Is there anything better than a bad movie? Human nature would suggest not. It basically all comes down to schadenfreude, the best comedy comes from bad things that happen to someone else. We love to laugh with people, but it’s even better to laugh at people. And what better way to laugh at somebody than by tearing apart their creative endeavour that cost a small fortune to make and countless hours of their lives? Ha ha!
To be fair, as I outlined on last Monday’s edition of The Highlight Reel (which you can find HERE, for reference) a lot of the love for bad movies comes from a very genuine place. On Monday I looked at Tommy Wiseau’s classic The Room. People legitimately love that film. They’ve seen it hundreds of times, and know every line. There’s no vitriolic hatred towards The Room from anyone, despite how colossally inept it is in almost every area. It’s the Frank Spencer of movies. Even so, it’s hard not to feel a little bad tearing into it, even if it is good-natured ribbing. Films like that, and the simply stunning Birdemic, are passion projects of guys who, for all they lack in talent, are pretty big on heart. They’ve gone out and made a film, and despite their blatant lack of talent have got the thing done. That’s the beauty of film – anyone can do it if they really want to. Sure, it might not be very good, and people almost certainly will be mean to you over the internet, but you can forever be known as a filmmaker. You can live the dream. You might even end up with your own Wikipedia page, which you can then edit yourself to say you were influenced by James Dean, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor(!), much like Wiseau has done.
Oh, Tommy. Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together. Actually, maybe don’t
In short, films like that are inspiring. They’re so enjoyable because you can pick up on all the problems and make them into something unique, but sitting down and trying to analyse that is kind of pointless. They really need to be seen to be believed, and, as I touched upon earlier, if you dig too deep with your criticism, it can make the experience kind of uncomfortable, like picking on the fat kid for being crap at PE. It’s not like these people are from Hollywood, with millions of dollars to blow on a location shoot complete with mega stars, trailers, proper special effects… surely a film that has all that couldn’t reach the Mount Everest of terrible like The Room did, right? I mean, they can be bad, but they couldn’t hope to achieve the kind of charming awfulness that The Room managed, could they? They have budgets, and real actors reading from actual scripts! They must have this down by now, right? Trust me, Hollywood doesn’t like to be outdone by indie filmmakers in any area, and that includes bad movies as well.
I guess what I’m trying to say among all this is that these smelly brown gems can be unearthed anywhere. You don’t even have to have the slight nagging guilt that comes from mocking the result of some poor guy’s misplaced ambition. The Hollywood machine occasionally shifts out of mediocrity mode and produces something magnificently anti-exceptional. Marvel as Nic Cage’s intrepid detective dresses up as a bear and punches a woman in The Wicker Man! Stand agape as Marky Mark begs a plastic plant to spare his life in The Happening! Watch with wonderment as Christian Slater inexplicably leaps from a prone position into a spinning bicycle kick in Alone In The Dark! It’s these sorts of moments that separate your average, boring bad movie from your celebrated, cult classic bad movie.
Nicolas Cage dressed as a bear. Not pictured: John Travolta as a deer
All in all, there’s plenty to cherish from the fine art of the bad film. Really, it’s that kind of poorly-made yet deliriously entertaining film that inspired a generation of filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, and indirectly inspired a generation of comedians who rode the wave of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing phenomenon in the 90s. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the worst thing a film, as a piece of art, can do, is bore you. If a film makes you feel anything at all that makes you remember it, then it’s worth watching. Just like any genre of film, there are plenty of forgettable bad movies, but the occasional gem shines through the muck and becomes a cult classic. These are the films that can give a voice to a generation, you just need to look under the right rocks to find them. So go ahead, delve your hands into the murky, untreated filth of bad movies. You never know what you might find. And you certainly don’t know where it will take you.