Cult Films In Exile

by Andrew Osborne

A while back, fellow Exiler Phil Nugent and I wrote a list of the 50 Greatest Cult Films of All Time for Nerve, which the editors edited a bit (as editors will do).  F’rinstance, they cut my favorite joke from one listing, completely deleted others (and eliminated a timely Skidoo reference)!  But nothing goes to waste here at the Screengrab In Exile, so please to enjoy the strays and orphans of Cult Films:  Uncut!

Do The Right Thing (1989)

Marking a sea change in cinematic depictions of black characters and inner city life, Spike Lee’s indie hit bridged the gap between the underground blaxploitation genre and the ascendance of hip-hop culture.  Even more importantly (at least in terms of its cult status), the film is both endlessly quotable and eminently rewatchable, from Rosie Perez’s defiant opening credits dance straight through to the controversial finale.

Easy Rider (1969)

While Hollywood was stubbornly ignoring the counterculture (or, worse, pandering to it with bizarrely tone deaf misfires like the psychedelic Carol Channing peace & love opus, Skidoo), Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper pushed all the right peyote buttons and hit the zeitgeist jackpot.  Together with Jack Nicholson (as a round-peg square turning on and dropping out), the stoner auteurs shook up the film industry with this lived-in portrayal of sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll (while inadvertently ruining “Born To Be Wild” for all future generations).

Hands on a Hard Body (1997)

Watching two dozen Texans stand around with their hands on a truck may not sound like pulse-pounding entertainment.  But as we get to know the various contestants attempting to win the titular pickup by maintaining physical contact with it the longest, the suspense over who’ll drop out when quickly becomes intense.  In fact, the inherent human drama of the deceptively simple formula was so addictive that S.R. Bindler’s film not only influenced numerous subsequent competition documentaries and played continuously in one Austin, TX movie theater for nearly a year, but it was also name-checked in the final “Hands On A Hard Idol” immunity challenge of Survivor’s wildly popular first season.

Liquid Sky (1982)

Slava Tsukerman’s gender-bending avant-garde science fiction tale concerns a tiny extraterrestrial hunting the pleasure centers of heroin and orgasm addicts like bisexual New York fashion model Margaret (Anne Carlisle) and her rival, Jimmy (also Carlisle).  Yet the story and characters are far less important than the distinctly New Wave style of the film, which effectively bottles a very specific moment in space and time like a lab sample for alien anthropologists.

The Thing (1982)

Sure, the 1951 original is a sci-fi classic, but the monster who attacks a frozen research base in that film is basically James Arness as “an intellectual carrot.”  And, yes, the 2011 remake “prequel” has CGI.  But the jaw-dropping, pre-digital effects in John Carpenter’s version still blow our minds…and besides:  who kicks more ass than Kurt Russell?  (If you answered Wilford Brimley, you are correct.)

Troll 2 (1990)

As chronicled in his charming documentary Best Worst Movie, actor Michael Stephenson originally thought his performance in Troll 2 would make him famous.  Instead, the ludicrously incoherent (and 100% troll-less) tale of vegetarian goblins sent his career in a completely unexpected direction, chronicling and fraternizing with the cult that eventually sprang up around the latest and most serious challenger to Plan 9’s status as “worst film of all time.”


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