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Name: Adam Bernard
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Is Sucker Punch Heading Towards Cult Movie Status?
Thursday, August 30, 2012

Earlier this month I was at ComiCONN in Trumbull, CT, when I noticed there was a decided lack of anything Sucker Punch related. There was only one woman dressed as one of the characters, Rocket, and none of the tables had any Sucker Punch merchandise. This was odd to me because Sucker Punch, which I really enjoyed, seems like such a perfect fit for a convention of this nature.

Even though most everyone I spoke with at ComiCONN was extremely friendly, I was hesitant to bring up my Sucker Punch wonderings because I thought if I did I might end up on the receiving end of a speech about how I’m watching the wrong things. The few people I did mention the lack of Sucker Punch to did agree that it was strangely underrepresented. This made me wonder if Sucker Punch was no longer in this realm of fandom, but instead was heading towards cult movie status.

Before we can determine if Sucker Punch can, or will, reach cult movie status it’s important to define what a cult movie is and see if it fits that definition. In a Cineaste Magazine article, I.Q. Hunter, who has been published widely on cult films (and has quite the rad name), defines them, in part, as “movies that are often transgressive, marginal, disasters on first release, or drawn from genres such as horror, science fiction, and exploitation, and which have attracted an exceptionally devoted and vociferous fan base.” Leaving the part about the fan base for later, Sucker Punch is certainly transgressive, meaning (dictionary definition here) it’s characterized by graphic depictions of behavior that violate socially acceptable norms, often involving violence, drug use, and sexual deviancy (scantily clad girls and big guns! Yes!). Sucker Punch was also a flop in terms of the box office, making only $19 million in its opening weekend despite costing over $80 million to make, so it certainly qualifies as a disaster on first release. Additionally, the movie includes elements of sci-fi and exploitation, further connecting it to Hunter’s definition of a cult film.

Cultographies.com, which has an extensive definition for what a cult film is, notes that these types of films also “challenge genre conventions and coherent storytelling.” Anyone who saw Sucker Punch knows it challenges coherent storytelling with it’s multi-fantasy escapism that the girls take part in, going from the reality of the insane asylum, to the first fantasy of the cabaret, to the second fantasy of being all out warriors in completely different situations. Did the movie challenge genre conventions? Perhaps, but mostly because there really isn’t a clear cut genre that the film fits into other than “action” (I’m not counting “masturbatory fantasy,” which is what some critics labeled it, as I’ve never seen that section in a movie store).

According to noted cult film book editor Ernest Mathijs (The Cult Film Reader, Cultographies), movies become cult films “by accident.” So has this accident happened for Sucker Punch, or are we in mid-accident and the final result is still pending? This brings us back to the point about having an “exceptionally devoted and vociferous fan base.” Does Sucker Punch have one, and if so, where can it be found? Clearly, if I can ask the latter, the former can be called into question.

Personally, I think the hushed tones with which Sucker Punch was talked about by the handful of people I mentioned it to at ComiCONN is a good start for finding that fan base. This is a movie that has all the stylistic qualities that make up a cult film, all it needs is to gather its fans and it will own that title.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:35 AM  
  • At 2:15 PM, Blogger firminist1 said…

    Adam. I seriously like Sucker Punch. Yours, I.Q. Hunter

  • At 2:01 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Hey, that's great to hear (or I guess technically read). Thank you for checking out the article!

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