Hulu’s surreal series The Path returns for its second season on January 25, and is a rollicking ride into the stranger side of TV entertainment.
It's the fictional story of a family who becomes entwined with a controversial cult that utilizes biofeedback devices, psychoactive brews, meditation, and hallucinogenic drugs to reach deeper levels of consciousness in order to communicate with “the Light.” The show blends elements of mystery, romance and the supernatural to create an addictive addition to your television schedule.
From its engaging storyline to the depictions of hallucinations and visions experienced by the characters, The Path is the latest in a long tradition of movies and TV shows that have captivated audiences by combining well-loved genres and distorting the boundaries of reality in ways that keep fans guessing.
Below are seven series and films that have not only blazed a trail towards The Path, but have helped to shape entertainment for nearly 60 years.
#1 The Holy Mountain (1973)
"The Holy Mountain is a film outside the tradition of criticism and review," proclaims the trailer for director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s experimental feature, though that hasn’t stopped people from trying to dissect the movie since its release more than 40 years ago.
The tale of characters based on astrological signs and the tarot, who are on a transformative spiritual journey led by an alchemist, is one of the strangest films ever released. It's a cinematic acid trip filled with stunning visuals, psychedelia and provocative imagery that blurs the line between reality and illusion.
#2 The Last Wave (1977)
Director Peter Weir’s Australian mystery drama follows the story of David Burton (Richard Chamberlain), a lawyer who takes on a murder case involving a group of five Aboriginal Australians, and soon finds his life turned upside down. Freak rainstorms begin happening across Sydney and Burton is plagued by bizarre dreams, leading to his realization that he shares a mystical connection with the men who are accused of the crime.
The film dives into the concept of the Dreamtime, the Indigenous Australian belief of a spiritual parallel world, and Burton’s ability to tap into it. The dream sequences, as well as the final shot of The Last Wave, will leave you questioning whether Burton is an apocalyptic prophet, or simply out of his mind.
#3 Videodrome (1983)
It may have been a box office disappointment when it was initially released, but director David Cronenberg’s techno-surrealist slice of cinema has since gone on to become a cult classic. When cable TV CEO Max (James Woods) stumbles upon a broadcast signal depicting disturbing scenes of violence and gore, he becomes obsessed with finding its source. Following his discovery, Max starts to experience increasingly strange hallucinations and finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy to control the minds of people.
#4 Twin Peaks (1990–1991)
What appeared to start off as a simple whodunit murder mystery became a pop culture phenomenon, thanks to its unique combination of quirky characters, camp horror and the supernatural. Twin Peaks captivated audiences for two seasons as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) investigated the killing of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). While ABC canceled the show after its sophomore season, it still maintains a rabid fan base.
A feature film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, followed in 1992 with a multi-layered story bookending the TV series. Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, the show has continued to enjoy a cult following in the 27 years since its debut and is credited with inspiring many offbeat TV series and films. The creators, as well as several of original cast members, have teamed up once more for a revival of the series on Showtime, which is scheduled to premiere on May 21.
#5 Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Drawing inspiration from real-life cults that shocked the world and the people who led them, such as the Moonies, the Mansons and David Koresh, director/screenwriter Sean Durkin crafted Martha Marcy May Marlene as a haunting tale of abuse and survival. Featuring powerful performances by Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy, the film follows the story of Martha (Olsen), a woman who suffers from paranoid delusions as she attempts to piece her life back together after escaping an abusive cult in the Catskill Mountains.
#6 The Twilight Zone
When The Twilight Zone debuted in the late '50s, it didn’t just open the gate for strange stories on TV — it blew the door off its hinges. Created by Rod Serling — who acted as the show’s host and co-writer, the anthology series featured an array of stories boasting elements of sci-fi, supernatural, psychological thriller and horror.
A classic in every sense, The Twilight Zone was ranked as the third best-written TV series of all time by the Writers Guild of America, while TV Guide has ranked the series as the fifth best in television history. After nearly 60 years, The Twilight Zone's influence continues to be seen today in shows that venture into the stranger side of storytelling — like Hulu’s The Path.
#7 The X-Files (1993–)
"The truth is out there."
The series that defined a generation mixed several ingredients from shows like The Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker to create a modern epic. Over the course of the show's original nine seasons and two feature films, FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigated unsolved cases involving paranormal activity, tracked an alien invasion conspiracy, and took down mysterious monsters.
By the show’s initial end, it had become one of the longest-running sci-fi TV series in history and garnered legions of loyal fans. With the recent X-Files revival of a 10th season in 2016 and an upcoming 11th season, the extraordinary adventures of Mulder and Scully are continuing to unfold and highlight the staying power of stories from the stranger side.