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How I learned to stop worrying and love bad movies

There are a lot of things I love. Movies, food, sleeping, sex (I assume). But, honestly, nothing beats sitting around with a few friends and some alcohol and watching a really shitty movie together. You’re bonding, hanging out, and having a great time. I mean, there’s a reason that the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 formula has been successful for decades now (not just the original nine seasons and Netflix reboot, but also its spin-offs Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic, as well as its successors, like Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst or to a certain extent the popularity of Let’s Plays).

But why is that so? What is so appealing about bad movies? Is it simply schadenfreude – laughing in the face at someone else’s failed vision – or is it something more? Is there actually value to bad movies beyond the surface level?

I think the first thing that must be acknowledged is that these movies got made, period. Say what you will about these delusional and/or cynical hacks – they got shit done. You know how hard it is to get a movie made? And so while we may laugh at their achievements, we have to admit that they are achievements nonetheless.

And on that note, the biggest appeal of any truly bad movie is that the best ones are, at their core, auteur films. Much like the works of Lynch, Jodorosky, or Von Trier, the most notorious bad movie directors (your Woods, Wiseaus, Breens, and Ngyens) have singular visions that they execute. This means no studio notes to make the story comprehensible, or to streamline and condense unruly subplots, or to make them leave out all the weird tropes and fetishes that someone else might’ve been able to spot way in advance.

For instance, we have the narcissistic deification of “Johnny” (played by Tommy Wiseau as an obvious author insert), where he does nothing wrong - including sheltering and paying an orphan boy through college - where even the (also obviously autobiographical in some way) evil fiancé who is tearing him apart tells everyone in earshot how great Johnny is. Or how about the nutjob genocidal attitude of writer/director Neil Breen, whose indecipherable political leanings lead to multiple films where the answer is “murder a lot of people”, which is literally what happens at the end of his films FATEFUL FINDINGS (where politicians and CEOs are magically forced to kill themselves), and PASS THROUGH, which ends with millions perishing during the climax for being “unworthy” (such as reality show stars and people who are "too PC”). And let’s not forget the fetishes of Ed Wood sneaking into his films. Basically, a truly bad film lets you live inside someone’s brain for its runtime, where you’ll inevitably try to pick apart what the meaning behind certain choices the filmmakers make. Like, seriously, what’s the deal with that “Pull the string” line in GLEN OR GLENDA? 

Hell, even bad exploitation films that are made to capitalize on a trend (like the influx of slasher or buddy-cop films), or schlocky gimmicks (like a lot of gore or nudity), or even ones that try to look like another films entirely (such as TRANSMORPHERS, which was clearly trying to be a MY DINNER WITH ANDRE knock-off), also have their own weird peccadilloes and filmmaking blunders that make hanging out with friends and skewering them worth it. I mean, SAMURAI COP – an obvious LETHAL WEAPON rip-off – has this fucking scene in it:

Another interesting thing about bad movies is how much you learn about the art and craft of film just by watching them. Thing is, when you see a great film like CITIZEN KANE or GODFATHER or JURASSIC PARK, oftentimes the filmmaking is so good, and the directors make it look so easy (why do you think so many people try to make it in the industry?), that you don’t actually see all the hard work that goes into making a film look seamless (or at least mostly seamless). Even mediocre films get the technical stuff right. But bad movies are like revealing Oz behind the curtain. You might hear sound levels fluctuate or peak; watch special effects that are neither special nor really effects; witness scripts where subplots are dropped or added with abandon (like the random friend at the end of the THE ROOM); or suffer through acting by people who have no business in front of a camera (or really 100 feet of one). Oftentimes seeing how the sausage is made ruins the magic of something, but I think films are an exception. I honestly think bad movies should be taught in film school - so that students know immediately what can go wrong and what not to do. It’s also fun playing a forensic scientist, trying to find out why the particular film you’re watching became DOA in the first place (was it budget that led to that shitty effect, or did the producer hire his nephew as a favor? How drunk is David Carradine right now? And did David DeCoteau film A TALKING CAT??!!! in two or three days?)

Finally, there’s the aforementioned social aspect. Sure, you can watch bad movies by yourself –chuckling at the dark existential dread your life has become – or you can hang out with some friends and riff along together. I mean, who cares if you make a great zinger if the only ones to hear it are your cat or the bed bugs on your moldy mattress?  Not saying you can’t watch these films alone to enjoy them, but there’s a reason why tabletop RPGs like DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS are still a thing, when awesome single-player videogames like DRAGON AGE and ELDER SCROLLS exist – because drinking and hanging out with friends is the main appeal, while killing dragons comes second (I guess killing dragons is a metaphor for watching movies in this case?) A better metaphor might be sex – you can do it alone, but it’s so much better with friends, and the more the merrier! Also, let’s be honest, it’s not as fun to have your friends wisecrack through AMOUR or SCHINDLER'S LIST.

So there you have it. Bad films are a fun way to hang out with friends, while also witnessing the visions of a deranged mind – or at least a hilariously incompetent one – for a while. Not only that, but you might also just learn something! Because, remember kids, bad movies are a good time!

Extra Tidbit: What's the worst movie you Schmoes have ever seen? Sound off below!
Source: JoBlo.com

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