Cult of Terror (Culto al Terror) Movie Review
Written by Charlotte Stear
Released by Bizarre Man Films
Written and directed by Gustavo Mendoza
2018, 114 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest UK Premiere on 26th August 2018
Dario Argento as Himself
Barbara Crampton as Herself
Robert Englund as Himself
Narciso Ibáñez Serrador as Himself
Paul Naschy as Himself (archive footage)
Cult of Terror is a documentary that looks to explore the world of a horror fan, following them on pilgrimages to some of the biggest horror festivals around the world. By interviewing filmmakers, actors, collectors, fanzine writers and fans of the genre, director Gustavo Mendoza is on a mission to explore the world of the horror festival goer.
There’s no shortage of horror festivals these days and as a genre, horror is going from strength to strength at the moment which is great timing for this particular documentary. What better time to explore the world of the horror fan than when horror is providing some of the biggest blockbusters of the year?
Cult of Terror takes its cameras to iconic horror festivals such as Sitges, Argentina Comic Con and FrightFest to name a few. It includes interviews with genre icons like Robert Englund, Bruce Campbell, Mick Garris, Rick Baker, Dario Argento and Lloyd Kaufman, but maybe don’t get too excited about some of those names. A lot of these interviews is shaky camera footage from within the audience of a festival, a long way from the front. Bruce Campbell is followed around Sitges going from Q&A to screening looking increasingly annoyed/bemused by the constant attention of Mendoza, so it’s not like there’s a great one on one with the big man himself, but despite that there are a wealth of interviews here.
However, this is where the documentary has its first issue. The format of the documentary is talking heads who endlessly describe what got them into horror and why they still obsess about it now, there is little narration and the format is loose, jumping around from person to person. The footage is put together rather haphazardly, and keeps going back to the same people throughout the documentary, but nothing new seems to be said. This is quite obviously a labour of love, a documentary made about the love of horror by a big horror fan. It’s a great insight into the South American horror scenes, and sheds light on a world people may not know much about, but other than that the documentary becomes one note, and by the end is rather tiresome.
While I can forgive the hastily edited footage, and the seemingly little thread of coherent thought which binds the interviews together, the most glaring issue in this documentary is the insulting lack of female inclusion. Barbara Crampton is the most interviewed woman in this, but that’s about your lot from the female side of things. We have countless footage of the same men being interviewed over and over and over again, but no room to include any perspectives from any other actresses, writers or any female fans that attend these festivals, and there are plenty of them, so why are they not included? The first 40 minutes of this documentary is just man after man telling you how they got into horor, none of what is being spoken about is particularly revelationary. This is a real shame, Cult of Terror pursues this one overdone narrative, never really achieving anything new or groundbreaking in its pursuit.
Some of the most interesting moments in Cult of Terror are seeing the real fans who started fanzines, or the collectors with their shops filled with their obsessions. The footage of the different festivals and the worlds they create is fun and exciting, but it’s not enough for a film that boasts a massive two hour runtime. Because of the passion project nature of this film, nothing seems to have been left out, every little quote and moment of horror icons is left in, and it often feels like you’re going round in circles with the same people and the same things being said. It lacks focus and the outcome is a messy little film that gives you a very superficial view of horror, the end result is disappointing and flat.