Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cult movies - as in movies about cults - creep us out!

"Sound of My Voice," opening Friday, is the latest in a long line of eerie and disturbing pics to examine the groupthink mentality that leads people to fall in with a closed community of ardent believers. Bad stuff usually ensues.

Cult movies – as in movies about cults – creep us out!

Brit Marling stands over her devotees in "Sound of My Voice."
Brit Marling stands over her devotees in "Sound of My Voice."

In Sound of My Voice, an eerie indie thriller starring (and co-written by) Brit Marling, a woman who claims to be from the future sets down in Southern California, and starts preaching  to a small core of devotees. She has seen the apocalypse, and she is here to teach believers how to survive. Being led blindfolded and shackled to her house, scrubbing down, donning hospital gowns and learning a secret handshake are all part of the process.

There have been a number of cult movies over the years – that is, movies about cults. In last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Elizabeth Olsen delivered what many felt (me included) was an Oscar-worthy performance as an escapee from a hippie-like commune, traumatized by events she was party to there. And just this February, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd were party to Wanderlust,  a comedy about a couple who stumble on a seemingly idyllic community led by a singing, free-lovin’, bearded dude played by Justin Theroux. Of course, he’s up to no good.

Here’s a chronological list of a half dozen other notable cult pics:

Village of the Damned (1960) – OK, technically not a cult, the gaggle of towheaded, luminous-eyeballed children who inhabit the quaint village of Midwich in Wolf Rilla’s classic scare-flick nonetheless band together in cult-like ways, and compel the people around them – like their parental units – to do things they shouldn’t be doing.

Suspiria (1977) – OK, technically not a cult, the fancy German ballet academy that Jessica Harper wanders into in Dario Argento’s horror classic is nonetheless run by a sinister cabal of single-minded murderesses. Beware those brainwashed ballerinas!

Ticket to Heaven (1981) Super-chilling Canadian drama about a Toronto schoolteacher (Nick Mancuso) who visits a remote California camp where people chant, hold hands and talk about God – and where they’re ringed in by high security fences and locked gates.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)  In which Harrison Ford's whip-snapping adventurer must contend with a band of Indian Thuggee – a deadly cult who worship the Hindu goddess Kali, believe in human sacrifice and give Indy and his gang a really hard time.

Holy Smoke! (1999) Kate Winslet stars as an Aussie backpacker who joins an ashram in India and becomes a devout follower of its guru. Winslet’s worried parents dispatch a professional deprogrammer to wrest her away. Harvey Keitel is the man for the job.

The Village (2004) At first glance,  M. Night Shyamalan’s enigmatic thriller isn’t about anything more than a protective community of late 19th century Amish/Shaker-types who prefer to keep to themselves. Ha! Forbidden to venture into the surrounding woods, Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard eventually discover that their village elders run the place with the rigorous rules of, well, a cult. They are not to be trusted -- and neither is Shyamal;an and his trick endings. 

Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog
Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
Latest Videos:
Also on
letter icon Newsletter