NOTE: This is one of my old articles from Moviepilot.com, there’s 32 of these and I’m going to be uploading all of them slowly throughout the upcoming week because I want a storage space for them all now that the Creator program I was a part of is shutting down and I’m going to lose them all if I don’t do this (I was lees-film-reviews over there… and yet, almost never did a review on their page, cos I am smart). I’ll try and space them out as much as I can but just letting those following me on Reader know, apologies for how many of these will pop up in the feed.
Date Originally Written: June 1st, 2017
“I Would Like, If I May, To Take You On A Strange Journey”
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975
Can I admit something here? Something kind of embarrassing for someone who is writing about film. Do you mind? OK, here goes… I’ve never seen Citizen Kane. Never, not once. I know it certainly, everyone does. It’s referenced everywhere, most of us remember the references to it from The Simpsons that’re so numerous that there is a pretty great side-by-side video on Youtube showing just a few of the images directly lifted from the movie many regard as the greatest film of all time. It pioneered several techniques that we see today, it’s a film so famous that its twist ending is so well known that the first time you ever heard the term ‘Rosebud’, you instantly think of a sled. All this and yet I can honestly say I’ve never seen the movie. You know what movie I’ve seen numerous times? Sharknado. Be honest with me, you’ve probably also seen Sharknado more often than you’ve seen Citizen Kane. In fact, I’ll go one better… you enjoyed Sharknado more.
Admit it, you cheered like hell when you saw this scene for the first time.
Why? Why do we enjoy Sharknado? Or Showgirls? Or The Room? We certainly can quote them, bad movies have the most memorable lines in cinema. Here, just for fun, let me just rattle off a few quotes from other bad movies that I am willing to bet money on that you’ve seen or at least heard of:
Man, it seems like a lot of bad movies have their most iconic lines screamed for some reason. The point is, I’m going to guess most of you didn’t even have to click those links to see those scenes because you know them already, you know those sequences from those movies that are iconic in how awful they are. Now give me a line from the 2016 movie Nine Lives. No? Dirty Grandpa? Nothing? Max Steel? No looking these up, just off the top of your head give me a line from any of them. Do you even remember that they existed? No, you don’t. No one does, they were bad movies but they weren’t the right kind of bad movie. So let’s ask, what is that right kind of bad movie? Or, to be more specific, What is a Good Bad Movie?
“They took my grandfather. That’s why I really hate sharks.”
When it comes to Good Bad Movies we all have a set list we go too. We all know Showgirls, The Room, Battlefield Earth, Troll 2, Plan 9, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon and Zardoz just to name a few films that’re so common to bad movie lovers that they pop up instantly when you type ‘Good Bad Movies’ into google. They’re the standards, the ones everyone who is even slightly into cheesy bad movies has to see at some point. So what works with them? Well it tends to fall into two categories. Either the film makers took the project too seriously, or they didn’t take it seriously at all.
This is the only image in the entire movie I can put in a Safe-For-Work article
Showgirls is a great example of a film where the creators thought they were making high art and took everything very seriously. The script was written by Joe Eszterhas who had already had major success with his script for Basic Instinct, also known as “That movie that made every single human being break their VCR during the interrogation scene because no one could believe that they just made Sharon Stone do that!”. I didn’t even link to the scene and yet you all know what one I am talking about. The script sold for two million dollars that would end up making Joe the highest paid screenwriter in history up to that point (It may have been passed by now, god I hope so). It had the stars of Saved by the Bell and Twin Peaks in starring roles, it was being directed by Paul Verhoven who had just finished Robocop, Total Recall and Basic Instinct. How could it fail?
Well, easily as it turns out because it was lucky to make back half its budget and was a critical flop, destroying the film careers of its writer and star for a number of years, damaging the career of the director and killing the NC-17 rating. So what happened? The audience found it on home video and decided to do the exact opposite of what the film makers did. They didn’t take it seriously at all. They laughed at it, they mocked it, they quoted the lines back to it. Showgirls went from a potentially forgotten movie that killed multiple film careers into a cult hit that people still talk about today and love. It became a Good Bad Movie because the people who made it cared so much that their overdone delivery or their weird writing choices became endearing to the audience who weren’t taking it seriously at all.
On the other end of the spectrum, you get Sharknado. A Good Bad Movie that everyone involved knew from the start was not high art, it was a cheesy movie made for a cable network that no one took seriously. Everyone from the writers to the director knew this was a silly idea so they embraced it and basically just said “Screw it, let’s make a stupid movie” and they did. The movie is littered with obvious nods to how silly it all was, the long lingering shots of awful CGI sharks? The dramatic monologue that ended with “That’s why I really hate sharks” which is an objectively stupid line. They were aware this was a bad movie and so they actively set out to make a bad movie.
Of course, no one watched it at the time because it was a bad sci-fi movie, no one cared right? Well, that was until twitter hit it, celebrities like Wil Wheaton and the late Cory Monteith tweeted about this movie and it trended, Sci-Fi re-aired it a week later and it became a hit franchise soon after. This time, we weren’t laughing at them, we laughed with them. We got in on the joke they were telling us and every year since they have continued to try and make the joke bigger with each sequel.
All the Good Bad Movies that you can think of probably fall into one of these two categories, either people try to make something amazing and heartfelt and they fail so hard that you have to just laugh at it (Battlefield Earth, Mommy Dearest, The Room) or they almost deliberately make a film as bad and cheesy as possible and it ends up working as a deliciously bad movie (FDR: American Badass, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Idle Hands). So now let’s move to the other side of this discussion, what makes a Bad Bad Movie?
Jack & Jill
“Why are you so afraid to admit that we are connected? Face it. We shared Mom’s womb. We were womb-mates”
Jack & Jill, 2011
Adam Sandler may be the only person who laughed at this movie…
specifically at the audience
I want you to just take a moment and read that quote again. Read that line of dialogue that I just used to split this article up out loud. Make sure you don’t bite your tongue in half when you get to the final four words. You’ve done that? You survived reading that line? OK, that line was from a film that won every single award that was possible to win at the 2012 Razzie Awards. That film cost 75 million dollars to make and starred the used-to-be-funny Adam Sandler playing the two lead roles along with Al Pacino playing himself.
It is, objectively, a Bad Bad Movie. Why? Simple really, no one cared. They didn’t take it too seriously, they didn’t go along with the joke, they just didn’t care. The script was written by four people with the story by a fifth and I’m willing to bet none of them thought that hard about anything they were writing, the production probably spent most of the money on Al Pacino who phoned in his performance to a level that’s just uncomfortable to watch, especially considering he’s a goddamn Oscar Winner. They released it on the 11th of the 11th in 2011 because I guess 11 looks like twins. It’s such a painful forced marketing joke that you can just hear the executives screaming “It’s funny damnit, LAUGH!” They just didn’t care when they made it, that much came across in the trailers and no one remembers it as anything other than a Bad Bad Movie.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
These kids were arrested for the crime of “Making this awful movie!”
Or what about the recently released film Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, a film that was so bad it inspired this article (And also a review on my personal WordPress blog that I’m totally dropping here because it’s relevant I swear). Again, no one here cared while making this film. No one. This movie exists because the last three movies in the franchise made triple their budgets back. The problem, of course, is they made the last three movies about five years ago. So no one really bothered trying to make the film unique or original or even so bad that you could laugh.
They ticked all the boxes and pushed out a basic film for the same budget they made the last few movies on and figured that’d do the job for them (Spoilers; it didn’t. The film is sitting on a $20 million domestic total on a $22 million budget so it’s a flop). Because of that lack of care, there isn’t anything about the movie worth remembering because there was nothing put into the movie worth the audiences time. Maybe in a decade by some miracle, it’ll become so bad that it’s good, but since I just finished seeing it literally three and a half hours before writing this sentence, I can promise you that isn’t going to happen with this Bad Bad Movie.
” You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!”
Plan 9 From Outer Space, 1959
So after all this we return to the central question of this article. What is the difference between a Good Bad Movie and a Bad Bad Movie? Cheesy though the answer might be, the answer is actually pretty simple.
This is a picture of your faces after reading that cheesy one-word conclusion.
Think of any Good Bad Movie and if you look into it enough you’ll undoubtedly find that the film makers were passionate about the project. They thought they were making a masterpiece or they were desperate film makers who were going to make their first film come hell or high water. They wanted nothing more than to put that film on celluloid no matter what it took and the exact film they put on screen is the movie you ended up seeing.
The most famous Good Bad Movie of them all is Plan 9 From Outer Space and one only has to look at pictures of Ed Wood to know that man is brimming with passion for his films and would do anything and everything to get them made. Sure he might be an awful film maker who thought every take was perfect and doesn’t give a damn about continuity but hell, he’s having fun so why can’t you?
Meanwhile think about the Bad Bad Movies and tell me honestly if you think anyone was on set for anything more than a paycheck. They weren’t on screen making anything they thought was important or fun, they wanted to get in and out quickly as possible and get their money. They’re movies on auto-pilot that repeat tired formulas that everyone involved with hates but they do it because that’s their job. They don’t care and if they don’t care, why should you?
That’s really all that separates the Good Bad from the Bad Bad. The people involved wanted you to enjoy the movie that they presented and even if they didn’t make a good film, their passion can be contagious to the audience. So when you throw in your copy of Zardoz for bad movie night and wonder just why it’s so strangely enjoyable, maybe look up the history of the movie itself and see how much passion everyone behind the scenes put into making the film.
So while you’re in the comments, why not tell me what your favorite bad movie is? Let’s get a list going to make everyone’s bad movie nights a little more fun.
Moon Film: Citizen Kane 75th anniversary – A Simpsons Tribute
Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2: “Garbage Day”
Mommy Dearest: “No Wire Hangers”
The Wicker Man: “Not The Bees”
The Nerve Interview: Joe Eszterhas
IMDB: 2012 Razzie Awards
“Ed Wood Falls In Love With The Making Of Movies” – Gene Siskel