Cult Hero (2022) Fantasia Review
Cult Hero opens with the credits presented as those of a reality TV show called Cult Buster which may have been the film’s original title. Revolving around the exploits of deprogrammer Dale Domazar (Ry Barrett, The Chamber of Terror, The Final Ride) the season final goes off the rails as not only doesn’t he stop their human sacrifice, but his intervention also results in a mass suicide.
Elsewhere Kallie (Liv Collins, Creep Nation, The Sublet) and her husband Brad (Justin Bott, Fast and Furriest, A Witch’s Ball) are having problems. Brad seems to have lost his vigour and his drive, even worse he dared to buy a painting for the house without getting her approval. So she enrolls him at Master Jagori’s (Tony Burgess, Pontypool, The Hoard) retreat for men.
But when he extends his stay without her permission she’s furious and demands to speak to the manager. When that doesn’t work she calls the desperate for a job Domazar to get Brad back.
Cult Hero’s director Jesse Thomas Cook (Monster Brawl, Scarce) and writer Kevin Revie (To Hell with Harvey, Deadsight) are out to parody reality TV, self-help gurus and type A personalities. The problem is, both of the leads are Type A as in asshole and it’s hard to get behind them, even after we find out Master Jagori’s secret. I get that the idea is to pit less than likable characters against outright evil ones, but Kallie and Dale are far more annoying than amusing, even as over-the-top parodies of Karens and Dog the Bounty Hunter types.
The first hour of Cult Hero just sort of limps along leaving a trail of failed attempts at humour and, apart from the opening scenes, one short burst of action. By the time Mr. Mort (Matt Griffin, Exit Humanity, Ejecta) and some more skull-masked killers turn up to usher in the final act boredom was setting in. I was actually hoping they would kill the two of them off and put me out of my misery.
Instead, after a reasonably energetic burst of violence Cult Hero goes back to unfunny jokes. The script pulls in Kallie’s rival for realtor of the year, Cynthia Doyle (Jessica Vano, The Demolisher, Death on Scenic Drive) but all that does is add some eye candy rather than laughs. Indeed, Cult Hero is one of the most relentlessly unfunny comedies I’ve ever sat through.
Unfortunately, Cult Hero is also remarkably short on action and gore despite the usual hype to the contrary. The gore peaks with a dismemberment in the opening scenes and the action is limited to a few scenes as well. When a flame thrower makes an appearance near the end I was hoping that would change, but even that opportunity is squandered. I will give it credit for using practical effects, but there are not enough of them.
I knew I wasn’t going to get through Fantasia without seeing at least one bad film, but I really didn’t expect it to be Cult Hero. Given the plot description and the people involved, I expected an inventively bloody parody. Instead, it’s slow, dull, and extremely unfunny on almost every level. Maybe it was a case of too many cooks as Revie’s script was based on ideas from Cook, Collins, and Burgess. Although you would think Burgess whose credits as a writer include Pontypool and Dreamland could have come up with better than this.
Cult Hero made its world premiere at this year’s edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival. Raven Banner Entertainment has picked it up for distribution but there are no announced release dates yet. You can keep an eye on their website and Facebook page for announcements. And while you wait, FilmTagger has some recommendations that might keep you entertained.