Ralph Bakshi’s entire filmography could be said to have never gotten the cult following it deserved. While his films are steeped in the cult classic category. Bakshi’s works remain mostly hidden from even the most avid film fans.
Wizards was released in 1977, the same year as ‘Star Wars – A New Hope,’ and was originally titled ‘War Wizards.’ However, this title was changed by the studio to avoid confusion between the two movies. The film, released a few months before Lucas’s magnum opus, may have been panned by sci-fi/fantasy audiences due to Star Wars outshining most any release around this time.
Wizards takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. A future where magic, elves, and fairies have returned to the land and where technology is all but forgotten. Forgotten until the antagonist Blackwolf, an evil wizard, unearths a treasure trove of Nazi propaganda and the war machines of the past. This technology causes confusion and fear as a tactic to wage war on his brother, Avatar. A sibling rivalry for kingship since they were born.
The film is chock full of fantasy and sci-fi elements that are blended in new and interesting ways. With elves, fairies, wizards, tanks, guns, assassins, mutants, swords and sorcery, it is a film that is sure to satisfy and intrigue fans of the fantasy genre.
7. The Chronicles of Riddick
It’s no secret that Vin Diesel is a prominent fan of D&D. He taught Dame Judy Dench on the set how to play a campaign with her kids. More on that later. Vin Diesel has also discussed his love for the Riddick character. The man went so far as to make a deal with the studio so that he could own the rights to the character. The trade ended with him doing a cameo spot in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Beyond that, on the last ‘Riddick’ movie, he would leverage his home so that it could get made. With this much love for a character, it is unfortunate that it may be a dying franchise. With the fourth and final movie ‘Furia’ on hold until further notice. It’s a franchise that has a cult following but not the one it deserves or needs to make it the epic space opera audiences got a glimpse of in Chronicles.
With the success of the low budgeted sci-fi, ‘Pitch Black.’ Director David Twohy and D&D fanatic Vin Diesel accrued a budget of a hundred million for the extended universe. What developed was a crazy, campy, jacked up, necro mongering, blast into space. It’s as if Vin and David sat down to create a hundred million dollar sci-fi tabletop campaign and then said let’s do it.
Let’s go all in. Including that one midnight session where Vin’s character rolled a natural 20, killing the enemy using only a teacup. It is a shlocky space opera that viewers ultimately may have taken too seriously. When viewed as an entertaining, jocular, badass, operatic exercise in character development and world building, it is a film that constitutes a second viewing with cult status to boot.
8. In The Mouth Of Madness
Many of John Carpenter’s films have amassed cult followings, from ‘Halloween,’ to ‘The Thing,’ to ‘They Live,’ and the list goes on and on. Many of his works are quintessential cult classic masterpieces. However, Carpenter’s third film in what has been called his ‘apocalypse trilogy’ is a Lovecraftian vision of horrifically overlooked proportions.
The film has that enigmatic cult quality from the first frame in the insane asylum to the self-referential last frame in the empty movie theater. It backtracks to show how our protagonist, a reasonable, serious man grounded in the cornerstone of reality, could wind up in such a disillusioned state.
As an insurance investigator, he would have to be pretty stable, right? Well, when pulp horror writer, Sutter Cane goes missing, and his cult readership of loyal dregs incite horror on the streets. John Trent, the investigator, is at first skeptical of the whole trend but finds out that reality can quickly turn on its head if enough people believe in the fiction. On second thought perhaps this film is better off not having a cult following.
Do you read Sutter Cane?
9. Inherent Vice
A pot-smoking detective who sports sandals, long hair, and comfy clothes may seem derivative of a certain Lebowski character who goes by the moniker ‘The Dude’ or ‘El Duderino’ if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. But the case of Doc Sportello and Shasta Fay Hepworth may not be what your thinking. But don’t worry, thinking comes later.
Inherent Vice, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon, is a weird, fun, trippy, look at love, loss and the failings of the hippy movement and capitalism in early 70’s America. So before labeling it an analogous, incoherent, lesser version of the former, consider the films deeper themes. ‘It might bring certain things to light and, uh, you know, given the nature of all this new shit, this could be a-a-a lot more complex, I mean, it’s not just, it might not be such a simple… uh, you know?’
Inherent Vice starts with Doc stoned on his couch in his little apartment listening to the night waves of the Pacific crash along the Los Angeles shoreline. As if from his smoke-filled haze in walks his ex Shasta Fay. Both feign cool dispositions in an attempt to avoid drudging up memories. Shasta then lays a job on his lap to find her billionaire boyfriend who’s up and gone missing.
What follows is a convoluted tale involving a wanna-be actor cop name Bigfoot, the billionaire’s wife, her boyfriend, and a plot to put the billionaire in an insane asylum. Doc’s lawyer discovers the involvement of a shipping vessel transporting drugs or humans or both which may be called the golden fang. He is then tailed by coked up crooked FBI agents and a neo-nazi biker gang Doc must elude.
As well as the discovery of a shady dentist office which may be connected to the drug movers in a plot to make money off dentures from druggies when their teeth inevitable fall out. Also, the dentist office is located in a building that looks like a golden fang as well. And that’s not even the half of it.
It may seem overwhelming, but that’s the point. It’s a complicated plot made worse by a laid-back attitude and a pad of scribbled notes that won’t be comprehensible the next day. The film is a deep and powerful social commentary that rings as true today as it did at the tail end of the psychedelic 60’s.
There are as many themes at play here as there are open threads to investigate. From the effects of drugs in the community to the effects of gentrification to the protests of the counterculture movement and the response of the mainstream.
Some questions float through the air like wisps of pot smoke, intangible and confusing. It is a film that begs for a dedicated audience to analyze all the details and all the players. Note and ponder all the schemes and themes and dense commentary that can only come through repeated viewings.
10. Survive Style 5+
One of the most important, if not the single most crucial factor of a cult classic is replayability. Survive Style 5+, directed by Gen Sekiguchi, is a film that can be popped into the player and welded shut. It’s a quirky, bizarre pop, punk rock, fun, hilarious, and artistic, surreal vision that deals with the theme of loss and enduring that loss.
The film is broken up between five separate stories that merge in one way or another. Fine detail is placed into every frame, the visuals are lush, the camera work is precise, the sets and wardrobe are beautiful, the choreography is wild, and the soundtrack is flawless and adds to the fun of it all.
It is surprising to learn this was Gen Sekiguchi’s first and as far as anyone can tell last feature film. It seems to be a very personal film in retrospect and features a character who is in advertising. This coinciding with the fact that Gen Sekiguchi is a TV ad man himself.
The film features a cast of colorful characters including a husband, played by Tadanobu Asano, repeatedly trying and failing to kill his wife, a hired British assassin, played by Vinnie Jones, a commercial executive, played by Kyôko Koizumi, A hypnotist, three teenage burglars and more.
The film also features Christmas in Japan which conceivably makes this a wonderful and visual movie to watch around the holidays. It is a spectacle that deserves to be seen by cinephiles, general movie-goers and everyone in-between. It is a film that earns its merit to be a comedy and surreal cult classic with every frame and sound it projects. So sit down, cook up a colorful Christmas spread, ask yourself, ‘What is your function in life,’ and check out Survive Style 5+.