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Cults in Movies: The Good, the Bad, and the Mediocre, Part Deux!

Welcome back to part two of Cults in Movies: The Good, the Bad, and The Mediocre. Here you’ll find the final six of the 13 films reviewed by Entertainment Editor Gaby Harnish. In this round-up, she lets you know what’s worth the watch…and what you should probably remove from your queue.


Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Genre: Thriller/Drama
The Story: Martha (Elizabeth Olson) has just escaped from a cult in the Catskills lead by a charismatic – and very Manson-esque – leader played by John Hawkes. Her sister, Lucy, takes her into the house that she shares with her fiancé, Ted. Martha is still clearly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, and her time with the cult is told through flashbacks.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Good. Olson is fantastic, and Hawkes has exactly the right type of charisma for the role. Writer-director Sean Durkin does a masterful job at building tension.
Watch It If: You like films where you have to read between the lines and where certain aspects are still left up to interpretation.
Available: To rent on Youtube,
Amazon, and iTunes.



Faults (2014)

Genre: Comedy/Drama
The Story: Ansel Roth (Leland Orser), a down-on-his-luck cult specialist peddling his book, agrees to help “deprogram” a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after being approached by her parents. He takes her to a hotel room and locks her into the bathroom, but she keeps getting out somehow, and meanwhile his manager keeps calling about the debt that he owes.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Good. Often darkly funny, this one is definitely worth watching for Orser’s performance. It does take a more serious turn about two-thirds of the way into it.
Watch It If: You don’t mind films that oscillate between funny and dramatic, and you like dark humor.
On Netflix streaming and Amazon rental.



ROVER: Or Beyond Human – The Venusian Future and the Return of the Next Level

Genre: Comedy with a little Sci-Fi
The Story: A small cult – possibly survivors of Heaven’s Gate – is hiding out in an old church, and lead by Dave, who decides he wants to make a film about his leader and the origins of their group. He puts out a Craigslist ad, and a script-reader with directorial ambitions named Mark responds. Mark finds the cult bizarre and a little unnerving, but as they make the movie together stronger bonds are formed.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Mediocre. This is a low-budget film, and the first feature by director-writer Tony Blahd, and it shows. There are lots of good ideas here – and many genuinely funny moments – but the story never really comes together like it should. It appears that the cult is entirely an offshoot of Heaven’s Gate, even featuring some old videos of Heaven’s Gate leader Marshall Applewhite. However, in the film he is only referred to as “Roland,” possibly because of potential lawsuits?
Watch It If: You don’t mind low-budget movies or bizarre endings.
Available: On Amazon Prime streaming.

holy smoke

Holy Smoke

Holy Smoke! (1999)

Genre: Drama
The Story: Ruth (Kate Winslet) has a spiritual awakening in India and doesn’t plan on going back to her native Australia. Her parents have other ideas, however, and trick her into coming back under false pretenses, where she is confronted and “deprogrammed” by PJ Waters (Harvey Keitel). Directed by Jane Campion and co-written with her sister Anna.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Mediocre, verging on Good but not quite there. The film is beautiful, and true to Campion’s style, gender politics play a big role. The middle of the film is just kind of…middling, although it ends well.
Watch It If: You are a fan of Campion’s work, or if you wish to see Harvey Keitel emasculated.
Available: For rent on Youtube, iTunes, and Amazon Prime.


The Master (2012)

Genre: Drama
The Story: Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a World War II vet and general fuckup who meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a leader of a religious movement called The Cause. Freddie joins Lancaster as he travels along the East Coast, spreading the news of the religion.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Good. PT Anderson at his best. Joaquin’s performance as Freddie is equal parts riveting and disturbing, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is great as L Ron…ahem, I mean Lancaster Dodd. Please don’t sue me.
Watch It If: You’re a film nerd. This film was shot almost entirely in 65mm film stock, and boy is it fucking beautiful to behold. Also a great film for anyone who has read or watched Going Clear.
Available: For rent on Youtube, iTunes, and Amazon Prime.

the path

The Path

The Path

Genre: TV Drama
The Story: Eddie (Aaron Paul) and his family are members of the Meyerist movement, but after he goes to Peru and takes ayahuasca, he receives a vision that shakes his faith. Eddie is so desperate to keep his doubts a secret from his true believer wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) that he lets her believe he’s unfaithful. Hugh Dancy plays the intense and unofficial leader of the group who has a thing for Sarah.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Good, but just barely. Paul and Monaghan are great, but Dancy’s portrayal of Cal is overwrought. His predatory and sexual relationship with new member Mary is a particularly bad arc within the series. Mary is given plenty of screen time, but most of it focuses on her body and sexuality without giving her much of a character – all we know about her is that she was sexually abused and that she has a drug problem. It’s an unfortunate portrayal, but hopefully next season will give her more to do. The teenage talent on this show is particularly strong as well.
Watch It If: You’re a fan of any of the actors in question and you’re not squeamish about sex and violence.
Available: On Hulu.

– – –

Have any we missed? Anything we should check out? Let us know in the comments!

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Cults in Movies: The Good, the Bad, and the Mediocre

Heaven’s Gate, Jonestown, The Moonies – if you’re anything like me, you find cults fascinating. Much and more has been said about the power of suggestion, the need for spiritual fulfillment, and the vast array of other reasons people seek out and join these groups.

But how are they portrayed in popular culture, and what of these portrayals are worth watching? I sat down and watched the good, the bad, and the mediocre of 13 cult-centric films in various genres. Allow me to guide you and let you know what’s worth a watch.

Sound of My Voice

Sound of My Voice

Sound of My Voice (2011)

Genre: Thriller w/ a sci-fi bent
The Story: Directed by Zal Batmanglij and co-written with star Brit Marling, Sound of My Voice follows a couple that infiltrates a mysterious cult with the intent of exposing the leader as a fraud. The cult is lea by Maggie, who claims she has traveled back in time from the year 2054 to save her followers and prepare for the war-ridden and tumultuous future together.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Good. An already well-written and fascinating story is boosted by the fantastic performances by leads Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, and Brit Marling.
Watch It If: You don’t mind ambiguity and you don’t need neat and tidy endings. This is a must-see for anyone who loves thrillers. Best to watch this one with some of your friends, because you’ll want to theorize about it afterward.

Available: For rent from Amazon, iTunes, or Youtube.

the sacrament

The Sacrament

The Sacrament (2013)

Genre: Horror, of the found footage variety
The Story: Director Ti West helms this found footage film, done in the style of a Vice documentary about a cult called Eden Parish that is heavily based off of Jonestown.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Bad. Jonestown is one of the biggest tragedies in recent American history. More than 900 people died that day, many of them people of color who had followed Jones to Guayana on the promise of a utopia away from the systemic racism of the States.  Indeed, there are plenty of black characters in the film, but they are all relegated to the background, while the three white protagonists (who barely possess personalities) get the most screen time. And the worst of it: if you’re going to make a movie about a cult, the leader has to seem genuinely charismatic, and sorry, Gene Jones did not cut the mustard.
Watch It If: You are a huge found-footage fan or Jonestown enthusiast. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.
Available: On Netflix streaming.

the invitation film

The Invitation

The Invitation (2016)

Genre: Thriller/Horror
The Story: Two years after his son died in a tragic accident, Will is invited to a dinner party at his old house hosted by his ex-wife Eden and her new husband. Will is still clearly grief-stricken, but Eden seems strangely content. As the night goes on, it becomes clearer that Eden and her new beau are part of a cult for people who are grieving. Will finds their behavior suspicious and grows increasingly paranoid. Directed by Karyn Kusama.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Good. Throughout this whole film, there is a clear sense of dread. You’re never quite sure if Will’s suspicions are founded, or if he’s the real dangerous one, as his behavior becomes increasingly erratic. John Carroll Lynch plays a party guest, and he has a monologue halfway through the film that is at once profoundly sad and disturbing.
Watch It If: You like a slow burn, and you like your horror with some substance.
Available: On Netflix streaming or rent on Amazon.

holy hell

Holy Hell

Holy Hell (2016)

Genre: Documentary
The Story: Will Allen, the documentary filmmaker and narrator, was kicked out of his house in 1985 for being gay. He joined his older sister in West Hollywood where she was part of Buddhafield, a cult led by a man calling himself Michel Rostand. Will had gone to film school, and he was built up quickly within the cult’s organization, even making propaganda films for Rostand and Buddhafield. Michel proved to be a bizarre cult leader, obsessed with clean living, ballet, and physical appearances, often seen wearing Ray-Bans and speedos.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Good.  This is a profoundly sad documentary, about denial, faith, and the general loneliness that leads people to join such groups. It takes a darker turn about midway through, and although you know it’s inevitable, it’s still hard to watch.
Watch It If: You like documentaries that make you cry.
Available: On Netflix streaming and Amazon video.

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man (2006)

Genre: Horror, I guess
The Story: Nicolas Cage plays a cop who investigates an island community after hearing word from his ex-fiancee that her daughter, Rowan, is missing. The community in question is a matriarchal neo-pagan cult, led by Sister Summerisle, played by Ellen Bursytn.
Good, Bad, Or Mediocre: Bad. Just aggressively bad. This film stars two heavyweight actresses (Burstyn and Frances Conroy) and has a ton of female characters. There is a lot of potential and creativity within the story, but almost everything about the execution is terrible. You’re probably better off just watching the funniest scenes of Cage’s hammy acting on Youtube.
Watch It If: You have friends over, you’re drinking, and you feel like making fun of bad movies. This one fits the bill perfectly in that case.
Available: On Netflix streaming.

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Genre: “Erotic Drama”, according to Wikipedia.
The Story: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a super-hot super-rich couple named Bill and Alice. After a party, they smoke some weed at home and start talking about fidelity. Alice admits she’s thought about hooking up with other guys. Bill becomes jealous and tries to cheat on her throughout the movie, even obtaining a password to a secret society orgy party complete with masks and some sort of weird Latin-esque chanting.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Mediocre. Really, only the cinematography saves this from getting a Bad rating. In Nicole’s famous monologue, she seems obsessed with the idea that her husband is aroused by giving breast exams. If Bill is a doctor who gives breast exams, he must also give pap smears, which makes you wonder why she is so obsessed with boobs, and not the idea of her husband with vaginas in his face? Could it possibly be because this monologue was written by two men? And as for the “cult,” if you can even call it that, it seems like it’s just a bunch of rich dudes who all like the same exact body type. I’m not being picky here either–there are plenty of ideal body types in mainstream media, but all of the women in this film seem to have the exact same measurements, to the point that you have to wonder how creepy that casting call must have been.
Watch It If: You’re a big fan of either star, or Kubrick. Otherwise, nah. For being touted as an “erotic” drama there is really very little that could be considered steamy.
Available: On Netflix streaming

source family

The Source Family

The Source Family (2013)

Genre: Documentary
The Story: The ‘70s were the heyday of the hippie cults, and The Source Family, with their patriarch Father Yod, were perhaps one of the more notorious. Father Yod was significantly older than his followers, and owned the famous Source restaurant where many of them worked. In the early days, he was married to one of his young followers, but as time went on and his power went to his head, he accumulated thirteen young “wives.”
Good, Bad, or Mediocre: Good. It’s fascinating to see all of the members of the cult in the present-day, to see who moved on and who simply went on to another cult or movement. The story is fascinating, and weird, and although it’s dark, it isn’t as harrowing as the other documentary on this list.
Watch It If: Hippie cults are an interest to you.
Available: On Netflix streaming or free on Amazon with a subscription

Stay tuned for part two of Cults in Movies: The Good, The Bad, The Mediocre to find out the final six films to round out the Lucky 13.

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[Noise Complaints] Why LMFAO Is No Laughing Matter

Most of us have that one song that sends us over the edge. This is the story of one of those songs. Welcome to Noise Complaints.

LMFAO – Sexy and I Know It

For six years I worked at an educational non-profit, and every year we would hold a few retreats for teachers to spend several days in Long Beach, CA and learn techniques to take back to their classrooms. For the staff, it was a grueling five days of little sleep, constant standing, and incessant repetition of our boss’ deplorable taste in music. Day in and day out we were subjected to aggressively familiar 90’s R&B tracks in addition to my biggest noise complaint of all time, LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.”

lmfao sexy and i know it

The group’s name alone infuriates me for its unapologetic bro-ness. Then there is the fact that the duo, Redfoo and Skyblue, are uncle and nephew respectively. On top of that, they are the son and grandson of legendary Motown founder Berry Gordy  Jr. Though the term “nepotism” has been around much longer than LMFAO, I have come to believe that the negative connotations thereof stem directly from this opportune lineage. This duo, so well-positioned to enter the music industry, squandered their connections to create the most horrific of overproduced pop filth. “Sexy and I Know It” is the Donald Trump of songs. It is the brash and offensive product of rich parents, and it’s what society gets for letting our standards dip so dangerously low.

For these yearly retreats, the Foundation would rent out an old single screen theater on Long Beach’s 4th Street, also known as Retro Row. Retro Row is filled with vintage shops, trendy restaurants, coffee shops, and dimly lit wine bars. I was tasked with scheduling  “Sexy and I Know It” to play every half an hour. The music–if you could call it that–blared outside the theater entrance through one of those Costco industrial-use rolling speakers while educators were encouraged to strut around as if they were walking red carpet. I can’t even begin to explain how this applies to an educational retreat.

The poor winers-and-diners along Retro Row would grimace and cringe at every exaggerated bass beat. I sincerely want to apologize to anyone who was trying to indulge in a nice glass of pinot while “I got passion in my pants and I ain’t afraid to show it (show it, show it, show it)” accosted them at least seven times. They didn’t deserve that. None of us deserved that, and the offspring of Berry Gordy have truly done this world a disservice.

I no longer work with the organization, so my intake of this audible concoction of club sweat, chest hair, and gold chains has plummeted. But the song was a hit, making it to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 list in 2012, so the imitation bass often creeps into my eardrums at unexpected moments. When I hear “When I walk on by, girls be looking like damn he fly,” my instinct is to crawl under a table and cover my head like an elementary school earthquake drill. Even though seven songwriters are credited, it feels like a computer produced every part of that song, including and especially the lyrics. Then again, the best explanation for the lines “We headed to the bar, baby don’t be nervous/ No shoes, no shirt, and I still get serviced” would be seven guys in a room writing together.

These guys won multiple Billboard Music Awards. They were nominated for best group at the Kids Choice Awards. They were nominated for a Grammy.

These are just facts. Digest them how you will.

I personally only plan to digest things Barry Gordy produced musically not genetically.

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Ten Heartbreaks

by Jamie Haddox

Ten Heartbreaks

1. I sink. Don’t talk. Wait to glow,
give myself away. See a gathering
crowd, but it won’t boil.

2. I lock a wrapped arm across the throat of
the embarrassing starry-eyed formula.
Around the hefty stares and stairs
see me wrathful with my obnoxious
heart pickled.

3. In a shove I park the pining with disgust.
In a fit of entitlement, wishing for some
crowded anger, a street bomb.

4. You run. Seek cover. The race
of love spoiled in its efficiency.
Complete with blushing arched
nerves of thread splayed.

5. It is almost admirable, ripping details
from the temple, cutting the maddening knot.

6. Slipping into writing about love
demands repentance, it’s a tacky
clockwork cliché untied, and redundant.
The cold abrupt complainers’ crusade
how savvy fingers should use their
words to abuse those too weak to numb
the moony romantic pull, too timid to
smash the quickening feel of a squeeze.

7. Fastened to the second-hand effects
of the kiss, a blow banging awakening.
The dysfunctional candle lit pain
of a barge traversing the little bend
where cause of death is clinical,
without mourning.

8. No contrived lust blunder can be
called successful, and sacks of hearts
will know ruin.

9. The warning is loud, a doll-faced,
dangerous passenger with the ideal
smile, almost able to make land on
a tepid, open heart.

10. Senses tested. Love passed on is a
callous drowning of excuses. In her
smell, a smart, deep blue, well dusted
thunder heard over the hill. Secrets tempt
and float. On one single cough, she marks
and tells the part where it takes ten heartbreaks
to make the flash of money a tradable commodity.

– – – – –

jamiehaddoxJamie Haddox is a writer from Minnesota. She holds a BA in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in SunStruck, Haute Dish, Gyroscope, Pretty Owl Poetry, Drunk Monkeys, and on the Golden Walkman Podcast. In her spare time Jamie loves engaging in witty banter, playing Cards Against Humanity, and reading lots of books.




(featured image “underwater” by chris joel campbell)
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