Scholar devises equation for determining a cult film

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The Independent Culture

What makes a cult film? It's a question to get cinephiles spluttering over their popcorn. Should the definition be confined to the midnight-movie set that embraced El Topo and The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the 1970s, or do films such as John Hughes Breakfast Club count?

Now Jameson Whiskey has commissioned cult-film scholar Xavier Mendik to come up with an equation that sets out which movies they are and aren't allowed to show in their cult-film screenings at eclectic venues across the country every month.

And the equation Mendik has come up? "Excessive Context x Elongated Release + Ecstatic Fans = Cult Film". The professor explains: "An elongated release means that a cult has build up over time, which is what happened with Blade Runner, say.

"And, importantly, there has to be an ecstasy among fans. Cult movies are 50 per cent about the content and style and 50 per cent about the fans and the way they see it. Hollywood is littered with movies that have been rejected only to be picked up again by the audience."

His definition of "fans" includes cult-literate film-makers such as Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth as well as critics who champion unheralded features. But film-makers cannot plan a cult film: "People make films that are not intended to be cult and they are re-evaluated over time; the classic example is Showgirls."