Following last month’s first in a three-part documentary series on the history of some of the most famous cult films in history, Time Warp, Vol. 2–Horror and Sci-Fi is another detailed discussion of some of the best known scary films and science-fiction works that gained a certain notoriety after their initial (usually disappointing) release. (For those keeping track, Vol. 3–Comedy and Camp hits VOD June 23.) Since these two genres were my gateway drug into my love of all types of film, I was perhaps a little more critical of some of the film’s more obvious choices, but the series is meant to highlight “The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time” and not necessarily the more obscure but no less incredible options.
As was Vol. 1, this chapter is hosted (somewhat superfluously) by Joe Dante, with a panel including director John Waters and actors Illeana Douglas and Kevin Pollak, all of whom sit on directors chairs and introduce each new group of movies. Even more so this time around, only Dante and Waters add anything meaningful to the conversation (I hope this changes in Vol. 3). The meat of the film comes in the short profiles of the handful of titles discussed by those who made or starred in them, as well as film critics, historians, and other filmmakers who are fans of these enormously entertaining works that often share the common thread of being box office failures that somehow caught on while on the midnight circuit long after their release.
Rightfully so, the horror offerings open with a twofer from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and its follow-up Dawn of the Dead, both of which were critical darlings because of their daring social commentary (or, as Romero frequently said, “What’s pissing me off these days?”) about race and class division, consumerism, and (in his third zombie movie, Day of the Dead) the military. Zombies are immediately followed by the demons that populate Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, with star Bruce Campbell providing a great deal of insightful and humorous stories about the making of the film and its path to cult success.
The worthy list of horror titles also featured here include Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects; the recently departed Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator; Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; and even Tom Six’s The Human Centipede. On the science-fiction side of things, works like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner; Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000; John Sayles’ The Brother from Another Planet; and almost un-categorizable films like Liquid Sky and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension are included for dissection—alongside the one bonafide box office success in the bunch, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
A parade of famous faces are brought in to provide commentary about each title, including Jeff Goldblum (who offers alternate line readings for his Buckaroo Banzai character), Mary Woronov, Malcolm McDowell, Roger Corman, Sean Young, and Joe Morton, as well as most of the directors of the featured films. The truth is, if you’ve listened to the DVD commentaries for most of these films or watch a Making Of documentary for them, you’ve likely heard most of these stories before, which doesn’t make them any less interesting.
As I said for the first film in the series, Vol. 2 is probably better suited as a primer for those looking to tap into the horror and/or sci-fi genres for the first time. And while it never gets old to me to hear and see these tremendous actors and filmmaking legends discuss these groundbreaking works, it all feels a bit familiar and a bit like retread, even more than Vol. 1. That being said, Vol. 3 has a much more eclectic group of movies in its lineup (and a much longer running time), and that fact alone piques my interest and has me eager to dive into it. Just to confuse the issue, Vol. 2 is the weakest of the three documentaries, but it covers the best overall group of films.
The film is available beginning today On Demand and on most digital platforms.
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