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Article – Top Five Films About Cults


Posted April 30, 2016 by

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Top Five Films About Cults

The concept of cults has always interested me, it’s the same type of fascination I have with films discussing cannibalism. The whole idea of people being enticed into following and living with one person, who they almost always think has a connection with God, or other higher powers, seems so surreal. The idea of communal living horrifies me, but otherwise I am intently interested in the psychological facts behind cultist behaviour. So here’s a top 5 of my favourite films which cover the topic.

Mouth to Mouth

Mouth to Mouth stars Ellen Page as the raggedy misfit Sherry, who wears a lot of black, and hates home (sounds like me at 15). So much so, that she runs away with S.P.A.R.K – Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge… you can imagine the type of characters our protagonist meets along the way. When travelling around Europe with her knew found ‘family’, Sherry learns how to disregard life’s social norms, and how to contribute to communal living. And surprise, surprise… it’s a cult! So, they have to follow rules, as well as punishments. Sherry is led into a weird world of crust punks, heroin addicts and the elders who feel that they are helping in any way they can… when they’re actually making it worse. It’s a British film, which is always a somewhat good aspect, although with a wide range of cities which are filmed in, it is hard to tell. A film which stems from Page’s time in Indie cinema, which incidentally are some of my favourite films. I tend to group Mouth to Mouth, The Tracy Fragments and Hard Candy in the same group. They all deal with adolescence problems (to a degree), but ensure that something new is included. So a in a sense a teen Drama, but Mouth to Mouth shows just how easy charismatic men, who rarely wear tops, pray upon the vulnerable outcasts in the world. Directed by Alison Murray, who has only made small unknown short films, she gets in touch with a reckless youth movement who are sucked in and remade into bald headed drones who do nothing but pick grapes and move wine.

There’s a catchy little chant they’ve got going on in S.P.A.R.K as well.

4/5 Stars.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene, a mouthful in itself, tells the story of a woman who has just escaped from living with a cult for several years. She suffers from delusions and paranoia, understandably, after suffering from the abusive hands of the cult leader. Martha returns to her sister Sarah Paulson, after calling for help. She finds herself at her sister’s isolated lake house home, which is shared by her sister’s new husband – It’s Hugh Dancy! Yeah that nice English man from Confessions of a Shopperholic, and the odd one from Hannibal.

The most memorable scene of the film is where Hugh Dancy invites Martha into the lake for a swim, so she strips off everything… Evidently Sarah Paulson’s character distraught at her neighbours seeing a naked woman swimming around with her husband, pulls her out of the water and wraps her up. It’s quite funny at the time you watch it happening, but after a while of getting into the film, you will see why Martha does the things that she does, and acts incredibly strangely.

Elizabeth Olsen comes out into her own with this incredible acting role, and does it so well. This Sean Durkin film handles the concept of cults in a way of showing the after-effects of what it can do to younger vulnerable women and girls.

3.5/5 Stars.

The Master

The Master is a 2012 film which Freddie Quell – Joaquin Phoenix, a WW2 veteran who deals with post-war lifestyle by join up with Lancaster Dodd – Phillip Dustin Hoffman, and his religious movement – ‘The Cause’. If you’ve seen I think we can all agree that the late great Phillip Dustin Hoffman outdoes himself with acting talent in The Master, especially in the jail scene.

Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix are strong supporting cast, but this is Hoffman’s film overall and he steals the show. Paul Thomas Anderson creates a gloomy yet aesthetic pleasing film which is shot in 65mmfilm stock, almost entirely. The Master deals with generic cult ideals, but focuses more on this tyrant of a leader, who uses charm and character to entice his followers. At the end of the day, this is Hoffman’s last great performance.

Rosemary’s Baby

The ode to all Horror films is Rosemary’s Baby, in terms of reinventing psychological Horror that is. When Rosemary moves into her new home with her husband, she is healthy in mind and body, and excited to start married life. However, her neighbours and their friends act odd, and show a large interest in her life. When Rosemary falls pregnant, although happy, her appearance, health and well-being begin to wilt. Something very bad happens when her neighbours get involved one last time. Her husband had a lot to answer for.

When I first watched this films, the use of the colour red sometimes can take your breath away.

5/5 Stars.

The Wicker Man

To this day, the original Wicker Man film spooks me out to no end. As much as this film is loved by Horror fans, it still creeps me out with its disturbing ending. I think we all know how it ends by now. Sergeant Howie – Edward Woodward, arrives at small remote island in search for a young girl who has disappeared. The devout Christian is horrified by the Islanders’ ways of life – sexual antics in open fields, honouring Celtic Gods, and children being taught the phallic association with the Maypole. Things soon become more disturbing as the Island’s dwellers have their sights set on Sergeant Howie.

Christopher Lee is the original egotistical cult leader. I feel that the fact that The Wicker Man conveys a whole damn community, and island as being under control of one man is the scariest thing about it. And what they do to the one outsider… I feel so numb to other Horror films which do a lot worse, but The Wicker Man was probably one of the first films which showed me how groups of people have a lot of power over outsiders. Overall, as much as I like the other films on this list, I feel that even though Rosemary’s Baby shows the lengths a cult can go to, The Wicker Man will forever take the biscuit with how intriguing, yet disturbing as hell any cult can be.

5/5 Stars.


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Sarah Rodgers
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