Every cultist has a story of how they obtained a copy, or attended a screening of some guilty pleasure or a very difficult to find hidden treasure. It shows that cult cinema relies on esoteric networks of communication. Here is an annotated list of contact points in the global network of cult films. We have chosen those sites with which we have had personal contacts, so we can (sort of) vouch for them. For future additions, we welcome your input and feedback.
The Astounding B-Monster : this site calls itself “the world’s coolest cult-movie chronicle”, and even the BBC endorsed it by calling it “a fabulous celebration of all things B-movie”. Filled shock-a-block with funny and disturbing trivia, it is indeed a jewel of campy bad taste. And that’s a compliment.
Canuxploitation : a complete guide to Canadian B-movies that is truly amazing. It highlights the best (or worst) of the notorious Canadian genre films made in the 1970s when seemingly everything was possible, and it also directs you to the weirdest Canuck stuff of recent years (Ginger Snaps, Cube, May, Fido, Quebec comedy, and the films of Guy Maddin!)
CultFilm.com : this is basically a site that recommends purchases. Like a television shopping channel it advertises series, deals, and special editions, and in doing so it creates a unique view on what qualifies as cult (and who are notable cult directors).
Debased : this is hardcore cult, with information and announcements on anything cult, especially on the more grisly materials, from Coffin Joe to 1950s avant-garde. There is an extensive range of lists, from a top 100 of greatest cult actors, to overviews of medical flicks. The site asks you to be 18 before you enter..
DVD Drive-in : Talk about inclusive. This site gives reviews of virtually every new DVD release in the field of cult, horror and monster movies, grindhouse, and camp, with a keen eye for special collections (Russ Meyer, Mario Bava, Curtis Harrington, …).
Eccentric Cinema : dedicated to cult and genre cinema, and to ‘bad’ movies in general, this site aims to find a middle ground in between “didactic elucidations of the serious film scholar and the empty "Fulci rulz, man!" banalities of the fanboy.” They manage to do it too. Lots of reviews and downloads.
Film Fanatic : the origin of this site is Danny Peary’s Guide for the Film Fanatic, a reference guide for the more esoteric cinema. This book, together with Peary’s legendary Cult Movies I, II, and III are among the first to start constructing a cult canon, so if you want to know which films are really core cult, then we suggest you go here. Peary’s original reviews are twinned with ‘response reviews’, which makes for neat updates.
Freaky Flicks : this is a community sharing films via the net, mainly via downloadable files. It contains a huge list of films, most of which are arthouse (Herzog), avant-garde (lots of Anger), and cult (Borowzyck, Makaveyev, Pasolini).
Golden Raspberry Awards : each year the Golden Raspberry Awards honour the worst efforts in filmmaking, and that sort of ironic celebration of lack of taste and skill is exactly what makes it, and the films it praises, so cult. Who can forget the moment when Showgirls' director Paul Verhoeven actually showed up to pick up his award and held an acceptance speech?
Jack Stevenson : Jack Stevenson is a bit of legend among cultists, with groundbreaking articles on Radley Metzger, G.G. Allin, and Kenneth Anger, and chronicles of midnight movie going practices and repertory theatres, especially in and around San Francisco, and in Copenhagen (which this interview focuses on). He writes for numerous publications and is a well-known programmer as well.
Mondo Digital : dedicated to “weird and wild cinema”, and active since 1998, this site is mainly written by Nathaniel Thompson. It contains hundreds of reviews of cult films, well written and with a good eye for detail (and the extras on DVDs).
Notcoming : Since 1998, this site has been offering information and reviews with a bias towards older, often unpopular and sometimes unknown films that merit a second look. There is a lot of older cult stuff here (Freaks, some lesser known Fellini, Cat People, …) but also a lot of information on European horror that hardly ever comes to the UK or North America (or anywhere else).
Pimpadelic Wonderland : this site concentrates on whatever was weird in the seventies (quite a few things), and approaches them in a, well, weird way. It has a most fascinating video library, categorized along sections called for instance Euro Trash, Mondo, Lost Movies, Porn, Rarities, and Curios. Well worth browsing as it really holds stuff you’ll have never heard of.
Psychotronic Movieguide : this one we include as a sign of the times, really. Since 1989, Psychotronic was the bible of B-movie cinephiles, and early 2007 it was forced to cease publication. Editor Michael Weldon’s lament on why it was no longer feasible to continue provides sad evidence of a corporate tightening of the movie business that affects everything. It is also a rallying call for true cult cinema to resist mainstream culture – it cannot be trusted! Thankfully, there is now Psychotronic video online, a sequel like all thrash movies should have.
Razor Reel : this Bruges-based site convenes several smaller B-Movie, Underground and Trash initiatives, such as a small festival, reviews, and interviews.
The Spinning Image : this site, led by Darren Jones and Steve Langton, has its origins in a few British fanzines, and is now 20 million visitors later, a well-recognized keystone for cult cinema overviews and reviews, and cult film news. Its database is simply magnificent.
Stomp Tokyo : this site acts a bit like a news wire embellished with podcasts. It leans closely to general preview sites like comingsoon.net but its focus is much more towards cult. Some of you will find this too mainstream, but if you want the latest news on releases, then this an excellent place to go.
Video Watchdog: Launched and mostly written by cinephile supreme Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog calls itself the perfectionist’s guide to fantastic video, and that’s no exaggeration. Video Watchdog is a cultist’s dream in terms of the sheer amount of material reviewed here. With a dedicated preference for Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Jess Franco, the knowledge displayed here is nothing but impressive.
World Cult Cinema: this site is run by the people of the Asian Cult Cinema site, a site that sells books and DVDs of Asian cult cinema. It has some pretty weird materials on offer. Obviously, they have felt the need to expand their horizon beyond the Orient. The result is a delicious mix of blaxploitation, euro-trash, spaghetti-westerns, and - of course - the delirious combination of these.
General Film Sites with Guts and Gusto
Bright Lights Film Journal : This online quarterly calls itself a “popular-academic hybrid of movie analysis, history, and commentary”. It has quite a taste for cult too, featuring essays on filmmakers as wild as the Kuchar brothers or Hershell Gordon Lewis, and a whole section on exploitation.
Cineaste: this magazine calls itself a leading voice in the politics of cinema. Since 1967 it has been championing independent and arthouse cinema, including various cult films and directors. The relentless commitment of editor Gary Crowdus has turned Cineaste into a key publication in film criticism. Their recent critical symposium on cult cinema (to which the link directs you) gives a thorough definition of cult in the 21st Century.
Cinefantastique: "subtitled 'the magazine with a sense of wonder', this publication edited by Frederick Clarke has been promoting genre cinema, especially fantasy, science fiction and horror, since 1971. It was the first to put George Romero and David Cronenberg on its front page, and it trained uber-cultists such as Tim Lucas, Mick Garris and Kim Newman. In the 1990s, Cinefantastique turned to cult TV more, and taught us how to love Xena, The X-Files, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It also famously turned away from The Matrix when they smelled they were being used as ersatz-publicity.
Fangoria: the number one horror fanzine in the world, really, and not just because they say so themselves. Led by Anthony Timpone, Fangoria quickly became the nemesis for Cinefantastique. An enterprise that comprises conventions, distribution, a magazine, and a worldwide network of horror devotees, Fangoria has been, since its inception in 1979, the definitive voice of the cult of horror. It championed zombie films, slasher movies, Tom Savini, Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Stephen King, and Clive Barker and made them household names. It has also featured a years-long feud between fans of Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on Elm Street fans (or Jason Voorhees versus Michael Myers versus Freddy Krueger). Today, it is the place to go for real underground horror - the perfect antidote to all the remakes.
Film Comment: this magazine has been going since the late 1960s, located firmly at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in Manhattan, a few blocks away from where the midnight movies became a cult phenomenon in 1969 and the early 1970s. Film Comment essays helped set the tone, with 'specials' on porn chic, new horror cinema (esp. some intelligent essays by Robin Wood), and lots of festival news. Today, the Walter Reade Theater, part of the magazine and society, remains a vibrant anchor for cult and indie cinema in New York.
Jump Cut : Since 1974, and since the late 1990s online, this prestigious journal remains staunchly true to its liberal, left-wing, feminist, and anti-imperialist origin. It publishes not only on film, but television and assorted media as well. Throughout, there is a preference for challenging and underground materials that sits well with what cultists seek. They are comrades of anyone resisting mainstream culture.
Kamera : A UK-based online salon for arthouse and world cinema, this site features not only cutting-edge up-to-date information on the British film scene, and extensive reviews of hundreds of films, but also offers the opportunity for direct feedback in the form of posts added to the reviews. Excellent.
Kinoeye : although the most recent issue is from 2004, the archives of this site devoted to alternative European cinema are well worth a look as they include insightful essays on cult topics, such as Fulci, Argento, German horror, Svankmayer, Tourneur, surrealism, …
Little White Lies: this magazine on 'truth and movies', as it enigmatically subtitles itself, has a wide reach. The magazine is supported by the UK film council, so there is an evident focus on British cinema. There is also a lot of interest in European cinema, and lots reviews of course (several of the, unusually sharp), as well as more in-depth investigative pieces. Among some of the recent topics are a Spinal Tap competition, and a discussion of Warriors' influence on gang wars in London.
Positif: if cultists have to name one non-English film magazine they do well to bypass the Cahiers du cinema and go to Positif. Second home of the so-called 'MacMahonist' circle of reviewers, Positif housed some of the most eccentric criticism of the 1950s, a blend of surrealism, a devotion for Otto Preminger and Fritz Lang, and a strange love for Jerry Lewis and peplums. Positif was first on the ball in the 1970s when horror and Asian cult broke through, and it is still cutting edge in its eclectic reporting on world cinema.
Scope: Since 1999, and relaunched in 2004, this is one of the major online film journals for academics, with a keen interest in genre and cult cinema. Frequently publishes reviews, festival comments, and book reviews. Based at the University of Nottingham, UK.
Senses of Cinema: this Australian based quarterly online magazine devoted to “the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema” gives splendid career overviews of a wide range of filmmakers, many of whom are cult faves (Bava, Dante, Gilliam, Ray, Waters), and has a dedicated interest in weird world cinema, experimental movies, and emerging genre cinema.
Suicide Girls: it is impossible to pinpoint this site exactly, as it offers a bit of everything, including some titillating materials. But its focus is on what the site itself calls a “DIY attitude towards alternative culture” (since 2001), and as several of the reviews, blogs, and videos indicate, there is a lot of cultism. The site also embeds several underground cultures, particularly those associated with goth culture.
Vertigo: it calls itself the “home of independent cinema”, and it certainly covers a wide range of films outside the mainstream. With institutional support from the London Metropolitan University, this magazine is one the UK’s most prominent publications on alternative cinema. Check out the links page, which is a true Mecca for the more critical browser.
Cult Labels and Distributors
Anchor Bay: with its track record in horror and world cinema, and its reputation for first-class transfers and excellent care for artwork and extras, Anchor Bay are among the top distributors of cult movies. Their special editions are truly amazing (Herzog, Verhoeven, Hellraiser, Masters of Horror, Deathmaker, …)
Blue Underground: “dedicated to guilty pleasures”, as they put it themselves, this eclectic distributor is known for the abundance of extras, often even overshadowing the actual feature presentation (check Cronenberg’s Fast Company: the extras include his early underground films!). Furthermore, a lot of Argento, Cohen, Clarke, Emanuelle in America, and Daughters of Darkness). What more to say?
Criterion Collection: more than a distributor, this label is the inheritor of the Janus Film distribution initiative for foreign arthouse cinema in the United States. It is also the only direct descendant of the original Casablanca cult of the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge Massachussets, where Harvard graduates started celebrating Humphrey Bogart movies. Today, Criterion has become somewhat of a cult itself. A marker for film heritage and preservation, its series on legendary directors (Kurosawa, Fuller) and legendary cults (Videodrome, Haxan, WR: Mysteries of an Organism) are presented in the best possible formats and quality, and each edition is a cinephile’s wet dream in terms of extras.
Cult Epics: this distributor combines vintage erotica (1960s mainly) with the most outlandish and eccentric arthouse films, including Fernando Arrabal, Jean Genet, and Olivier Smolders. This is for the connoisseur who knows what they want.
Barrel Entertaiment : a smaller distributor, headed by Brian Krueger, with a twisted taste for the bizarre. The catalogue includes deluxe editions of Malpertuis, Buttgereit, Bukowski, and a unique assortment of European horror (Romania, Austria, Germany), with excellent cult credentials.
Fantoma : the site opens with particularly eerie sounds, and that is indicative of the catalogue this distributor offers: Fassbinder and Anger go side by side with Cox, Coffin Joe, and Jodorowsky. There are rare films of Lang, Fuller, Coppola, and Bava to be found here as well. Exclusively weird.
Lion’s Gate Entertainment : they are among the biggest production and distribution companies now so they hardly need promotion but because they contain the remnants of legendary genre distributor Cinepix (all the early Cronenberg’s, a lot of French-Canadian softcore and horror), and the UK distributor Redbus Entertainment (which had a taste for the offbeat), and because gems such as the Saw, Cube and Ginger Snaps series are Lion’s Gate offspring, we have a soft spot for them.
Mondo Macabro : It claims to be the “wild side of world cinema”, and that is no exaggeration. Where else can you find Indonesian horror, Philippine erotica, Paul Naschy films, Belgian Bukowski-based amour folle, Argentine vampire films, and the first Pakistani gore (it’s called Hell’s Ground!)? It is headed by Pete Tombs, writer of Immoral Tales and Mondo Macabro, classical books on worldwide horror and cult cinema. He is also an all-out good guy. Really.
Redemption/Salvation/Jezebel : the logo looks like it could be Mötörhead, and that sums up the attitude of the UK’s premium smut and sleaze distributor – in your face since 1993. They helped construct the canon of cult, and they took a lowbrow approach. There are redeemable elements: their video catalogue includes Phantom Carriage, Night Porter, and Caligari. But you really want them for Jess Franco, Jean Rollin, Nunsploitation, Argento, Fulci, and Japanese Pink cinema.
Seduction Cinema : talk about the underbelly of cult cinema. Seduction specializes in softcore erotic spoofs of well-known blockbusters (Lord of the G-Strings, Spiderbabe, …) in which humour and sex form an, erh, winning combination. It’s not for everyone, but it has a funny appeal.
Something Weird : this is where you go when you want the full monty in exploitation: Hershell Gordon Lewis, David Friedman, Doris Wishman, sword and sandal films, sexploitation, educational scare films, drug flicks, and burlesque roadshows. And Alice in Acidland. Top-shelf paracinema!
Synapse Films : this is an American distributor that concentrates on horror and science-fiction cinema. They don’t just release films but also restore them, so the quality of their products is highly regarded. The catalogue includes outré fare like the notorious Thriller, several Jess Franco films, The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, Singapore Sling, and some noted war movies (Stalingrad, Triumph of the Will)
Tartan Video : active since the late 1980s, this British label specializes in world cinema. Some of their strands are very cultist, especially Tartan Asia Extreme, that has been releasing the films of Nakata, Tsukamoto, Park Chan-Wook, Takeshi Miike, John Woo, and Kim Ki-Duk. They also offer a wide range of European cult, such as Turkish Delight, Man Bites Dog, Sex and Lucia, or Michael Haneke’s films.
Troma : part production company, part distributor, part ego trip of Lloyd Kaufman, Troma proudly carries the flag of ‘reel independence’. Their films are lowbrow and not very subtle, but if you appreciate the attitude of Toxic Avenger, Rabid Grannies, or Poultrygeist – that is, a combination of loud horror with wicked satire, this is the place to be. Troma films are always a hit at festivals, and stand-up entertainer Kaufman is also a good show.
Finally, because ‘cult has also become a marketing term for big studios, there are several corporations offering catalogues under headings such as Midnite Movies (MGM and Fox, Cult Camp Classics (Warner Bros), or the Cult Cinema Collection (Universal). To be honest, the movies they sell are certainly cult (Repo Man, Vincent Price movies, Hammer horror, The Big Lebowski, …), but there is also something icky about big studios appropriating ‘cult’.
Academic Sites and Archives
BFI, British Film Institute : this is, as its British pedigree demands, a highly reputed, classy, and idiosyncratic archive in the heart of London. The BFI archive is unparalleled and its press materials collection is a true gold mine for any researcher, regardless the topic. The BFI organizes screenings, festivals, and is associated with Sight and Sound, one of the oldest and most widely read film magazines in the world. BFI books are among the best in film studies.
Cinematek: this institution used to be known as, and for many will remain, the Belgian Royal Film Archive. It represents the cult of heritage and cinephilia in the heart of Europe. This is one of the oldest and most reputable film archives in the world with a very accessible and world-class library that contains a wealth of cult-related materials. Adjacent is a cinema theatre uniquely devoted to silent cinema, with piano-accompanied daily screenings. The Cinematek also organizes seminars and screenings throughout the city. The site is in French and Dutch only.
Cult Film Archive : housed at Brunel University in West-London this Archive is the first academic, research-based collection of cult cinema, totaling some 3,500 materials. Headed by Xavier Mendik, who also directs a related book series called Alterimage (Underground USA, Alternative Europe), it is linked to the first Masters Degree in Cult Cinema in the world.
Cultstud-l: This is an email service for thousands of academics, professionals, and writers in 40 countries who are interested in the study of contemporary culture. Cult cinema is of course a part of that. It is an ideal service to lurk in. There are regular announcements of exciting conferences, new books, job openings, and queries. We even found some authors for our series here. Edited by Gil Rodman, and based at the University of Minnesota, USA.
Film Library at the University of British Columbia: The film collection housed in the UBC Visual Resources Centre recently past the magic number 5000 – over five thousand films on DVD, videotape, laser disk and 16mm film. With movies from thirty-eight countries (one-fifth of the films are Canadian), this unique collection offers a viewing and study service for students and faculty from across the campus, and occasionally from beyond. From an 1895 film of a baby having breakfast to David Cronenberg's sumptuous Eastern Promises, from short films by UBC students to documentaries about filmmaking, the environment and world architecture, the collection has something of everything – and is adding more every day. The collection harbours an eclectic mix of materials (among which some precious Canadian cult collections, like that of Larry Kent). Walk-in facility, where you can watch movies on-site.
Film-maker’s Co-op : housed in New York, this is the largest archive and distribution centre for avant-garde, underground, and experimental cinema in the world, with some 5,000 films in its collection. It is especially interesting for its collections of Warhol, Kuchar, Anger, Brakhage, and other American avant-gardists with cult followings. The site has a searchable database, and each film title is annotated.
MOMA, Museum of Modern Art : this New York museumand research facility has played a pivotal role in the preservation and public understanding of cinema since the 1930s. The MOMA was quick to add films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead to its collection, thus highlighting the cultural importance of cult cinema. Its screenings still play a vanguard role in film appreciation.
NECS, the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies : Erected in 2006, this network organizes an annual conference in Europe (usually very cool locations) on the study of European cinema. It is becoming a prime meeting place for European scholars of film, especially if you want to broaden your horizon and access the more Central European spheres of cinema.
SCMS, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies : Founded in 1959, this American society aims to group academics, critics, graduate students, and professionals in the study of cinema. They hold annual conferences that attract up to 1,000 delegates that usually include renowned cult theorists. Each year there are at least few panels on cult material, and some screenings of often very very rare Orphan films.
Cult Film and Genre Festivals:
Melies, European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation : this site groups 23 festivals of horror, fantasy and science-fiction cinema (9 core members, the others affiliated, and even some North-American ones). As such, it is a first port of call if you want to find out what is playing on the European cult festival circuit. The list of awards testifies of the groundbreaking nature of these festivals, always two steps ahead of taste changes.
BIFFF, Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film : 60,000 spectators over two weeks (!) each year, the most lively atmosphere (with very active audiences), and hundreds of guests: this well-established festival (since 1983) has a peculiar talent for mixing genre stalwarts with extreme and off-beat materials (esp. in the Seventh Reel section, screened in a sort of bunker). A leader in bringing Canadian and Asian horror to Europe, it is one of the continent’s major festivals. Runs in April.
Sitges, the International Festival of Cinema in Catalunia : started right after Franco’s death this festival was the first to honour horror and science-fiction cinema in Europe. In 1975, it awarded a young Cronenberg his first ever award, and since then its alliance with genre cinema has given it a loyal following, with audiences as well as filmmakers. Located near Barcelona, the festival also offers a good opportunity to experience vibrant Spanish and Catalunian cult cinema. Runs in October.
Fantasporto : The Fantasy Festival of Porto, Portugal, is one of the oldest of its kind (since the late 1970s), and it remains a favourite with audiences and filmmakers. It is a unique opportunity to view 200 new films, attracting about 100,000 viewers each year (which is huge!). One of its most interesting sections focuses on debut films. Affiliated with the magazine Cinema Novo. Runs in March.
Fantafestival, Sabaudia: Fantafest in short, this festival started in the early 1980s, at the height of the new horror wave, and it thanks its appeal to the close affiliation with the best of the best in Italian horror (Argento, Fulci, Stivaletti). Shows almost 100 films each year, and takes place in Rome. Runs in September.
Fantasia International Film Festival : Since its inception in 1996, this Montreal festival has become one of North-America’s prime spots for showcasing the newest genre and cult cinema. It is also one of the longest festivals, lasting almost three weeks. If you visit only one Canadian festival, let this be it. Runs in July.
Fantastic Fest Austin : The United States have never been good at genre festivals, but here is one that makes its mark. Still fairly new, and benefiting from the cult appeal Texas’ most liberal city has, it features a week of screenings, with high-profile guests, drinks served as you watch, and at least one serious barbecue run. Runs in September.
Screamfest Horror Festival : this is the US’s biggest horror festival, based in Los Angeles. Co-organized by special effects guru Stan Winston, it draws some of the biggest names in town as guests, so as a networking site it is unparalleled. As so many things L.A., it is still trying to convince a notoriously unreliable local public of its merits, but it is getting there. Runs in October.
PiFan, Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival : Held just outside Seoul, in Korea, this is Asia’s most famous and popular cult film festival, and with about 260 films and nearly 70,000 visitors, it is one of the biggest in that part of the world. Its midnight screenings and post-screening rock concerts are legendary, and testament to the liveliness cult is known for. Runs in July.
Cine-Excess : part fun festival affiliated with the London: Sci-fi fest, and part esteemed academic conference affiliated with the Cult Film Archive, this London event is still new (started in 2007), but it is fast carving out a decided space for itself on the market as a place where critics and scholars meet professionals. Features high-profile guests of honour (Corman, Landis) and encourages debate with the audience. Runs early May
Abertoir, Aberystwyth Horror Festival : located in the Welsh coastal university town of Aberystwyth this new festival combines a weekend of screenings with panels, book launches, and workshops. It’s hands-on, and brimming with excitement. Affiliated with the local Film department. Runs end of October (Hallowe’en).
Dead by Dawn, Scotland International Horror Film Festival : set in the Filmhouse in Edinburgh (UK), this event holds the middle between a convention and festival, and it is renowned for its unruly audiences and all-nighters. It regularly stages retrospectives. Organizer Adele Hartley is a legend. Runs in April.
Sci-Fi London Film Festival : the UK’s only sci-fi fest was started because, as organizer Louis Savy puts it, “there wasn’t one”. It brings a mix of new and shiny high-concept films and low-budget shockers and try-outs, and it benefits from the boom in the UK’s genre cinema. Runs early May.
Black Nights, Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film festival : a fairly new festival that takes places in Tallin, Estonia, but one with the right attitude. Above all, it is a gateway for esoteric materials from Eastern and Northern Europe to reach wider audiences. Très cult. Runs in March.
IDFA, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam Yes, this is a documentary festival, but if you think about Gimme Shelter, Koyaanisqatsi and Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, you’ll agree there is a lot of cult material to be found here. And Amsterdam will have it. Runs in November.
Offscreen: This is a new festival by a veteran of the European cult scene. Dirk Van Extergem manages to find films no one thought were ever made. Whether it’s ‘Dracula in Pakistan’, midnight sessions of classic Hammer horror, or open-air biker movie retrospectives, if it’s weird Offscreen will put it on a screen somewhere in Brussels. Runs in March, but includes Summer sessions as well.