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Fantasia 2022 Critique: “Cult Hero” – A Hilarious Journey of a Has-Been Hero

Jesse Thomas Cook, a Canadian director with a knack for crafting horror on a budget, showcases his talent once again with “Cult Hero.” Known for prior works such as the Fantasia 2011 feature Monster Brawl, Cook brings to life an exuberant horror-comedy. This self-mockingly hilarious and extravagantly fun film is reviewed here as part of the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival collection.

Meet Dale Domazar (played by Ry Barrett), once a famed personality on the show Cult Buster, who witnessed his career crumble after a tragic on-air incident. Fast forward to Kallie Jones (portrayed by Liv Collins), a real estate agent in need of Domazar’s expertise – though it’s not houses she’s interested in. Her goal is to retrieve her submissive spouse, Brad (Justin Bott), from the clutches of the mysterious Master Jagori (Tony Burgess) and his wellness center, which doubles as a death cult. So, with the aim of saving Brad and perhaps reviving Dale’s television glory days, the unlikely duo embarks on a cult-cracking mission.

True to its name, Cult Hero aims to pay homage to the low-budget prodigies of the ’80s, complete with the vibe of a cult classic to savor in the wee hours, possibly on an old, scratchy VHS. Like its predecessors such as Father’s Day, Hobo with a Shotgun, and others, Cult Hero seeks to recapture that uniquely satisfying brand of entertainment.

The movie hits the mark for the most part. The opening and concluding segments, where the brunt of the ‘cult busting’ unfolds, allow for some supremely entertaining bouts and showcase the gory wonders that define films like Cult Hero.

In the moments where the plot takes a breather, the film anchors itself with stellar performances. Ry Barrett, typically seen in more stoic roles, completely reinvents himself here as the farcical Dale Domazar. His portrayal is a genius blend of has-been TV personality and action hero, playfully lampooning the sort of fame-hungry figure found in vintage television. Liv Collins doesn’t miss a beat either, drawing laughter as the sternly ambitious Kallie.

Complementing these performances, Kevin Revie’s script is a treasure trove of snappy dialogues and offbeat humor. Yet, amidst the laughs, the film is a clever investigation into humanity’s search for meaning, aiming a critical lens at the alluring and dangerous allure of cults. Cult Hero is as much a cautionary tale about the perils of neglecting the present in the pursuit of the intangible as it is a riotous cavalcade, complete with a pyromaniac cult leader for good measure. A film that teaches as much as it entertains – what’s not to love?

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