There is, I kid you not, an exceedingly large group of people who gather in darkened cinemas worldwide to watch the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Not content with munching popcorn and periodically checking their phones these people recite the film line by line, sing, dance and generally re-enact the film in its 103 minute entirety. For a film that depicts a precocious Chicago high school student enjoying the ultimate "sickie" while being pursued by his cartoonishly incompetent principal, Dean Rooney, this is an unsettling level enthusiasm.
It’s an infectious comedy, certainly, but not one that would seem worthy of repeated screenings in cinemas over 30 years later. It doesn't star Molly Ringwald, as most of director John Hughes' other films seem to, for one thing. It doesn't have the gravitas of Hughes' The Breakfast Club, the cool nihilism of Clerks nor the righteous anger of Heathers, other popular films of that time. But regardless, something about Ferris Bueller's Day Off struck a chord with a group of people who find compelling to the point of obsession.
while Ferris Bueller's Day Off is an unlikely cult hit, the truth is, no one really knows what makes a film a cult hit. They tend to evoke a public response that is unlikely, improbable or completely inexplicable. Cult films, to borrow a saying, are born, not made. Like Youtube videos that go viral, cult films are almost impossible to replicate the success of a cult film. They can be horror, comedy, drama, documentary and/or straight up, bad. There is no secret recipe.
Despite this, cult films are important cultural phenomenon in today’s somewhat disparate world. Reciting lines from a favourite film can help break down barriers between strangers and create bonds around a shared experience. Entire communities are built around cult films. They help us to understand how our society really works by exploring the edges of our lives and illuminating our needs, desires and fears that might otherwise stay hidden. Ultimately, cult films capture the zeitgeist of their time.
This year Smokescreen explores at the world of cult cinema. Five films covering the genres of comedy, documentary, drama, horror and action give an insight into a world of cinema not often seen in Dubbo. It’s going to be an experience, or a ‘journey’ (rapidly becoming a cult phrase itself) that amuses and intrigues.
Smokescreen starts on Thursday March 16 at 7pm with This is Spinal Tap. Screenings take place in Drama at the Community Arts Centre of the WPCC and tickets cost $10 or $38 for a season pass.