Cults Are Scarier Without Magic
Evil cults, just like the one which appeared in final yr’s Midsommar, are among the many hottest film villains. Horror writer Grady Hendrix notes that whereas most scary motion pictures contain an exterior menace, the thought of a cult particularly targets our concern that we’d cease looking for our personal pursuits.
“What people will do to themselves is so much worse than what other people will do to them,” Hendrix says in Episode 401 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley notes that horror film cults are likely to fall into 4 primary classes—pagan (The Wicker Man), Satanic (Rosemary’s Baby), cosmic monster (The Void), and Manson-style (Martha Marcy May Marlene). “There’s obviously a little bit of overlap there,” he says, “but those are the four that most things seem to fall into pretty clearly.”
For each cult that wields sinister magic, as in Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions, there’s one other that’s extra grounded in mundane actuality, as in Ben Wheatley’s Kill List. Horror writer Paul Tremblay says he’s way more frightened by cults which may really exist. “As a writer and a reader and a viewer, I do love the supernatural, but I think I’m more drawn to horror when it can be grounded in realism,” he says.
Film critic Theresa DeLucci agrees that psychological realism is extra unsettling than supernatural evil, even in a cosmic horror movie like The Endless.
“What I assumed was actually fascinating about The Endless, and what actually caught with me, wasn’t any of the bizarre Lovecraftian stuff,” she says. “It was the brother who was trying to find his footing in life again after he left the cult, and what happens to you when your belief system is shaken like that.”
Listen to the whole interview with Grady Hendrix, Paul Tremblay, and Theresa DeLucci in Episode 401 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And try some highlights from the dialogue beneath.
David Barr Kirtley on Midsommar:
“The movie would have been so much better if the [human sacrifice] scene just did not happen in the movie at all, and then people just started disappearing, but there was no overt sign of danger. What makes this sort of story powerful to me is this sensation that something is wrong here, but everyone’s being so friendly, am I going to be the one who causes a commotion, starts making a fuss and accusing people, crossing this boundary where we can never go back to when everyone’s playing nice? And just the social pressure that can be exerted on you in a situation like that. So if nothing overtly threatening happened until the beginning of Act 3, rather than the beginning of Act 2, that’s what the movie should be, it seems to me.”
Paul Tremblay on paranoia:
“Part of the thought of TIs, or ‘Targeted Individuals,’ is that they’ve uncontrollable paranoid ideas. The joke is that they’re the ‘tinfoil hatters.’ But what’s been occurring for the previous decade or so, with the web, is these individuals who suppose, ‘This is bugged, the government’s out to get us,’ once they go to their therapist, the therapists inform them, ‘No, this is not real.’ And as you possibly can think about if that was you, that might bum you out, they usually discover these on-line communities the place individuals say, ‘No, this is real. This is happening to me too.’ So many of those individuals are eschewing skilled psychological well being and reinforcing their very own beliefs on-line. … So I examine that [as research] for The Cabin on the End of the World.”
Theresa Delucci on the film Mandy:
“One of my favourite elements of Mandy was the primary time Mandy meets Jeremiah Sand, the cult chief, and he offers her this complete lengthy speech. He’s on this shitty front room surrounded by his different loser followers, and he takes his gown off, and he’s bare, and he’s like, ‘You’re particular, Mandy. Be particular with me.’ … And she simply lets free with this depraved, depraved snicker. I like the power of that second, however you additionally know precisely what’s going to occur to her after she laughs at him in his bare—literal and figurative—bare vulnerability there. ‘Look at me, look at my trip, I’m so nice.’ And she laughs at him, and you already know what’s going to occur subsequent, however that’s considered one of my favourite moments in that complete film, simply seeing that dynamic subverted.”
Grady Hendrix on the e book The Desecration of Susan Browning:
“The cult’s big ability is to mind-control people, so it’ll make you addicted to your master or your mistress, and they never quite have sex, but the CEO of a company will be found in a French maid outfit scrubbing the floors with a toothbrush in some woman’s house, saying, ‘I hate her, I hate her, she humiliates me, but if she’s not around me every second of the day I want to kill myself.’ … It’s this really creepy-ass worldview where everything behind the scenes is a power game and everyone just wants to humiliate other people, and you can’t escape. People will try to escape, but they’ll miss being in it so much that they’ll go crawling back. I feel disreputable recommending [these books], but they’ve really stuck with me.”