Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival
The world of religion is a wild place even at the best of times, but when religion is at its worst you get a cult. Cults come in all shapes and sizes, from small things like Heaven’s Gate to seemingly large abusive groups like Scientology and they all just pull people into their web and ruin their lives in some way. Sometimes when someone is in a cult you might need to hire someone known as a deprogrammer who will do what they can to pull your loved one out of this toxic environment… and naturally a situation that’s this intense and fraught with danger is just perfect to be the foundation for a comedic action film.
Cult Hero takes a look at the life of Kallie Jones (Liv Collins), your typical suburban housewife whose hobbies include calling for the manager, being recorded while attacking people for minor inconveniences and cutting her own bangs… she’s basically the Uber Karen which is bad news for the “Wellness Centre” that currently has her husband in their clutches. Kallie suspects that this wellness centre is actually a cult and so she looks up the most affordable man she can find, disgraced cult buster Dale Domazar (Ry Barrett) who is desperate to get back in the game after his last attempt at cult busting ended rather badly. Together Kallie and Dale are going to bust this cult, or at very least ask to see its manager.
Cult Hero is the kind of comedy that borders on pure farce and pushes everything to the extreme at all times, there isn’t an ounce of subtle to be found anywhere and it absolutely works well with the subject matter. Because the target being mocked is so big, the acting choices match that which leads to a film full of people taking gloriously large bites out of the scenery. It starts out almost like a cartoon, with an elaborate death cult and a Monty Python’s Salad Days amount of blood just to set the tone. By the time the opening scene is done, you should have an idea if you can handle the over-the-top tone that Cult Hero plans on sticking with and if you can then you’re in for a good time.
Carrying Cult Hero is the completely mental and brilliant Dale Domazar, who can only be described as having the enthusiasm of Steve Irwin and enough underserved confidence to fill the Grand Canyon. Every line out of Dale’s mouth is hilarious just because of how Ry Barrett delivers them, he never breaks character for even a second. Even when he’s in the background you can see him pulling some kind of elaborate face or posing, doing something to pull attention that he often gets and always deserves.
The hyper-manic energy of Dale is matched brilliantly by Kallie, our hilarious Karen who really just steals scenes with ease. This is the infamous Karen turned up to 11 and given a target that deserves her attention. For once a Karen gets to use her powers for good which makes it actually compelling and possible to really enjoy without reservation. You don’t have to worry about how she’s using her status as a middle-class white woman to get what she wants because the people she’s going up against are a literal cult, so it can just be goddamn fun.
The fun never relents throughout Cult Hero, it stays at 11 the entire time when it comes to energy and never even bothers trying to be a little serious. It’s a big loud over the top action comedy and it’s unashamed to embrace that with everything it has. It takes big swings for every joke, some of them don’t quite land but more often than not they do and they land with gusto. It’s almost impossible to go a full minute without cackling at some wild thing that’s thrown on the screen, particularly in any scene where a cult is confronted because at that point Cult Hero somehow pushes itself even further and embraces the pure insanity with both hands.
Cult Hero is one of those films that does anything it can think of to get a laugh, throwing everything it’s got out with an insane energy that never lets up. It’s playful and silly and never takes itself seriously, which admittedly at times might make some of the jokes fall flat but in general it’s just a lot of fun. With a powerhouse cast, rapid fire dialogue and enough over the top set pieces to entertain just about anyone, Cult Hero might be a cult film but it’s a goddamn fun one.