Too many lists of the “Best Bad Movies” include films that are just completely great, likeFlash GordonorStarship Troopers. Fuck that noise. Here at CHUD we know when a movie is really bad, and when it’s enjoyable despite the badness. Or perhaps because of it.
I won’t lie – this was a tough list to compile because I don’t tend to enjoy films on an ironic level. If I like a movie, no matter how good or bad, I just like it, and I’ll defend it on its own merits. But these ten films… well, even for someone like me these ten films are objectively terrible, and yet completely watchable. Each of these ten are movies that are impossible to defend on any level except that they’re hilariously, compulsively awful.
The Room(2003, d. Tommy Wiseau) – This is like a movie made in the Bizarro Universe. Everything inThe Roomisoff, completely unrelated to the reality in which we live. Performances are strangely stilted, dialogue is a mess, the sex scenes indicate that the characters have different anatomy than that which we understand, the plot is radioed in from Uranus. And at the center of it all is writer, director and star Tommy Wiseau, owner of an accent that is untraceable to any nation and with acting skills that are untraceable to any talent. It’s a film with an ugly girl we’re constantly told is beautiful, a woman who is very blase about her cancer, guys who play football in tuxes, and a man who is sitting on an atomic bomb, waiting for it to explode. It’s amazing how thoroughly badThe Roomis – a failure on every single possible level by which we measure motion pictures – and yet how easy it is to watch. Except for those sex scenes. You need to fast forward the sex scenes.
Zardoz(1974, d. John Boorman) – The only word that explainsZardozis ‘cocaine.’ How else could a movie where a Mexican bandito-looking Sean Connery, dressed in a red diaper, runs around a wacky post-apocalypse complete with a gun-spitting floating stone head, be explained?Zardozalmost didn’t make this list because it can be punishing to watch at times, but the sheer level of oddness on display more than makes up for it. Hell, the pronouncements of stone head Zardoz makes up for it: ‘The gun is good. The penis is evil.’ And wait until you find out where Zardoz got his name. A complete and utter trainwreck of delightful proportions.
The Wicker Man(2006, d. Neil LaBute) – You have to get past the fact that this film is a complete travesty to come to truly enjoy the bad brilliance at its heart. Yes, the originalThe Wicker Man, starring the late Edward Woodward, is a classic, and the new version could never live up to that. But who would have expected it to be so, so bad? Nic Cage plays a cop who comes to a small town and gets caught up in their matriarchal pagan nonsense; the first half of the movie includes some really doozies of awfulness, but once you power through to the third act you get Cage, dressed in a bear costume, running around the woods and punching women in the face. It’s unparalleled in how bad it is, and it just gets crazier and worse with each passing moment. ‘Oh god, not the bees!’
Night of the Lepus(1972, d. William F. Claxton) – It’s hard to imagine how a movie about giant, carnivorous bunnies ever got made. It’s hard to imagine how Janet Leigh could look at a script about giant, carnivorous bunnies and agree to sign on to it. It’s less hard to imagine how DeForrest Kelly came aboard. What’s most magical aboutNight of the Lepusis that the filmmakers used real bunnies hopping around model miniatures to be their giant flesh eaters. It’s just so cute seeing these little cotton-tailed guys as they bounce about, even when they have fake blood on their fuzzy wuzzy mouths and big buck teeth. The film ends with an incredible climax wherein hundreds of giant bunnies get fried by a super-electrified railroad line, and you’ll be cooing as the cuddly fellows cook.
The Happening(2008, d. M Night Shyamalan) – A breath-taking work of hubris and stupidity,The Happeningis bad on a scale that dwarfs most other movies. The once-heralded M. Night completed his downward spiral with this film, which is filled with dialogue that sounds as though it was written by an alien who learned our language from soap operas. M. Night sets up most of his biggest action scenes to be people running fromthe wind, which is both visually inert and dramatically retarded. And then he does stuff that’s just incredible and wrong-headed at once, like shoot a little kid point blank with a shot gun. The premise of the movie, that plants are fighting back against people by emitting a toxin that makes us kill ourselves, plays out like a ludicrous episode ofThe Outer Limits, and it contains death scenes that seem designed to one up each other with hilarity. The scene where a guy feeds his own arms to lions at the zoo is so silly that the fact that Shyamalan meant it to be scary makes you reconsider your own understanding of humanity. Or rather his understanding of humanity. And I haven’t even begun to delve into the performances of Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel – truly, this is a movie that keeps on giving. In badness.
Krull(1983, d. Peter Yates) – Terrible and awesome in equal measures,Krullis a movie made up of all your 1980s toys and comics being mashed together. PartDungeons & Dragons, partStar Wars, part abysmally boring high budget bullshit, the film is mostly remembered for it’s exceptionally cool central weapon – the starfish-looking glaive – and a handful of excellent beasts. And for being one of Liam Neeson’s first film roles and where Robbie Coltrane plays some kind of medieval Mario the Plumber.Krullwas supposed to be the officialD&Dmovie, and it keeps that games slow pace and episodic encounters while adding all sorts of then-state of the art visual effects. Led by Prince Colwyn (played by Ken Marshall, who has gone on to essay roles like Agent #1, Cart Driver and Russian Government Official – yeah he’s had that kind of career), a ragtag band of British actors must battle the evil Beast and save the princess and their world. The design of the film is often cool, and some of the ideas are great, but the movie’s lethargic pacing and abysmal script keep it from being any actual ‘good.’Krullis probably on the border of belonging on this list – it’s not deliriously watchable like most of the films, but suffering through the boring parts (ie, 70% of the running time) will pay off with the kind of imagery that fueled the imaginations of millions of 80s kids.
Troll 2(1990, Claudio Fragasso) – LikeThe HappeningandThe Room,Troll 2seems to come to us from a whole different dimension; one quite like our own but different enough to make their entertainment seem weird and trippy to our eyes. Having nothing to do withTroll(or with trolls, for that matter – the film is about goblins),Troll 2tells the story of a bunch of Mormon amateur actors dealing with midgets in shitty rubber masks. There’s so little going on inTroll 2 that makes any sense (and I don’t mean that in a narrative way but rather an existential way) that the whole film has the odd feeling of eating a handful of mushrooms. From ghost grandfathers who give kids molotov cocktails to evil ladies who appear to be channeling Witchy Poo to a little boy who pees on his family’s meal (leading to one of the movie’s most famous lines: “You can’t piss on hospitality!”),Troll 2is a glorious mishmash of things that don’t work… except that they completely and totally do. There’s a documentary aboutTroll 2and the phenomenon of fandom that has sprung up around it calledBest Worst Movieand I think that really explains it all -Troll 2is utterly terrible but in a truly wonderful way. The best thing about it is that the film’s fairly well made for a low budget Italian financed picture, but it’s like the creatives behind the film just had no understanding of how a movie works. Astonishing.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace(1987, d. Sidney J. Furie) – I feel like this movie should make this list if only because the lead bad guy, the Nuclear Man, is played by a fellow named Mark Pillow. He’s the cousin of James Duvet and Sally Bedskirts. Watching Mark Pillow’s name come up in the credits always makes me giggle. And then the rest of the movie happens! TheSupermanfranchise was winding down, and producers at legendary bad movie factory Cannon were only able to get Christopher Reeve back as the Man of Steel by getting him in on the creative side of things. And Reeve, being a good old liberal Hollywood actor, wanted Superman to tackle something with social significance. Like nukes. Exactly the sort of story that comic writers had avoided for decades because it reveals that the presence of a Superman in the real world would warp it beyond recognition. After setting up the goody two shoes plot, the film then has way-overused villain Lex Luthor make a clone of Superman (but not Bizarro), the Nuclear Man, a hard rock-looking guy who proceeds to duke it out with Supes in some extraordinarily low-budget and unthrilling fights. Oh, and Jon Fucking Cryer is in it. The movie’s just completely terrible, but in a trainwreck way that draws your attentionl; nothing works and Cryer makes the Richard Pryor hijinks of the last film seem respectful to the property. But Pillow! And he speaks with Gene Hackman’s voice! There are multiple versions of this film, and the current DVD (as far as I know) isn’t the best one. The best one is the version where the Nuclear Man makes a cartoon tornado that sucks a little girl out of a window. Fucking hilarious.
Rock n’ Roll Nightmare(1987, d. John Fasano) – When a third rate Canadian hair metal hero makes a horror movie the result is a truly deranged bit of oddness that includes a heavily greased man poorly pretending to wrestle with rubber starfish. Truly one of the weirdest bad movies ever made,Rock n’ Roll Nightmarestars Jon Mikl Thor as John Triton, a body building Canadian heavy metaller who – spoiler – is also an archangel sent to battle the devil. Or at least the silly, poorly articulated puppet that is the devil. The movie opens with a puppet demon in an oven and just gets better; it’s briefly a kind of slasher film wherein Triton’s band members get picked off, and then it becomes an utterly odd cosmic battle between the panty-clad Triton and the aforementioned devil. In a basement. What makesRock n’ Roll Nightmareso wonderful is how serious it is; the movie takes its silliness with a straight face, and watching it you get the impression that Thor and director Fasano thought they were making something… well, something that wasn’t one of the worst movies ever. Sprinkled throughout the picture is a heavy helping of Thor’s Canuck metal, as well as Thor’s pecs.
Commando (1985, d. Mark L. Lester) – If a movie could suffer from a severe learning disability, or perhaps some kind of brain damage from head trauma, that movie would be Commando. The story of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s retired soldier John Matrix on his journey to kill Freddie Mercury (played by Vernon Wells) in order to rescue Alyssa Milano, Commando is a film without logic, structure, sense or subtlety. It is, however, filled with violence, explosions, grunting, blood and ludicrosity. High octane ludicrosity. Any film that co-stars not just Dan Hedaya but also David Patrick Kelly is going to get noticed; throw in Bill Duke and Rae Dawn Chong for good measure and you’re looking at a perennial in the making. The film barrels along from explosive action sequence to explosive action sequence, with Matrix visiting insane levels of mayhem on human beings and buildings. Arnie kills people in his home, in a motel, on an airplane and in the woods, and that’s before he gets to the bad guy island, where he kills guys by throwing circular saws at them and in one of the biggest one-guy-standing-alone-with-no-cover-and-a-big-machine-gun massacres in cinema history. He may kill upwards of 90 human beings in this film. Logic and coherence are taken out in friendly fire incidents.