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Film / Cecil B. Demented

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"Power to the people who punish bad cinema!"

"I am Cecil B. Demented, and this is a fucking kidnapping!"
Cecil B. Demented

A 2000 Black Comedy film by John Waters, starring Stephen Dorff in the title role as deranged "independent director" Cecil B. Demented, the leader of an equally-deranged group of "filmmakers" who call themselves the Sprocket Holes and base themselves in Baltimore, Maryland. Their mission is to bring down mainstream cinema and destroy the studio system of filmmaking to make way for a new generation of film by any means necessary—which includes robbing theaters and stealing things like construction materials and film equipment in order to make their own film.

The crazed group just has one minor problem: their film doesn't have a star yet, so they "acquire" one in Hollywood actress Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith), kidnapping her at the premiere of her latest film. Honey continually tries to stop Demented and his comrades-in-celluloid from making their film and secure her release, but when those close to her begin exposing some nasty things about her private life, she starts to turn to their side and get in on the (lights, camera and) action of Demented's insane film making. Hilarity Ensues.

This film contains examples of:

  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: The Sprocket Holes are a group of guerrilla filmmakers who are willing to resort to kidnapping, torture, destruction of public-property, murder and even martyrdom in order to create a movie meant as an act of protest against American culture and mainstream Hollywood.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A majority of the Sprocket Holes get killed during the film's production, Cecil himself likely dies after setting himself on fire and Honey gets taken into custody; her reputation in Hollywood having gone completely down the drain at this point. But despite that, she seems to have found a new audience with Cecil's fans and the raw footage is sneaked out by surviving Sprocket Holes, ensuring it will eventually be completed and released.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality / Evil vs. Evil : A rare case in which the Sprocket Holes are the Gray, apposed to the law-abiding and mainstream Hollywood system.
  • Black Comedy Rape as Backstory: Cherish claims that at the age of 10, she was gang-raped by her entire family, including her grandparents, under the Christmas tree. The Sprockets find it exasperating (having heard this story before) and Honey doesn't even think that it was real.
  • Bound and Gagged: Honey when she's kidnapped by the Sprocket Holes.
  • Creepy Monotone: Raven's voice stays flat and even, even when being adorable.
  • Dark Messiah: Played for Laughs with Cecil. While he is clearly mentally unstable, he manages to spark a revolution in people who appreciate niche cinema, including fans of action films and pornography.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Honey is a complete bitch until she's kidnapped, which makes her much nicer throughout the rest of the film.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Parodied and subverted with Rodney. One of the other Sprocket Holes is gay for him, but Rodney's actually straight, so he can't return the feeling; he takes out his hatred of his heterosexuality on others.
  • Director's Cut: In-universe. The Sprocket Holes shoot up a screening of Patch Adams: The Director's Cut.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Cecil's declaration of "Power to the people who punish bad cinema!" after he kidnaps Honey and shoots at a poster outside the cinema establishes that he's not only criminally insane, but that he hates Hollywood.
    • Raven gets one as well: "Sorry, but Satan says you need more color!"
  • Expy: Cherish is best known in the industry for being an Expy for Honey in porno knockoffs of her big Hollywood movies.
  • Fake Shemp: John Waters wrote in his memoir Mr Know-It-All that Melanie Griffith had a bad fall on location that left a large cut on her face. For an important scene that hadn't been shot yet, he was forced to use a body double filmed from behind to hide the fact it wasn't really Griffith doing the scene.
  • Freudian Excuse: Fidget's parents forbade him from ever watching so much as one R-Rated movie and it's the other Sprocket Holes reminding him of this that strengthens his resolve in staying with them. In the film's climax, they claim that he turned to cinema-terrorism because he watched R-rated movies.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Cherish, though she's easily placated by Cecil.
  • Large Ham: Cecil, Cherish, Chardonee, Fidgit, Rodney, Raven and even Honey herself.
  • Laughably Evil: Cecil and the Sprocket Holes are twisted and definitely deranged, but that doesn't stop them from being unbelievably fun.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Parodied with the young cancer patient at the premiere of Honey's film at the beginning of the movie.
  • Lunatic Loophole: Raven is one of three Sprocket Holes who gets away from the police alive in the end. Making this especially egregious is when she calls to Honey to tell her the movie's finished, then throws her a devil kiss, and not one cop notices her as she then hides in the back of a hearse.
  • Man on Fire: Twice, both near the end of the film. Partially with Honey, who sets her hair on fire for the final shot of "principal photography" on Cecil's film; fully with Cecil a few minutes later, as he sets himself on fire and rides a wheelchair off the roof of the drive-in cinema building while screaming "I have a vision!".
  • Noodle Incident: "I haven't had this much fun since my last livestock mutilation!"
  • Out with a Bang: Cheril and Chardonnay are both shot after the Sprocket Holes break their celibacy.
  • The Pollyanna: An odd subversion; Raven's a Satanist, and yet she loves everyone. Whatever she's on, we want some.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Cecil's twisted smile.
  • Shout-Out: Each of the Sprocket Holes are tattooed with the name of a different director (ironically enough, none of them have a "Cecil B. DeMille" tattoo).
  • Skeleton Motif: Raven wears an outfit with rainbow-colored bones down the front of it.
  • Title Drop: The quote at the top of the page is the first time the character's name is heard in the movie.