P.A.G.A.N. | Dragnet (1987)
“Good evening, pagans! Don’t forget your goat leggings!” You know when you hear the name of a thing and you’re like: “well, I’m sold!” That’s how I feel about P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness and Normalcy), a cult mostly interested in wearing animal masks, calling beer “the nectar of Satan,” and being counter-culture weirdos. As far as I’m concerned, the hijacking of train cars full of deadly chemicals was a corporate move.
Pros: Kick-dancing to electronica in a dirt pit
Cons: Throwing abducted women into a pool inhabited by a giant snake
Unnamed frog-worshiping zombie cult | Psychomania (1973)
What is the secret of the living dead? Frog magic, baby. Frog magic. Psychomania follows Tom, the leader of the conveniently-named “living dead’ biker gang, whose occult-leaning family just so happens to have discovered the secret to immortality. Basically: when you die—don’t! Naturally, Tom and his gang of biker hoodlums waste their newfound undead-ness on rebellious anarchy, stunts, street harassment, and making puns. Which, naturally, has consequences. Being a douche seems to be the only way that messing around with frog magic can backfire. Nice!
Pros: Being unkillable
Cons: If your mom agrees to become a frog, you lose all undead privileges and turn into a statue
The Organization | The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Anyone who wants to argue about whether the secret organization sacrificing teens was a “secret society” or a “cult” can rot in semantic hell. Far as I see it, the boxes are ticked, the cheques are signed, the unnamed order is a cult hellbent on appeasing the old gods. Is throwing teens under the bus a fair price to pay for peace? Eh, probably not. But the Organization is definitely not the evilest cult out there, especially when 1) the old gods are super real, and 2) most fictional groups are trying to expedite the end of days, not stop it. You have my sympathies, Organization. Better luck next time.
Pros: Believing that humanity is worth saving
Cons: *Sigh* ritual sacrifice
The Jedi Order | Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
It’s the late 70s. The kickass Vader hallway scene from Rogue One has yet to retroactively turn Conan “sad devotion to that ancient religion” Motti into the dumbest/bravest man in the galaxy. What we have are Han’s skepticism and Ben Kenobi’s monk life. The impression we’re given is that the Jedi Order is long-dead and Luke is here to bring it back, baby! That is after he’s been radicalized by the sand hermit who claims to know his father.
Pros: Helping to save the galaxy from eeeeeeeevvvil
Cons: Having to sit through vague moral platitudes
Christianity | The Life of Brian (1979)
Every religion’s gotta start somewhere. And if that somewhere means goofy devotion to a reluctant Graham Chapman, I’m all in. Team #holygourd.
Pros: A messiah!
Cons: Immediate schisms