"Cult People: Tales from Hollywood's Exploitation A-list" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Headpress
Written by Nicanor Loreti
2010, 281 page, Non-Fiction
Released on May 10th, 2010
I've gone over time and time again my feelings on the term "cult" anything. Over the years the word has simply lost its power, especially with the explosion of independent film. It seems every up-and-coming filmmaker wants to coin his movie a "cult classic" (made even worse by jackass reviewers calling something an "instant cult classic!!"). People, it doesn't work this way. So every time I see a book or movie with that word plastered anywhere on the cover, I cringe. I'm convinced that very few people in the industry actually knows what the word cult means. Fortunately, those at Headpress do know, and author Nicanor Loreti certainly is privy to a dictionary because Cult People: Tales from Hollywood's Exploitation A-list is exactly what the title promises; a book filled with interviews with actors that fans of film instantly know by name and the casual film-goer at least knows by face as 'that guy', and filmmakers that seemingly never get enough credit.
On the cover is a picture of Micheal Rooker, so immediately my normal, uncontrolled rolling of the eyes at the title was nullified. And once I looked at the index of those interviewed, my fears of another abuse of the word were put at ease. Loreti got it right. Broken into two segments, "Cult Stars" and "Cult People", the book is chock full of interviews with those interesting people who both make a movie better or make a better movie than your average "A-lister". For example, in addition to the aforementioned Rooker, the stars section contains talks with people like Billy Drago, William Sanderson, Michael Pare, and more. These are actors that even if you don't recognize the name, you've seen them in countless movies and they no doubt stood out in a scene in some way or another. It's usually here where I point out a particular interview I liked more than the others, but not this time. It's as if Loreti secretly knew who I would want to read about and picked them for Cult People, as every person talked to had either an interesting story about a film they worked on, or were just a fascinating person all around (and more often than not, it is the latter).
The "Cult People" section is more of the same. Loreti talks with a whole range of people from horror household names (Dario Argento, Lloyd Kaufman and Wes Craven) to those who should be in that camp (Jack Hill and Herschell Gordon Lewis) and everyone in between. While this second portion of the book has a few more well-known names than the first — I've read countless interviews with Lloyd Kaufman and Wes Craven, and James Gunn (as much as I love him) seems to be a pretty accessible guy — that's made up for by Loreti going against the obvious choices with the others. For example, he talks with Ted Raimi (as opposed to his brother Sam) and Richard Elfman (instead of his sibling Danny). It's choices like these, as well as interviews with people like Maggie Moor and Richard Stanley (whose only two films are Dust Devil and Hardware) that make Cult People far better than your run-of-the-mill book of interviews.
But what makes Cult People work is Nicanor Loreti's knowledge of his subjects. It's very obvious he's a fan first of each and every person he talks to here, but the man also did his homework. Where it could have easily been pages of Loreti gushing over someone's work (like I would have), he keeps the conversations goings in directions that always pay off.
The only thing missing from Cult People is pictures. The book is 281 pages of interviews with 29 people, and there are only five pictures. Of those five, none are of the subjects, but instead are movie posters. I'm of the type that I like to see pictures of those being interviewed because for whatever reason, I like to know what a subject looks like. Anything will do; a press photo, behind-the-scenes shot, promotional still from a film, it doesn't matter. Considering the range of people Loreti talked to here, I'm a little surprised that the photographs are so scarce.
On its site, Headpress has the motto "the gospel according to unpopular culture" and it has delivered on that tagline with everything I've read to date from the publishing company, and Cult People: Tales from Hollywood's Exploitation A-list is no exception. Nicanor Loreti's choice of subjects is exceptional and the enthusiasm he has with his heroes is infectious. Pick up a copy and delve into the proper world of cult people.