It’s kind of odd to even conceive of this, but somehow the cult-classic film has become a marketable commodity. Sure, there have always been McFarlane toys of movies like Evil Dead that sold well enough in comic book stores. These days you have entire studios like Lionsgate, which intentionally make movies cheaper and cheesier than necessary in order to appeal to a specific audience. The part about this that horrifies me is that the reason doesn’t seem to be increased diversity in American culture. From what I can tell, people have decided that they like movies they don’t actually understand or appreciate because the world itself in fact no longer makes sense. So a movie like Donnie Darko that is only ‘heady’ on the most basic level and mostly an editing trainwreck, is a guaranteed hit. The unfortunate backlash is that these sort of directors get encouraged to be even more obtuse in order to sell more tickets.
My inspiration for this article was finally seeing Southland Tales, another film by the director of the aforementioned Donnie Darko. This movie is every single thing I could say in this article; the perfect example of going way too far to be original and unique. If I’m saying that as a self-declared expert on fringe culture, it has to be too much. I won’t waste all my text bashing the movie, for all of it’s blunders I actually enjoyed it the same way you would enjoy a deep-fried twinkie: with elated disgust.
I just point it out because never (not even Heaven’s Gate) has there been a m0vie that tried harder to be something and failed by overdoing it. It’s trying to make it’s cut corners look like witty touches and it’s poorly written bits look intentional. Unfortunately it’s too confusing to someone who isn’t very bright and obviously contrived for someone who is. That leaves the movie with no audience besides people of middle intelligence who want to seem smarter.
I think this is a perfect paradigm of something that’s happening all over. Not just movies, but also comics, games, books and music have all developed a problem with trying to over-appeal to a growing fringe group. Unfortunately for the original creators, this destroys whatever cred they may have started with. Sure, 5 years ago, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac was really fringe. Now there are 80 million kids with Invader Zim lunchboxes. If someone tried to describe Jonan Vasquez as a cult artist, I would laugh in their face. The same could be said for Tim Burton, Jim Henson Studios or George Lucas. It’s just not ‘alternative’ any more when you do Disney films or a Burger King promotion.
So I say don’t pander to me. If you as a creative artist want my respect as a rebel and a visionary, you do not get to sell out. Take a page from Joss Whedon or Tim Schafer and do things your own way, whatever it takes and I’ll write your praises just like I do theirs. I’m not saying that every great film Tim Burton made is invalidated by Alice in Wonderland, but he no longer has the right to wear welding glasses in public. You know what I mean.