❉ What is cult? It’s ‘Community’, but it’s also a community. We are your friends – you’ll never be alone again.
Our benevolent overlord Mr James Gent set to emulating the late Frank Gorshin’s Gotham-bothering by setting a puzzle: Namely the quizzle, “What is ‘Cult’?”
Now there’s a question. Now there’s The Question. Right, we’re referencing a Steve Ditko Charlton comics character this early. This could get interesting.
What is cult?
It’s being a small child and eagerly watching The Last House on the Left with your family (look, they were always very lax about the whole Video Recordings Act thing), but your Dad has a weird moral line that apparently gets crossed when Kruge holds a knife to a girl’s throat and instructs her to “Piss your pants”, switching it off and leaving you wait twenty-odd years to see the rest which you refer to as “The longest intermission in cinema history”.
It’s being twelve years old and you’ve been given something to read because you’re in a hospital, and it’s an issue of a magazine called The Dark Side, and the cover is a house with a skull above it advertising a film titled The People Under the Stairs, and as you flick through it your young mind is thinking “This is directed by the man who did A Nightmare on Elm Street and the man in it is Revered Lowe from Silver Bullet. This might be good.”
It’s a Manimal annual under the bed, that you once squashed a wasp between the pages and so have no desire to ever open again.
It’s a John Canning illustration of the Mighty Trout, finger aloft.
It’s knowing that petrichor is the scent of wet dust, and you’ve always known that but you know why other people know that.
It’s nostalgia for Antoine de Caunes presenting Rapido (and, concomitantly, the “I’m a Rapidophile” joke) becuase that means David MCallum is going to be tearing off his latex face as The Invisible Man in a minute. In a Midi Minuit Fantastique.
It’s experiencing an emotional crisis whilst talking to someone and knowing that your face has tried to pull several expressions at the same time, which you apologise for by dismissing it as “gurning like a regenerating Sylvester McCoy” and she gets the reference and for one shining second all seems right with the cosmos.
It’s serenading another person with Donovan’s Catch the Wind (or, rather, the Susanna Hoffs version) and as you croon “In the tiny hours and minutes of eternity” somewhere at the back of your brain something itches and twitches and busts its britches and the words “Quantum lock?” float unbidden to make you start to laugh and kind of spoil the moment.
It’s counting in Rels.
It’s having a conversation that somehow – I know not how – winds up with me describing the plot of an issue of Swamp Thing in some detail, that I later Google and discover came out when I was eight and why did my brain retain all of that information and is this why I can’t learn new things? (Swampy looked really cool as a red cactus, though – and I still want a jet pack like Adam Strange. I’m also pleased that I have a niece called Alanna.)
It’s when you get a desk job sat at a computer with an earpiece and a microphone and you distract yourself from the customer service dreadfulness by thinking “Norman Tuttle”.
It’s remembering all the words to the old CIC video montages on the Star Trek videos so that you sometimes interject things like “That may not be possible” into conversations.
It’s the music video montage at the beginning of the RoboCop VHS, that makes your brain segue from Big Time by Peter Gabriel to Our House by Madness.
It’s drawling the word “Justice” like the reanimated corpse of Colin Akivito from The Day Today.
It’s saying “Remember Automan?” in a crowded pub and not caring about the nonplussed response.
It’s Community. But it’s a community. We are your friends – you’ll never be alone again.
It’s trying to explain to your parents why HERBIE the robot is wrong, and why “Johnny Flame-On” should be there and not understanding why they don’t care.
It’s knowing the words “Purgatory” and “Pariah” when you’re very young, but it’s OK because it’s not from church it’s from the titles of issues of Daredevil.
It’s probably a family / brotherhood / sisterhood, but then again I’ve never bothered to go to a con or fan meet, so this is second hand. I do remember the first time i thought about it, reading about PanoptiCon in one of the first DWMs i ever read and asking my parents if I could go. I think it was in Coventry, which I hear is the Worst Place In The World, so maybe i dodged a bullet there.
It’s feeling like you actually know how Joan of Arc felt, both from a religious and Smiths viewpoint. Also thinking that she was played by Jane Wiedlin.
It’s probably watching videos like this…
…and thinking: Ursula Andress – Honey from Dr No and She herself! Anne Archer – she was nearly Lois Lane and was great in Fatal Attraction! Daphne Ashbrook off of the Doctor Who and Deep Space Nine! Jane Badler – Diana from V! Bibi Besch – Carol Marcus from Star Trek! Theodore Bikel – Uncle Yusul from Babylon 5 and Rance Muhammitz from Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels! Joanna Cassidy from Blade Runner! Rosalind Chao, off of the Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge and Deep Space Nine. Mark Lindsay Chapman from Swamp Thing! Bradford Dillman – Andrew Rodanthe from Moon of the Wolf! Morgan Fairchild, from off of rubbish things including Friends and that dreadful Sherlock Holmes film with Christopher Lee. Jonathan Frakes – Riker from the Styar Trek: The Next Generation. Robert Ginty – the Exterminator himself. Marjoe Gortner – the one that isn’t Caroline Munro in Star Crash.
Oh, and this: It’s crying like a small child when you read Terry Pratchett’s last tweet.
Look, I could keep going, but none of us want that. I could rise like a lion made of fire, but nobody’s interested.
Welcome to the cult face.
I’ve been called worse.
❉ Glen McCulla has had a lifetime-long interest in film, history and film history – especially the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. He sometimes airs his maunderings on his blog at http://psychtronickinematograph.blogspot.co.uk/ and skulks moodily on Twitter at @ColdLazarou