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C LIT 303 A: Theory Of Film: Genre

Cult Cinema

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
SMI 102
Sudhir Mahadevan

Syllabus Description:

Reading and Screening Schedule:


Mathijs and Sexton = Textbook (available at UW book store)

All other readings will be available in the Files section of the course on Canvas, arranged alphabetically by last name.

For required movies mentioned in this schedule, see the Modules section. Where two movies are listed, the first one will be screened in class.  

See also the Suggested Movies module (not listed in the main reading and screening schedule). 


Week 1 – Jan 4th to Jan 7th


Read for Monday:

"Cult Film: A Critical Symposium"

JP Telotte, The Cult Film Experience: Beyond all Reason

Mathijs and Sexton, Introduction

Monday Lecture: What is a cult film?


Read for Wednesday and Thursday:

Umberto Eco: "Casablanca: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage" (1985)

Mathijs and Sexton, Chapter 17 "Classical Hollywood Cults"

Tuesday Screening: Casablanca

Wednesday and Thursday Lectures: The Classical Hollywood Cult Film, and Film Analysis


Week 2 – Jan 11th to Jan 14th


Read for Tuesday

Jeffrey Sconce, "Trashing the Academy"

Mathijs and Sexton, chapter 8 Camp and Para-cinema

Monday Screening: Plan 9 in Outer Space

Tuesday Lecture: So Bad It’s Good: Celebrating Bad Movies


Read for Thursday:

Xavier Mendik and Steven Jay Schneider, "A tasteless art" in Underground USA

Mathijs and Sexton, Chapter 4, Censorship and Criticism

Wednesday Screening: Desperate Living (John Waters)/Toxic Avenger

Thursday Lecture: In Bad Taste


Week 3 – Jan 18th to Jan 21st

Read for Tuesday:

Mathijs and Sexton, chapter 9 and 13, Transgression and Freakery, Exploitation and B-Movies

Tania Modleski, Women’s Cinema as Counterphobic Cinema: Doris Wishman as the Last Auteur

Monday HOLIDAY NO SCREENING WATCH: Freaks, Nude on the Moon

Tuesday Lecture: Grindhouse and Exploitation


Read for Thursday:

Mathijs and Sexton, Chapter 18: Horror

Lawrence O’Toole, The Cult of Horror, in The Cult Cinema Reader

Jancovich, "Cult movies, subcultural capital and the production of cultural distinctions

Tuesday Screening: Night of the living dead/2000 Maniacs

Thursday Lecture: Cult Genres: Zombie and Splatter Horror


Week 4 – Jan 25th to Jan 28th


Read for Tuesday:

Mathijs and Sexton, chapter 5, Fandom and Subculture,

David Sanjek, Fan's Notes: the Horror Film Fanzine, in the Cult Film Reader

Monday Screening: Bubba Ho Tep/Fanalysis

Tuesday Lecture: Fandom and Stardom


Read for Thursday:

Lucas Hildebrand, Inherent Vice, Chapters 1 and 4

Julian Petley, V.D.O’Nasty

Wednesday Screening: Videodrome/The Karen Carpenter Story

Thursday Lecture: Cult Film and Technological Change


Week 5 – Feb 1st to Feb 4th


Read for Tuesday:

Austin, Portrait of a Cult Film Audience, in The Cult Film Reader

Hoberman, the Birth of Rocky Horror

Mathijs and Sexton, Chapters 1, Cult Reception Contexts

Monday Screening: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Tuesday Lecture: Audiences


Read for Thursday:

Mathijs and Sexton, Chapters 2 and 3: Marketplace and Awards and Festivals

Gregory Waller, Midnight Movies, 1980-85: A Market Study in The Cult Film Experience

Wednesday Screening: Liquid Sky/Fantastic Planet

Thursday Lecture: The Cult Film Market: Guest: Matt Lynch, Marketing Director at Scarecrow Video


Week 6 – Feb 8th to Feb 11th


Read for Tuesday:

Peter Hutchins, The Argento Effect

Linda Williams: Body Genres

Monday Screening: Suspiria

Tuesday Lecture: First 50 minutes: RECAP/ Next 60 minutes: Italian Horror


Read for Thursday:

Schneider, Steven Jay, the Essential Evil in/of Eraserhead (or, Lynch to the Contrary) in The Cinema of David Lynch

Hoberman and Rosenbaum, Eraserhead, in Midnight Movies

Wednesday Screening: Eraserhead

Tuesday Lecture: First: 50 minutes: Cult Independents/ Next 60 minutes: Guest: Lisa Petrucci, Something Weird Video



Week 7 – Feb 15th to Feb 18th


Read for Tuesday:

Sean Moreland and Summer Pervez, Becoming-Death: the Lollywood gothic of Khwaja Sarfraz's Zinda Laash (1967, Dracula in Pakistan (US title), 1967), in Draculas, Vampires and other Undead Forms

Chuck Stephens, House: The House Maidens, House (1977), Criterion DVD

David Andrews, From Foreign Films to World Cinemas, in Theorizing Art Cinemas

Monday President's Day HOLIDAY: Watch: House/Zinda Laash

Tuesday Lecture: International Cult: Horror from Asia


Read for Thursday:

 Mathijs and Sexton, Chapter 11, Transnationalism and Orientalism

Hoberman, Through the Wasteland of Counter-Culture

Wednesday Screening: El Topo

Thursday Lecture: International Cult: El Topo


Week 8 Feb 22nd to Feb 25th 


Read for Tuesday:

Kate Egan & Sarah Thomas: "Star-Making, Cult-Making and Forms of Authenticity" (2013) in Cult Film Stardom

Jim Whaley, You're Jim Ground-Hog Day-Ghostbusting-Ass Murray, in Cult Film Stardom

Mathijs and Sexton, chapter 7, cult stardom

Monday Screening: Groundhog Day

Tuesday Lecture: Cult Stardom


Read for Thursday:

Mathijs and Sexton, Chapter 19, Cult Science-Fiction Cinema,

Jacinta Read, The Cult of Masculinity: from Fanboys to Academic Bad-Boys, in Defining Cult Movies

Wednesday Screening: Blade Runner/Barbarella

Thursday Lecture: Cult Science-Fiction Cinema


Week 9 Feb 28th to Mar 3rd


Read for Tuesday:

David Church, Cult Cinema in the Land of the Auteur

Mathijs and Sexton, the Cult Auteur, Chapter 6

James Naremore, Stanley Kubrick and the Aesthetics of the Grotesque

Monday Screening: A Clockwork Orange

Tuesday Lecture by Paul Morton: Cult Auteurs


Read for Thursday:

 Mathijs and Sexton, Chapter 20, Cult Blockbusters

Monday Screening: Star Wars: A New Hope/Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Thursday Lecture by Paul Morton: Cult Blockbusters


Week 10 March 7th to 10th


Read for Tuesday:

Mathijs and Sexton, Chapter 22, Meta-Cult

TENTATIVE: Monday Screening: Jackie Brown/Django/The Hateful Eight

TENTATIVE: Tuesday Lecture: Tarantino and Meta-Cult








Additional Details:

What is cult cinema? How and when does a movie become a "cult classic"? Are certain genres (horror, sci-fi, obscure foreign films, disaster films, exploitation films) predisposed to producing "cult" hits? Cult films attract devoted and defiant fan activity; challenge established norms of taste and
aesthetics ("camp", "kitsch" and "trash"); often have or acquire distinctive exhibition practices (singalong Sound of Music, Halloween screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show); and engage with socio-political issues and ideologies in ways that can be distinct from mainstream films. The
emergence of BitTorrent and YouTube mashups raises new questions regarding the relation between technology and cultural value. Course work will be a combination of film analysis and research into the contexts around particular films and how they acquired cult status. Readings include a textbook and a course pack. We will consider a  wide range of US and international films: Toxic Avenger, Sins of the Fleshapoids, Holy Mountain, Night of the Living Dead, Suspiria, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Office Space, Branded to Kill, Zinda Laash and more.


Department Requirements Met: 
Cinema Studies Core
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
September 13, 2016 - 9:12pm