Cult classics are not limited to movies. The term can also be used for other mediums such as novels, how to books, nutritional advice (hi paleo) and video games. The idea behind this is that a cult following can spring up within these mediums. Cult followings can be beneficial for video games and franchises, which may open to financial failure but receive high reviews and gather quite a following, which results in delayed financial success.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was the next platform after the original Nintendo and was a competitor with the popular Sega Genesis. When I was growing up, either you were a Sega user or a SNES user. The arguments between the two got heated and created console wars.
At the time, I attributed it to kids going straight to SNES because Sega was an unknown. But looking back, I realize it was not about what the kids wanted, it was whatever system your parents bought you. I didn’t know any kids with two consoles, so the loyalty to a console was due to whatever system you were able to get your hands on.
OpenEmu and Emulators
I am going to review Zombies Ate My Neighbors on SNES, although I was a Sega kid. The game came out for both platforms, and in the USA they played exactly the same.
Now, I was not able to get my grown up hands on an SNES. But, a rather unknown gem for MAC users is OpenEmu. Open Emu is a video game emulator. It plays ROMs (read only memory) of video games for many of the early platforms (NES, SNES, Sega, Gameboy).
But once you get into platforms that used CD’s, like PS1 and Sega Saturn, the emulators get tricky and downright do not work.
OpenEmu is great because it holds all the Rom files in a library (get ROMS here), saves games (which you could rarely do on early platforms) and allows you to configure the controls for each system. I use my PS4 Dual shock controller through the Bluetooth attachment on my MACbook Pro. It hooks up wirelessly and allows me to play all systems easily. Same goes for Xbox One controllers which have bluetooth technology.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993)
I do remember playing this game as a kid, so I was familiar with the gameplay. But even if you hadn’t played it, it was easy to get. It’s a top down shooter that plays out like a B Horror flick. Save the humans, kill the zombies. Humans were depicted as a guy BB-qing, babies running around and as cheerleaders (highest points!).
The weapons ranged from exploding cans of soda, a gun, fire extinguishers and silverware (for werewolves obviously).
There are potions where you can change into creatures and punch your way through walls. The game is setup in a maze format, so navigating and remembering your path is the hardest part of the game. Killing zombies is easy, especially with the array of weapons you have at your disposal.
My favorite part of this game is the enemies. Level three was set in a grocery store and I was confronted by the usual generic chasing zombie. Then, two babies wielding hatchets jumped out of the cereal box aisle and sliced me to death. Awesome.
There’s also mummies, zombies, giant Baby bosses, guys with huge knives, it is mayhem and it is hilarious. The gameplay is fun, surprisingly difficult and the soundtrack is even better. It is a homage to horror films with the gore and silliness of it all.
I would recommend this game to old and new gamers alike. If you have a way of getting an old console, find this game, although I have a feeling it won’t be cheap (price range from $30 to $198!) Your best bet is the emulator.
The game was released to poor earnings, high critical reception and censorship. According to Gamesradar, the game had to change the red blood to purple ooze in order to be released in the US. And in Europe, the game had to drop “Ate My Neighbors” and release just as “Zombies.”
And lastly, the following behind this game is real and dedicated. I will leave you with this Youtube video of what I mean.
What is a Cult Classic?
That was my first question when I prepared myself to dive into the unknown of cult classics. I am not an expert on this and will not claim to be. I think that is why I was drawn to exploring the cult classics. I can start with a fresh palette. I have no dog in any fight. And from what I’ve seen in my early research, there are many fights. I also won’t be limiting myself to film. I want to explore all things that have obtained a cult following; novels, graphic novels, tv shows, video games, even food and drinks (remember Surge?). The term “cult following” is at the crux of how one could label a film or book as a cult classic. As Ian Haigh of BBC News says in this article, “Cult film is a tricky term.” That seemed weird to me. If a film has a devote following, followers that are rabid about quotes, themes, create websites dedicated to characters or films, then call it a cult classic and move on. Who cares, right? Well, the following themselves care.
It is a Dichotomy
In order for a film to become a cult classic then it must have a cult following. There are many characteristics, articles, arguments, but this one about the following is a consensus view. I have seen other characteristics, such as what Robert Pearson writes in this informative article that the art has a “post-modern intertextual awareness.” But many did not set out to become cult classics. The lore of the classics appear to come from a counter culture perspective, a group that wants to participate in something out of the mainstream. This appeal gives fans a feeling of obscurity, a togetherness in the films that were unappreciated or didn’t pass a critic’s muster. The fans can unite by reciting quotes or entire scenes in rarely seen films, let alone films seen enough to be memorized. This obscurity and counterculture is at the heart of the rabidity and defensiveness of the followings. But the following itself becomes large, creating an aura around the film or text that makes others want to see or read it. The following increases, and re-releases happen, and midnight showings become films with multiple showings. Or a show like Arrested Development gets new season after being off the air for seven years.
That is what I am struggling with. If the fans want to revel in the obscurity or counterculture, then what happens when their beloved classic becomes a mainstream novelty? This is what bothered me the most when searching for my first classic to review. I found many “Top 100 Cult Classic” sites and other countdown lists. But, while scrolling through, I found books such as A Catcher in the Rye, shows like The X-Files and the films Donnie Darko, Fight Club and Clerks. I have read and seen all of these titles, and they are all now mainstream hits. I am not exclusively confused. Many critics, authors and students of film are also confused. Dan Bentley-Baker of BrightLightsFilm.com put together a “checklist of attributes” to clear up much of the confusion. It is as follows:
1. Marginality Content falls outside general cultural norms
2. Suppression Subject to censor, ridicule, lawsuit, or exclusion
3. Economics Box office flop upon release but eventually profitable
4. Transgression Content breaks social, moral, or legal rules
5. Cult following Generates devoted minority audience
6. Community Audience is or becomes self-identified group
7. Quotation Lines of dialog become common language
8. Iconography Establishes or revives cult icons
#3 helped me understand my confusion. “Eventually profitable” explains why I have knowledge of a few cult classics. This list is thorough and can easily (or possibly) discern whether a film, book, video game or tv show is a cult classic. I don’t intend on using this list as a Holy Grail checklist for my own reviews, but it is a rather clear and straightforward way of examining an introduction into a subculture that I am not one hundred percent comfortable with. I look forward to the process I am undertaking, and not only exploring the obscure, or wildly fanatical, but also maybe encountering a following I myself will become entrenched in.