Is Streaming the New Home For Cult Films?


When the idea of a cult film entered the popular lexicon, one had to seek out the films, often heading to midnight screenings at their nearest disreputable movie theater. The invention of home video made things a lot easier, first with VHS, and then with the DVD boom of the late nineties and early 2000s, in which damn near every significant cult film was released at one point or another.

While there are still many that are still M.I.A., it’s become increasingly easier to join a film’s cult. Often all it takes is a search on your VOD dealer of choice.

But what of the stuff that’s harder to find? What about the new cult films?

With services like Netflix focusing more and more on “original” content, it seems that streaming channels might be the new home for cult cinema.

Only recently, Netflix has released surefire future cult films like Gareth Evans’ APOSTLE and Timo Tjahjanto’s THE NIGHT COMES FOR US, with films like BIRD BOX and cult favorites the Coen Brothers’ THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS on the way.

While Sandra Bullock’s star power (and its similarity to recent hit A QUIET PLACE), it’s very possible that BIRD BOX could’ve received a large theatrical release from a major studio, but it’s highly unlikely that a films like APOSTLE or THE NIGHT COMES FOR US ever would have played outside of movie theaters in major cities.

So for someone like me, who lives in a mid-sized city with no arthouse theater to speak of, streaming services like this are a blessing.

Would I rather see these films with a like minded audience? Of course I would. Hearing the reactions of a hyped up crowd to the bone-crunching mayhem of THE NIGHT COMES FOR US is preferable to sitting on my couch and watching it alone, but I’d rather watch it like that than to not watch it at all.

And then, of course, there are services that specialize solely on cult films. Services like Midnight Pulp or — the king of genre streaming services — AMC’s Shudder.

Shudder not only features loads of bonafide classic cult films, but offers up originals and films that they’ve acquired for distribution, such as the major cult phenomenon of the year, Panos Cosmatos’ MANDY. When MANDY was released a couple of months ago, I was dying to see it, but it had a single night screening in my home town and I wasn’t able to make it. The next closest theater showing it was about an hour away. For some people, that’s not even an option, depending on their location, but just a couple of months later, and they can stream it straight to their television. Technology is rad.

While the midnight movie may ostensibly be dead, its spirit lives on online. Want to experience these movies with a crowd? Grab a handful of your rowdiest friends, a couple of six packs and bask together in the joy of watching Nic Cage beat the everliving shit out of some cult members.