The shock! The horror! The '80s!
Cliches aside, the decade gave us classic films.
TWO minutes into Panos Cosmatos' 2010 production Beyond the Black Rainbow - the trippy tale of a telepathic young woman (Eva Allen) imprisoned by a mad scientist (Michael Rogers) - things are starting to feel oddly familiar. The lurid red lighting, the ominous synthesiser chords, the chunky sans-serif computer font: even if Ronald Reagan didn't pop up on TV later on, there would still be no risk of forgetting that the film is meant to take place in 1983.
It's an apt way to kick off the new season of Cult Vault late shows, which begins tonight at the Westgarth Cinema.
Lurid red fills the screen and says this must be the '80s in Beyond the Black Rainbow.
The Vault was a weekly institution before being ended early this year. But it's now resuming and will run on the first Friday of each month with its Stratosphere of Slaughter program. The switch to digital projection - now the norm in Melbourne - gives manager Zak Hepburn the chance to show a wider selection of titles.
Hepburn is taking the unusual route of showing two movies simultaneously in different cinemas. Patrons can choose one option or wander between the two, creating what he describes as ''fusion films''.
In relaunching the program, Hepburn is applying what he learnt the first time round. The Evil Dead at midnight was a smash hit, while the Thunderbirds and Woody Allen drew smaller crowds.
Two frequent requests were An American Werewolf in London and the 1982 version of The Thing. These are screening in January and February respectively.
Hepburn says horror and science-fiction films from the 1980s have a way of attracting nostalgic members of Generation X as well as their curious offspring. ''A lot of them are younger kids who may have only experienced it on DVD and really want to see it at the cinema - or they've only seen the remake and they really want to see the original.''
Nostalgia for the 1980s is everywhere in pop culture - and not always accompanied by the kind of bemused mockery Adam Sandler popularised in The Wedding Singer in 1998. In the campus musical Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick tears up at the final scene of John Hughes' immortal The Breakfast Club.
The upcoming computer-animated Wreck-It Ralph is conceived as an homage to 8-bit video games in the vein of Super Mario Brothers. And while the lachrymose The Perks of Being A Wallflower is nominally set in the 1990s, the soundtrack fetishises '80s British bands such as Dexys Midnight Runners and the Smiths.
Among cinephiles the 1980s remain a subject of fierce debate. For some, this was the decade when Hollywood product grew increasingly superficial and juvenile, geared to exploiting the latest gimmicks and fads.
Hepburn disagrees: for him, the 1980s were a time when ''inventive films were often made on the cheap'', and ''filmmakers weren't afraid to try something different''.
For many Australian filmgoers, the era is associated with a wildly eclectic range of pop phenomena: Freddy Krueger and the Muppets, Michael Jackson and Molly Ringwald, The Terminator and E.T.
Some of this variety is evident in the summer offerings of Melbourne's outdoor cinemas - offerings that, like Cult Vault, capitalise on the '80s boom.
The Rooftop Cinema on Swanston Street is bringing us Stand By Me, The Fly, Heathers and the original Total Recall.
The Shadow Electric cinema, which begins screening at the Abbotsford Convent next month, is offering RoboCop, Sixteen Candles and the pioneering gay romance My Beautiful Laundrette. The Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens is sticking mainly with recent releases, but next month's program includes Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Dirty Dancing and The Breakfast Club.
Year-round revival cinemas are also getting in on the act. Next month the Astor will be showing Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, while the Australian Centre for the Moving Image will host a special screening of A Nightmare On Elm St 2, with commentator Lee Gambin on hand to highlight the queer subtext.
Hepburn's own programming efforts aren't restricted to Cult Vault: he's also teamed up with online writer Richard Haridy to launch the lo-fi Cine-Sideshow, a one-off event they hope will develop into a separate series of screenings.
At the Abbotsford Convent this Sunday afternoon Hepburn and Haridy will present the James Bond parody Never Too Young to Die (1986) alongside vintage infomercials and other arcana, all on glorious VHS.
''If Cult Vault was the band, Cine-Sideshow would be the after party,'' Hepburn says, explaining that the plan is to screen only material that has never been released on DVD.
Perhaps the critical tide on the 1980s is finally turning. Even Tony Scott, once viewed as the era's ultimate style-over-substance director, has come in for rehabilitation, particularly since his death in August.
In coming weeks, Melburnians will have the chance to judge for themselves. Top Gun (1986) plays at the St Kilda Open Air Cinema on Sunday night and next month the Rooftop will feature films such as The Hunger (1983) and Beverly Hills Cop 2 (1987).
Beyond the Black Rainbow screens at the Westgarth tonight at 11.30pm. Consult daily cinema advertisements in The Age and online for other session times.