Sunday, April 25, 2010

Awesomely-Bad: An Introduction to Movies That Are So Bad That They're Actually Good

The monster that the movie has been waiting to unveil finally jumps onto the frame in an attempt to startle – and rend the flesh of off – the helpless teenage protagonists. The only problem is that you, the viewer, saw it coming from a mile away…along with the Party City price tag on the monster’s neck.

Actors deliver their cheesy dialogue with all the grace and subtlety of a caffeinated gerbil. The plot is a hodge-podge of pseudo-mythological nonsense, tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory, and/or Star Wars plagiarism, derived from a screenplay most likely penned by the producer’s eight-year-old son…and the budget seems to have been procured from that very same boy’s piggy bank savings. Yep, there’s no mistaking it at this point: you are watching an incontrovertibly bad movie.

So why the hell are you having so much fun?

It’s certainly not a point of shame; besides, even if it were, I would be the last to admit it. This may surprise many, but I absolutely adore certain bad movies. That’s right: for all the time I spend ragging on certain instances of art that fail to actually be art, I’m much further charmed by the pleasantries of 1980s B-movie fodder than I am by the majority of today’s modern theatrical releases. Hell, if you were to break into my room when you knew I was about to watch a movie, it’s probably just as likely that I’d be popping in the DVD for either The Godfather or Street Fighter The Movie.

Well...of course.

You might be questioning why this is so, and if that happens to be true, then welcome aboard the S.S. Who the Hell Knows, because we’re on the same boat.

I apologize profusely for the above sentence. It was late and I was tired.

I’ve pondered long and hard about why people can enjoy themselves watching a film that they know, deep down, is an unquestionable piece of shit. How is it that one bad film causes deep displeasure and the other does not? Are they not both equally damaging to the infrastructure of film? And if the “bad” movie makes for good entertainment, does it then cease to register among the damned and rise to the sacred level of…good?

Ultimately, though, I came to a realization, one born of distinction. You see, there are truly two breeds of bad movie in existence: bad-bad movies and awesomely-bad movies.

Alas, we will spend the majority of time in the theaters experiencing the former category, and they truly are a detestable breed. The common bad-bad movie fails to entertain for many reasons, and I could spend the rest of this article listing them in full: bad acting, stupid story, half-baked morals, poor special effects, appearances by Paulie Shore, involvement from Michael Bay, etc. These movies emotionally drain us and leave the empty husks in the theater to rot, usually for the sake of a quick buck.

...not like I'm pointing fingers or anything...

The line separating these monstrosities from the awesomely-bad movie is a thin and blurry one. An awesomely-bad movie can possess any of the above traits (with the exception of Michael Bay, for obvious reasons) and still manage to entertain. There is no exact science to the distinction; rather, one simply feels the unique aura of good-heartedness about the film that renders it fun to watch in spite of its flaws. This aura can arise from excess silliness, in both premise or event; the charms of a low-budget production; or perhaps even a single moment that makes you sit up and laugh out loud. The unfortunate truth, however, is that these films grow rarer every day, consumed by Hollywood’s endless march into genericism and blandness over true enjoyment.

…which is why I’ve compiled a little primer of movies that I personally to be “so bad that they’re good”, so that their kind does not fade into obscurity outside the reaches of the Internet. So the next time you have a free moment and want to watch a movie, but don't feel up to being depressed by a good movie like Fargo again, then you can always turn to…

The Official Supernova Asylum Introductory Guide to Awesomely-Bad Cinema

Troll 2
Often considered the holy grail of hilariously awful films, Troll 2 is a film so universally incompetent that it even manages to get its own name wrong (not only is the film completely unrelated to the original Troll, but it doesn’t even use the word “troll” once). Between the burlap-sack-masked villains, the bizarre morals (vegetarianism is evil?), and the worst line-reading in the history of cinema, Troll 2 has been elevated from its humble, low-budget origins to cult status. There’s even a documentary detailing the fervor surrounding this movie, entitled Best Worst Movie. Consider this required viewing for anyone entering the realm of “so-bad-it’s-good” cinema.

Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000
Battlefield Earth heralds the arrival of subpar filmmaking into the 21st century…and it is glorious. Striving to be a colossal sci-fi epic, its ambition collapses in on itself in every conceivable way over the course of the film. From the bafflingly off-kilter camera angles to John Travolta’s worst over-acting ever, every last frame of Battlefield Earth is a prime example of unintentional comedy. It’s been universally panned across the board, but don’t let that inhibit you from seeing it; I guarantee it makes for a much more entertaining science-fiction flick than…oh, say, Avatar.

Manos: The Hands of Fate
When a film is created based on a bet and the screenplay is drafted upon a napkin in a Texan coffee shop, the results are almost immediately bound for the dust bin. But thanks to Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the archaeologists of obscure movies, you, too, can now enjoy this once-lost piece of theatrical blasphemy. There are so many things wrong with this movie that it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps the shoddy editing that occasionally keeps shots of the clapboard in the film? The completely irrelevant sideplot that mostly consists of a random couple making out inside of a car, several miles away from where the “action” is taking place? The fact that the title literally translates out from Spanish into Hands: The Hands of Fate? Overall, it’s best if you simply accept and embrace these facts as you laugh out loud to the sight of a misplaced bet shriveling and dying onscreen.

Dragonball: The Magic Begins
Before there was the big-budget 20th Century Fox adaption of the famous anime series, there was the bootleg Taiwanese knock-off. Try in vain to cling on to your treasured sanity as a monkey child, an obese shape-shifter, a wise-cracking cockatoo and a pedophilic turtle-man set out to save the world from a Power Rangers villain castaway and make veiled references to rape. And you know what the crazier part is? I’ve told that this is actually the MORE accurate adaption of the series!

Yet another fossilized turd returned to the public conscious by the MST3K team, Hobgoblins is most famous for being a dark, twisted mirror into which all your deepest fears manifest themselves as agents of chaos that converge into the blackened void of a new age. By which I mean the film makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I could attempt to detail the plot of this movie to you in full, but such an attempt may prove dangerous without a strait jacket and a cache of drugs on hand to soothe the senses.

Night of the Lepus
The horror movie genre was created with the noble goal of making humans fear that anything and everything in the world has the potential to murder you. And so it is that we have Night of the Lepus, which, for those of you not familiar with animal taxonomy, concerns giant killer rabbits. Yes, rabbits, almost as if that one scene from Monty Python and Holy Grail became self-aware and mutated into its own film. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s difficult to conjure up the slightest bit of terror when the face of death looking down upon me possesses floppy ears and adorable beady eyes. But it’s hardly the most insane and ludicrous of premises, not when there exists a film like…

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats
I swear to you I am not making any of this up. There really is a movie out there about a sentient bed that digests its victims, proving that, in Hollywood, the sky really is the limit. By all accounts, this is pretty weird as it is. Weirder still is the fact that the film took about 26 years to release after its completion. Even weirder is that the movie actually takes the form of, not a cheesy horror film, but a grungy art house epic, complete with inner monologues, stone-cold acting and trippy dream sequences. But to really, truly get a grip on how batshit-bizarre Death Bed really is, allow me to describe the most intricate, overcomplicated way to defeat a monster in a movie ever: to destroy the demon bed, one of the protagonists has to draw a circle of blood around the bed, create matching circles in the outside yard, gather the bones of the bed’s victims and carry them into the outside circles nude, which teleports the bed outside and destroys it…somehow. Why not just throw a match in the room and set the damn thing on fire?!

Yor: Hunter From the Future
Paper-mache dinosaurs. Purple cavemen. Laser-shooting cyborgs. Fire mummies. The single manliest thing to ever happen on film. Yor: Hunter From the Future is an amazing movie for all of these reasons and more, and if you disagree, I may have to hunt you down and destroy you, for it is clear that you have no soul.

Pretty Much Anything By Bruno Mattei
The surprisingly robust filmography of Italian director Bruno Mattei is like an endless library of laughably awful creations. The movies range across many different exploitation genres, from zombie films to Nazi porn (no, seriously), but I refer mainly to his blatant plagiarism of many classic American films, including Predator (Robowar), Jaws (Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws), and Rambo (Strike Commando). Of course, my favorite is the movie which plays out like a shot-for-shot recreation of Aliens, and goes by the name…Terminator 2. Again, I’m dead serious. He even beat James Cameron to the punch by two years!

Pretty Much Anything By Uwe Boll
If you know anything about Uwe Boll, you know why I’m bringing him up here. Needless to say, he’s become legendary for his ability to take popular (or sometimes, not) video game franchises and castrate everything that was ever holy and sacred about them for their film adaptations…and yet we all still come crawling back to see them, possibly because we know we’re getting a good (read: bad) product. It’s a sad indicator when your career highlight is having a cameo in your own film wherein you get shot to death by police officers…along with all the innocent children the room. I swear I’m not lying!

Pretty Much Any SyFy Original Movie
Though the 1980s golden age of B-movies may be long gone, its tradition lives on through the glorious vessel that is the SyFy channel. Flip it on late at night and you’ll likely be greeted with the sight of horribly CGI-rendered beasties being shot at by clueless actors in their late 40s with grenade launchers. I guarantee that almost any one of them is bound to be a laugh-out-loud masterpiece…it’s just a shame you have to wallow through hours of Wrestlemania to see them.

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter
OK, I’m not going to lie: Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is the single greatest movie ever made. Yes, yes it is. How could it not be? Think about it: Jesus Christ teams up with a Mexican wrestler and a spandex-wearing secret agent nun to defend the lesbians of Ottawa, Canada from surgeons, atheists, and skin-harvesting vampires. What, exactly, in that sentence does NOT sound like the greatest thing ever?! Watch this movie. Like seriously, right now. It’s the best.

Now go forth, my friends. Go forth, and embrace the awfulness!

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