Greetings from the Underground! This may not come as a shock to you but I have always been a huge fan of cult films. From Rocky Horror Picture Show to Death Race 2000 and more, I have enjoyed them all. But what makes a movie a “Cult” film? A new documentary series has set out to try to answer this question. Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time is a three-volume series hosted by Joe Dante, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Pollak, and John Waters. Each volume covers one or more types of cult films through interviews with critics as well as directors, writers, producers, and actors of cult films. Volume 1 was just released this week on V.O.D. with the topic of Midnight Madness.
Volume 1: Midnight Madness introduces us to a number of the most popular cult films. Movies that bombed on their initial theatrical run but found new life with midnight showings. This volume helps define what a “Cult” film is. I thought it framed the definition well and helped contextualize the rest of the series. While many of the films in this volume will be familiar to seasoned cult film fans, those who do not watch cult films are given a great selection to start with. I loved all of the personalities interviewed. My particular favorites were Pam Grier discussing her film Coffy, working with Sid Haig and her experience in general. Then we get to see Sid Haig on screen talking about working with Pam Grier. There is also an archived interview with David Lynch which was wonderful. As I continued to watch Volume One the grin on my face widened with each anecdote and film presented. The interview with Gary Busey talking about Point Break is worth it by itself. I thought this was a strong opener for the series and it hooked me right in.
Volume 2: Horror and Sci-Fi continues the series with a fast-paced look at genre cult classics. Horror and sci-fi are my two favorite genres and I was most looking forward to this volume. Like the previous volume, I was familiar with most of the films presented here. The segment on The Human Centipede (no pun intended) was very interesting and I learned something new about how it’s script was written. The interview with Sean Young about Blade Runner was a bit of an eye-opener. I was surprised by the lack of Troma movies presented in this segment as well as its short run time. Considering these two genres tend to have the most cult movies in them, I would have liked to see more. Outside of that, this volume is as strong as Volume 1. You will have to wait until May 19th, 2020 before you can sink your VOD teeth into this volume.
Volume 3: Comedy and Camp wraps things up with a number of surprising choices. It is also the segment that I think is the weakest. I thought it was a bit of a stretch to classify some of the examples presented as cult movies. The hosts even admit a few times that what they were talking about doesn’t exactly fall into what was defined at the beginning of the series as a cult film. This volume also features some of the racier choices. The examples of Camp were also a bit of a head-scratcher only because there were many films from previous volumes that could fall under this category. My favorite segments in this volume have to be the interview with John Cleese about Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the segment about Best in Show. It is still worth a watch. You will need to set up your tent for this volume as it will not drop to VOD until June 23rd, 2020.
The hosts for this series were a diverse group and helped set up segments during each volume. Joe Dante and John Waters dominate the conversations for the first two volumes but Kevin Pollak and Illeana Douglas do get more input in Volume 3. I enjoyed the fast pace editing and a number of the interviewees they had were pleasant surprises. The series did seem to occasionally waiver from its established definition of cult with a few of their examples. I think it is a demonstration of how difficult it is to define what it means to be a Cult movie. Veterans to this type of film looking for a deep dive into their favorites may want to look elsewhere. Overall Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Classics of All-Time is the perfect primer for the beginning cult viewer. But hey that’s just like, my opinion, man.