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Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time Review

April 21, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Rocky Horror Picture Show Time Warp
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Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time Review  

Directed by: Danny Wolf
Written by: Paul Fishbein, Irv Slifkin, and Danny Wolf

Hosted By: Joe Dante, John Waters, Ileana Douglas, and Kevin Pollak
Appearing: Jeff Bridges, Pam Grier, Rob Reiner, Barry Bostwick, Michael McKean, John Turturro, Gary Busey, Jeff Goldblum, Fran Drescher, Penelope Spheeris, Peter Bogdanovich, Sean Young, Joe Morton, Malcolm McDowell, Bruce Campbell, Roger Corman, John Sayles, Mary Woronov, Ed Neal, Rob Zombie, Gina Gershon, John Cleese, Ron Livingston, Jim Gaffigan, Fred Willard, Jon Heder, David Cross, Kevin Smith, Amy Heckerling, Mike Judge, Peter Farrelly, and John Cameron Mitchell.

Running Time: 316 minutes
Not Rated

True confession time, folks: I can’t stand Napoleon Dynamite. The 2004 comedy is a film that, despite multiple watches, has never so much as cracked a smile on my face much less a laugh. Not even a screening at Rose City Comic Con a couple of years ago, surrounded by an audience of people who loved the movie, was enough to turn me around to appreciate what Jared Hess, Jon Heder and company brought to the screen.

And yet, I have to appreciate the fact that what is a 95 minute long exercise in tedium for me has a massive cult following. People around the world – including my best friends –love it, quote it incessantly and will watch it again and again. That’s the nature of a cult film, and Napoleon Dynamite is far from alone in that regard. From the “so bad it’s good” status of The Room and the gross-out outrageousness of Pink Flamingos to landmark sci-fi like Blade Runner and more, cult films are practically a genre all their own.

Danny Wolf’s new mini-docuseries Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time shines a light on those films which may have been denied mainstream status upon their release but have often been elevated far above their contemporaries to hallowed status within the world of cinephiles. The series – the first part of which releases today on Digital/VOD – does a fine job of combing through to honor those films that aren’t for everybody – but for which everybody has one of their own.

The series is divided into three parts: “Midnight Madness,” “Horror and Sci-Fi,” and “Comedy and Camp.” Part one looks at the rise of the Midnight Movie, as popularized by the Rocky Horror Picture Show craze, and takes a dive into the top of the cult movie pool. Some films are just undeniably cult classics like The Big Lebowski, Reefer Madness, Eraserhead, Pink Flamingos, and This Is Spinal Tap, and these are the sorts of films that the first part jumps headlong into.

Each of the parts play as their own minidocumentary, running for at least an hour and a half in order to do their covered films justice. Part Two examines horror classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Living Dead films, Evil Dead, The Human Centipede, and Re-Animator alongside sci-fi entries such as Blade Runner, Death Race 2000, Brother From Another Planet, and Liquid Sky. Finally, the third part delves into cult comedies like Office Space, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, and Fast Time at Ridgemont High as well as the height of camp in films from Showgirls to The Room. The concept of cult films is such an expansive one that it would be difficult to cover it all in one go, which makes the splitting into three parts a wise move by Wolf and his team.

With Joe Dante, John Waters, Ileana Douglas, and Kevin Pollak (all of whom have their own works on the extensive list covered in the three parts) serving as hosts talking about the films between entries, director Danny Wolf uses each film as a way to explore how the cult film phenomenon came about and why each of these movies themselves earned such a following despite falling apart or never getting a chance at wide mainstream success. The talking heads include both people involved with the films and people within the industry who either grew up as fans or discovered the films as they grew in stature.

Wolf is using a time-tested format for exploring beloved films, one used by everything from the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th documentaries to Netflix’s The Movies That Made Us. And while the first impression is that that the format may be a bit tame for talking about some of the most outrageous movies of all-time, it works incredibly well.

Wolf’s group of interviewees is well-selected and provide takes that will be appreciated both by newcomers to these films and old hats alike. Befitting the idea of films that have devoted followings, the conversation doesn’t feel the need to jump into well-trod stories that most devoted fans will have heard countless times already. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for example, doesn’t have to have anyone talk about how miserably hot the house was for shooting the final scene – a story that nearly every horror documentary has covered.

Instead, this series is far more interested in showing viewers why these films have become so beloved to the point that even if you don’t want to see a movie like Pink Flamingos where drag queen Divine commits an act of coprophagia on camera, you can understand why others love it.

Time Warp carries that sense throughout the discussion of these films, and it is undeniably infectious. I’ve always gotten the appeal of Napoleon Dynamite, even though as I said before it’s not for me. When part three of the docuseries tackles that film, I found myself tempted to give the movie another try.

And that is, after all, the very nature of how cult films spread. There’s a strong argument to be made about how films like The Room, Point Break or Foxy Brown are more deserving than their more successful contemporaries because of the passion they inspire, which in turn drives their cults to grow to the point that we’re still talking about them long after we’ve forgotten the mainstream hits of those days.

Ultimately, that’s the energy that Time Warp brings to the table. For everyone, there are films covered here that they will love, ones that they will hate, and others they’ve never heard of. This series celebrates them all and gives audiences a well-deserved chance to revisit or learn about them, offering you membership in their cults. It’s hard not to accept the invitation, especially when Time Warp is making it such an infectious joy to be invited.

The three parts of Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time will be available on April 21st (“Midnight Madness”), May 19th (“Horror & Sci-Fi”), and June 23rd (“Comedy & Camp”) via Digital and On Demand services.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Danny Wolf's Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time is an unabashed celebration of the cult film in all the best ways. The three-part series is extensive without bogging itself down in the details, moving along at a brisk pace as it explores a wide variety of cult classics. It manages the difficult task of being substantive for newbies and devotees of the films alike, and is a must-see for anybody who has an appreciation for the odd ducks of cinema that have persevered in spite of the Hollywood system -- and in some ways, in spite of themselves.

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Jeremy Thomas