I've just spent every last stinking second of my weekend at a sci-fi convention.

For those who have been to one, no explanation is necessary. For those who haven't, no explanation will suffice. There's fat guys in stormtrooper outfits, constant chatter about geekly books and movies and TV shows, and enormous amounts of both eating and drinking...among other things. Hard to describe, sometimes even harder to endure, but always a great time.

This year, my friends and I in Chicago Force transformed a hotel conference room into the carbon freeze chamber from "The Empire Strikes Back." And as we sat in our chamber late on Friday night, exhausted and satisfied after a long day of con, the brilliant idea was raised to pop "Buckaroo Banzai" into the DVD player.

I'd like to say I'm such a huge fan of this film that I managed to stay awake an extra two hours to watch "Banzai." In truth, I went to bed after about fifteen minutes. But considering the amount of sleep I needed at that exact moment, it's a testimony to the film's hypnotic pull that I even made it through fifteen minutes.

In its own way, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension" (the full official title; we'll know it as "Banzai" or "Buckaroo Banzai," but probably never "Bucakroo") is just like that sci-fi convention. If you've seen it, no explanation is necessary. If you haven't, no explanation will suffice. It's the first of probably many "cult" properties we'll delve into in The Essential Geek; they're their own unique sect of geekdom, and experiencing them is just as essential in my view as watching "Star Wars" or "Close Encounters." The big, fat, juicy blockbusters of genre media are easy enough to understand and enjoy, but to really comprehend what it means to be a geek, you must delve into and find your own refuges within the subuniverse that is cult.

Should I even bother going into a plot synopsis for "Banzai"? The titular character is a brain surgeon, an esteemed scientist, a superhero and a rock star. He creates a device called the Oscillation Overthruster which allows him to travel through solid matter. This device is much coveted by Doctor Emilio Lizardo and his fellow Red Lectroids from Planet 10. Buckaroo has to protect the Overthruster, keep the Lectroids from conquering our dimension, and save his new girlfriend, Penny Priddy, from the paws of the aforementioned Dr. Lizardo, who also goes by the name Lord John Whorfin.

Like I said twice now, no explanation will suffice. What can be explained easily is just what makes this movie so charming. "Banzai" is a classic example of a movie biting off much more than it can chew, yet still managing to justify some of its own hubris; there's a cockiness about it that's captivating. It assumes, just for example, that you'll buy into a brain surgeon/scientist/superhero/rock star as the movie's hero. It also assumes you'll immediately be captured by the film's eccentric mythology, which presupposes that Buckaroo has an entire phenomenon surrounding him including comic books based on his adventures, a band of sidekicks known as the Hong Kong Cavaliers, and a worldwide network of fans and assistants known as the Blue Blaze Irregulars. Through it all, it never takes itself too seriously.

It's also shockingly well-written for a mid-eighties low-budget sci-fi flick; it has the look of something you'd find at Cinemax at 1 a.m. but the dialogue and situations have an undeniable spark that's well beyond the movie's visual texture. Consider the scene in which Buckaroo and his band hit the stage at a hopping bar. Buckaroo wails on lead guitar, his right-hand piano man Rawhide is on the keys, trumpets blare. As Buckaroo takes the mic, he stops the song almost immediately and asks into the darkness, "Is somebody crying?" Someone is indeed crying and he knows it.

That's a textured, strange, quirky moment that comes off just right. Others don't fare as well, which is why "Bucakroo Banzai" is a hit and miss proposition. To me, it's definitely more hit than miss. Your mileage may vary...

...And that makes it "cult." Actually, what makes it cult first off is the cult itself, the fact that there are geeks who devote themselves slavishly to Buckaroo Banzai websites, message boards, and Ebay auctions. Plenty of crappy movies have no fans, and thus never achieve cult status. "Bucaroo Banzai" definitely has.

Why is that, exactly? The only reason there is a "cult" to begin with as opposed to a massive mad pack of rabid fans like those who worship "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" and "Buffy" is because, much moreso than those properties, "Buckaroo Banzai" really isn't for everybody. It's rough around the edges; it's strange in spots and absurd in others. It's got mostly stars who have gone on to bigger and better things, and a few who haven't done much of anything remarkable since. (Wither Peter Weller?)

I personally signed up for the "Banzai" cult not just because of what's there and how wacky funny crazy cool it is, but because of potential. It's not just enjoying what's present in the film that's so fun, but dreaming about what could have been, the unproduced Banzai comics and books and sequels and action figures. The movie seems to know this about itself and gives the viewer more than enough fodder to speculate endlessly on what could be. If you aren't into wondering about movies that will never be made, you can wonder about adventures that actually happened. There's just something remarkably reassuring about the fact that somewhere, right now, in a dimension alongside our own, Buckaroo Banzai and his Hong Kong Irregulars are out saving the world and rocking with zeal.

The "Buckaroo Banzai" DVD released a couple years ago is the definitive document of the film, with extras aplenty and an exceedingly fun premise. They assume Dr. Banzai and his world actually occupy our own, and that the movie "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai" isn't a sci-fi comedy but a "docudrama." The same conceit plays out just as effectively in the film's novelization, which expands upon the movie's characters and situations to flesh out the Banzaiverse.

Cult movies, like sci-fi cons, aren't for everybody. Luckily, to find out if "Banzai" is for you, you don't have to brave three days alongside the great unshowered masses of nerddom. You have only to visit your local video store and rent a movie. Will you like it? The deuce, you say!