From Satanists to Scientologists, from the Moonies to the Manson Family, our society’s collective fascination with the 21st century cult continues to swirl unabated. But how do the cinematic portrayals of cults measure up to the real thing? This lecture will examine depictions of cults in films both infamous (The Wicker Man) and lesser-known (Ticket to Heaven (1981), based on the book Moonwebs: Journey Into the Mind of a Cult) to see how they measure up against accounts from actual cults that existed in the 21st century. The presentation will examine how the use of cults and cult imagery in these films often served as a reflection or commentary on the wider moral, sexual and religious politics of North Americans at the time of their release. Aside from The Wicker Man and Ticket to Heaven, scenes will be referenced from films including Helter Skelter (the 1976 TV movie and the 2004 remake) and Race with the Devil (1975), which purportedly featured actual hippie Satanists playing themselves, as well as books including Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson and Tim Guest’s My Life in Orange, among others.
Instructor: Alison Lang
Cults have been an endless source of fascination for Alison since she first picked up a dog-eared copy of Helter Skelteroff her parent’s bookshelf at the tender age of 16 – the same age that fellow Torontonian and Manson Family member Ruth Ann Moorehouse was when she met Charlie Manson in 1967. An arts writer and editor in Halifax and Toronto, Alison is the Assistant Editor at Broken Pencil Magazine, the co-editor of Weird Canada’s Ephemera section and a regular contributor to Rue Morgue‘s books section. She’s also written for the Quill and Quire, Spinner, the Huffington Post, THIS Magazine and many others.