Christopher J. Olson is a Ph.D. student in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a Media, Cinema, and Digital Studies concentration. Since 2014, he has served as co-host of The Pop Culture Lens, a semi-scholarly podcast he co-created with Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. Olson is the author, co-author, and co-editor of several books, including Possessed Women, Haunted States: Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema (Lexington, 2016), 100 Greatest Cult Films (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), and The Greatest Cult Television Shows of All Time (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).
Cult films often transcend traditional notions of “good” and “bad” while featuring memorable characters, shocking scenes, and quotable dialogue. Over the years, thousands of movies have earned recognition as cult classics, from influential works of pop art like Eraserhead and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! to trash masterpieces such as Miami Connection and Fateful Findings. Many of these cult films were produced at the margins of Hollywood, but some of the weirdest and wildest cult flicks emerged out of the frozen tundra of Wisconsin. In this talk, Christopher J. Olson, author of 100 Greatest Cult Films (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), talks about what makes a film “cult” and considers how the uniquely cheesy qualities of Wisconsin-produced movies like The Giant Spider Invasion (Bill Rebane, 1975), Blood Hook (Jim Mallon, 1986), and Coven (Mark Borchardt, 1997) help them stand apart from other cult classics. With their thick Midwestern accents, frigid rural locales, and intense love for the Badger State, these Z-grade flicks exemplify the singular character of America’s Dairyland.