One of my favorite kinds of films is the cult movie that lacks a cult. Maybe this has to do with feeling like you’re the first to discover a hidden gem, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that I enjoy films that are so utterly weird and on the fringes of sanity that no one would ever want to watch it. I’m leaning towards 30% of the former and 70% of the latter, for the record. Either way, these movies are few and far between, especially in the internet age when millions of hipsters are scouring the earth looking for the next “so bad it’s good” movie find.
One such "cult movie without a cult" is Runaway Nightmare. Like many of these films, it seems to exist in a genre of one. I might best describe it as an S & M western co-directed by Doris Wishman and Rainer Werner Fassbinder filtered through the minds of the Manson family as their brains bake under the heat of the desert sun. I think if you actually watch the movie (unlikely), this will all make perfect sense (assuming you’ve also seen films by Wishman and Fassbinder). Or, you can just trust me since I’m super smart. Really I am! I even own a couple books about quantum physics. Granted, I haven’t read them, but it’s mostly because I am super busy watching and writing about nonsensical horseshit like Runaway Nightmare.
The objects of bondage are two worm farmers (!?!) who happen upon a girl buried in a coffin out in the middle of the desert. They pull her out, still alive incredibly, and the men are kidnapped by a female cult, who are under the impression that the two men are responsible for burying the girl (who is one of their own). The girls try to steal some platinum from the mob, but end up accidentally stealing plutonium instead (?!?!?!), forcing the two worm farmers to assist them along the way. Most of the movie is a bunch of random weirdness, where the men are held against their will and forced to hang out with these women. As far as the bondage aspect goes, this is as light as it gets. It’s sort of like tying a man to a chair just so a group of women have an object of weirdo conversation sitting in the room while they stand around in vamp poses, like Russ Meyer-esque heroines frozen in stoic dementia. I guess the lesson is that most women are less perverted than us dudes.
Periodically, the film includes cutaway inserts featuring shot-on-video nudity. These shots are, needless to stay, completely incongruous. Having said that, one of the insert chicks kinda looks like Lydia Lunch, and that's pretty cool I guess. The movie has a release date of 1982, but the main part of it was probably filmed a few years prior, and the insert shots were then added to “spice” things up, but only end up making the whole experience stranger. The movie runs for a whopping 105 minutes despite being virtually plotless, yet the off-kilter, lackadaisical editing creates a hypnotizing rhythm that defies any sort of logical progression. It’s a nightmare all right; a nightmare of a male/female S &M dynamic slowly rotting under the desert sun.