovered masterpiece." The actual dollar amounts don't interest me as much. As Justin Brown wrote in: "I'm glad that you added the addendum that cult can be defined as a film that received its due then vanished into obscurity, since I believe the 'cult as defined by lack of monetary success' is entirely too narrow a definition to encompass all cult cinema." (Not that Brown loved everything in my lists: "To include Mulholland Drive on the new-school list feels like more of a space filler. Even though I enjoyed Black Dynamite, I feel that other self-aware genre films such as Planet Terror would have deserved the slot more.")

Some people included their own analyses of the films I wrote about, like Kevin Riley O'Keeffe, who on Night of the Living Dead took issue with my assertion of social commentary in the ending: "People are always trying to tell me that the final scene has some deep, heavy racial subtext," he wrote, "which frankly I'm not seeing. ... I think perhaps some people are seeing what they wish to see there, rather than what really is. Its sequel, on the other hand, the original Dawn of the Dead, has a very blatant racial subtext, which has perhaps led people to look into this film trying to see the same thing."

Of all the lists sent in, the films I didn't include that popped up the most were Office Space, Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Slap Shot. Valid choices, all, and in good company with dozens of other films readers wrote about, from Strange Brew to Point Break to Hedwig and the Angry Inch to pretty much every early Kevin Smith movie. And to Matt Tueller, who wrote in about Forbidden Zone: as an Oingo Boingo fan, I feel ya. Danny Elfman as the devil! Love it!

For those who wrote in interested in The Room, Camera 3 is now showing it monthly, and the next screening is Sept. 24 at 11:30pm. They also have a cult movie series, and one of my picks, David Lynch's Eraserhead, screens Sept. 8 at 9pm and Sept. 10 at 11:30pm at Camera 3.

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