Monday, January 8, 2018

The Cult of Tweezology

Remember AIM? For the young ones out there, that's AOL Instant Messenger, an internet chat function akin to today's Snapchat (I assume?) that no longer exists. 

Side note: my AOL username was MSTyodameister, because I was the coolest person using the Internet that you could possibly know

The fact that this was by far the most exciting thing to be found in Cult says a little bit about the movie, but more importantly, a whole lot about the very specific days of the early 21st century.
Quick Plot: Picture it: the opening still image prologue to 1991's Beauty and the Beast, only instead of being about a spoiled prince and magical rose, it's an ancient Chinese maiden named Kwan Yin whose out-of-wedlock pregnancy leads her father to gouge out her eyeballs and slice open her belly, thus empowering her as some sort of goddess. 

Cut to a Taoist cult in 1990s era California (more specifically, an abandoned Chinese buffet) where a white lounge-erie-clad beauties sacrifice themselves in the name of the aforementioned Kwan Yin only for one to discover their male leader, Quinlin, is trying to steal all of their power for himself.

20 years later, the daughter of the slain cult member has grown up into Mindy (The Butterfly Effect 3's Rachel Miner), a hard-working college student who spends as much time studying ancient Chinese cults as she does shaping her extremely shaped eyebrows.

Mindy is currently working on the worst thing ever asked of a college student: the dreaded group project, this one specifically about the temple massacre. Her team includes pal Cassandra (played by the always welcome Taryn Manning), Cassandra's emo boyfriend Bailey, the school mascot/token awful human being Alex, and the MIA Morgan, soon to be found by Mindy to have brutally killed herself in the dorm bathroom in a manner very similar to those ill-fated maidens in the empty Chinese buffet.

Apparently, all it takes is for an unmarried pregnant woman to take her own life for Quinlin to reemerge, slaughtering those around Mindy with the help of an occasionally important jade amulet. Mindy's sexy Australian professor tries to help, but stopping Quinlin is no mere academic affair. 

Let's be very clear about something: like most of late '90s/early 00s horror titles that you have never heard of popping up on Amazon Prime in recent months, Cult is not a good movie. When your primary set is an empty Asian restaurant and the rules of your villain are clearly made up as you go, you do not, you know, have a good movie.

But that doesn't stop an idiot like me from enjoying it.

Maybe it's the fact that I wrote "EYEBROWS" in my notes twelve times over the course of its 90 minute run, but Cult just seemed to tickle some very sensitive part of my funny bone. The bargain bin CGI does wonders, and random lack of attention to logical detail makes you scratch your head with a smile. Take, for example, the lack of custodian services on campus. I don't care how cheap your film is, it's pretty hard to conceive of a college that doesn't clean a blood-stained dorm bathroom after a student commits suicide inside. I can accept crime tape a few days after the event, but can I REALLY be asked to believe no one FLUSHED THE TOILET THAT WAS FILLED WITH THE DEAD KID'S BLOOD?

Such moments are what make an otherwise underwhelming, probably once straight-to-Blockbuster-shelves genre flick somewhat memorable.

Make of that what you will.

Low Points
That's right: I'm reversing this! Here's why: Alex, played by Cruel World's Joel Michaely, is easily the most obnoxious and intolerable (and also, apparently, racist and intolerant) character I can remember seeing onscreen in some time. I hated his face, hated his voice, and have never wished a more painful death upon anyone on camera

High Points
I mean, I have to give some credit to a film that makes me that excited to see someone die a horrible death

Lessons Learned
Never question the moral character of the people who make your meatloaf

The best college professors are the ones who fashion themselves akin to female porn actress starring in teacher-student scenarios

It's probably not a good idea to joke about the tragic death of any young person to your fragile daughter, let alone one whose bloodied body was discovered by, you know, your own daughter

Cult is streaming on Amazon Prime, which is probably the most effort you should put into watching it. Those with a very particular nostalgia for the early 2000s might have some fun, but to call this a good movie would be a step even someone with as bad a taste in movies as myself wouldn't do. I had a good time with it, but as regular readers know, that's not always a good thing. 

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