By Richard Reitzfeld
The way I see it, overall film quality exists on a line scale; that is, a horizontal line whose endpoints represent polar opposites in terms of whatever it is you’re measuring.
In this case we are measuring the overall quality of a film numerically. Let’s say that at one end of the line is positive 5, which would be an incredible, blow-your-tits-off movie, and at the other is negative 5, which would be a movie so bad you question whether or not it actually exists and you didn’t just imagine it in a state of manic schizophrenia. Dead in the middle of that line is zero.
For me, the worst place a film can be at on this scale is a zero. A movie that ranks a zero would be one that evokes nothing from the viewer. Not confusion, not laughter; not anger, nor hate. Not happiness, not sadness, not arousal… Nothing. It just exists – floats pointlessly along in the film ether, occasionally wasting the time of those bored enough to view it. I would rather be appalled at how horrible a movie is than just passionately accept its existence like an old married couple does their sex life.
Here are some movies that I find so horrendously awful I can’t help but rank them amongst my favorites of all-time:
Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a very special film. And it’s special in both the politically correct and incorrect senses. This attempt at a horror romance story centers on a young software salesman who runs into and subsequently begins to date an old classmate (played by my one and only star crush, Whitney Moore). Unfortunately, their budding romance is interrupted by hoards of violent and deadly birds, which drop out of the sky to brutally decapitate passersby in hilariously sub-campy fashion.
To put it generously, the quality with which the attacking birds are rendered is appalling. More atrocious still are the interactions our protagonists have with them. “Battle” scenes consist of a few people standing around making karate chop-y motions at random tufts of air, or pretending to fire obviously plastic guns with sloppily synched sound-bytes, causing a random bird or two to drop dead.
Once the attacking birds inexplicably start shooting acid and exploding, however, all bets are off. That’s when Birdemic: Shock and Terror crosses the line from painfully awful to unintentionally genius. I’m pretty sure there is also some loosely pro-environment message that supposedly exists within Birdemic’s “plot,” but really it’s irrelevant.
The tagline for this film (and for its sequel, which was just as awesome/awful) was “Who needs talent when you’ve got this much passion?” This is in reference to director, James Nguyen, who both penned and directed the movie. Birdemic: Shock and Terror is Nguyen’s tribute to a childhood hero of his, the master of horror, Alfred Hitchcock.
And it’s true: you really can’t help but notice and admire Nguyen’s passion in this film – it takes itself so seriously throughout, and has such grand ambition that even in spite of it’s tremendous failure you’ll still find yourself walking away feeling that you’ve been touched by someone who cares.
Isn’t that what we’re all searching for really? To be touched by someone who cares? Let James Nguyen touch you. You won’t regret it.
ThanksKilling is easily one of my favorite awful movies. It’s got everything one could possibly want in a Thanksgiving-themed horror film: food, romance, drama, a turkey wielding a shotgun…
Pretty much everything about and everyone in this movie is entirely flat, lifeless, and devoid of creativity. Everything, that is, except our villain, the turkey. The turkey, having been cooped up (pun!) for so many years, has been unleashed upon earth by way of a contrived voodoo ritual of some sort, with a full lexicon of offensive rhetoric, and an unquenchable bloodlust for sex and murder. Yes. The villain of this movie is a turkey who has sex with and murders people.
Here are some choice quotes from the evil turkey:
“Gobble, Gobble, Motherfucker!”
“Nice tits, bitch!”
Depth-less male main character: “Looks like I got something you don’t, Turkey!”
Turkey: “What’s that Darren… a vagina?”
I must say, there are one or two genuinely funny moments throughout this film that don’t center on turkey murder-rape, like when a woman intentionally serves her husband a cup of coffee with fresh poop in it. I am not making this up. It’s so cringeworthy you can’t help but wonder if it’s not all the work of a horror film mastermind just stringing you along, like you’re playing a part in some tasteless Machiavellian film experiment. Every time you get fed up with the corny dialogue and think, “oh well, this is just shit after all. On to something else,” something OUTRAGEOUS is slipped in that makes you double take and refocus.
If you’ve ever had the desire to see a laughably CGI’d turkey have sex with and brutally murder archetypal college students, this is the film for you.
ThanksKilling 3: ThanksKilling 3 is the direct sequel to ThanksKilling. Yes, they skipped ThanksKilling 2 for no apparent reason. It’s cover art contains the tag lines, “THE MOVE THAT SKIPPED ITS OWN SEQUEL,” and, “BOOBS IN THE FIRST SECOND” (there are by the way). Genius…
The Room (2003)
As far as the cult of bad movie fandom is concerned, The Room reigns supreme. It very well may be the most reveled-in work of ass ever to have graced a movie theater.
The Room stars writer, director and producer Tommy Wiseau as Johnny, a successful but lovelorn banker in the midst of a gross and – he thinks – passionate love affair with his fiancé Lisa. Lisa, however, confides in her mother that she finds Johnny boring, and that she is dissatisfied with life. So, naturally, she decides to seduce Johnny’s best friend, Mark.
I’m going to be honest, I can’t really describe what happens after that. To do so would ascribe a coherence to the narrative that simply doesn’t exist. People slip in and out of being friends and lovers with one another, Wiseau’s ass is featured in an all too graphic sex scene, which is then repeated frame for frame later on in the film… Someone dies I think? Or gets hurt by inexplicably falling down playing a game of catch with a football?
The gist of it is this: The Room was supposed to be a heart-wrenching romantic drama that Wiseau poured his soul (and a shit ton of his own money) into. The result is one of the most laughably scripted and acted filmed ever to have – however briefly – aired in theaters. The budget for this film was $20 million – seriously, watch it.
You will not be able to believe that much money was spent on this — and it grossed a total of $1,900 at the box office — that’s how bad we’re talking here. In a review from IFC, Wiseau’s character was described as “Borat trying to do an impression of Christopher Walken playing a mental patient.”
Something happened that Wiseau didn’t expect: The Room became a cult sensation amongst bad film fans the world over. So what did Wiseau do? He began to market The Room as a black comedy, and started traveling the country doing midnight screenings at theaters year round. I had the pleasure of attending one such midnight screening in Manhattan a few months back.
It was an uproarious scene: plastered hipsters were quite literally lined up around the block to get in. While attempting to watch the film I couldn’t hear a word of dialogue through the cacophony of shouts and jeers directed at the screen. People were talking openly, walking around, throwing plastic forks and knives at one another by the hundreds (apparently this is a tradition at screenings of The Room), drinking in plain view, screaming their favorite snippets of dialogue (they must have memorized the exact moments of dialogue delivery, you really couldn’t hear a thing) in tune with the actors, and throwing footballs around the theater. It was incredible.
Hats off to Wiseau, man. I’ll be damned if I’ve ever seen a film garner that kind of response, even if it wasn’t the intended one.