What makes a bad movie good?

I hate Sharknado, and I think that might make me a bad person

A lot of folks I know seem to love Sharknado and its stablemates at the Asylum, but I do not, and I know exactly why that is.

Sharknado is the ultimate in lazy film making. It takes its crapness, wears it on its sleeve, and invites the audience to enjoy it because not a fuck was given in the film making process. It wants to have its cake and eat it; to serve the audience a shit sandwich and have us smile as we pay for it. The truth is, I feel insulted by their attempt to capitalise on my love of bad movies by throwing together whatever shite they can do on the cheap and shouting ‘heyhey! gedit!’

I appreciate a bad movie that has at least tried not to suck. I do wonder if it makes me a bad person, that I like bad movies more if they represent someone’s failure, but I don’t really look at it like that. It’s not that they fail, it’s how they fail, and Sharknado fails by not even trying. If movies were politics, a good bad movie is an idealistic local independent candidate who gets hammered in the polls but who at least stood for something. Sharknado is the Monster Raving Loony candidate who isn’t even making a point anymore and is there because he can afford to lose his deposit on the strength of the next year’s worth of public appearances.

A bad movie is good if it’s trying hard enough to be worth my time. Ironically, given how many times I’ve just name dropped it, Sharknado doesn’t even feel to me as if it is worth being insulted for the worthless dishrag of a movie that it is.

But my point…

So, moving away from the Asylum and what makes a bad movie really stink, the point of the article is to talk about what makes a bad movie good.

In part, of course, this is a personal matter of taste, but for me there are several criteria:

  1. Things have to be happening. If you’re not making a good movie, you absolutely cannot afford to be slow. A deep, thoughtful film with lots of long, slow landscape shots and introspective closeups is fine and dandy, but if you don’t have the ideas, script and cinematography to pull that off, you’re better off if something is happening pretty much all the time.
  2. Don’t outstay your welcome. Very few bad movies can sustain an epic running time. In the Name of the King was the bomb as far as Uwe Boll movies go, but fuck me it’s long.
  3. All random or no random. If you don’t have a really clever script, it’s usually better to keep it simple; be what you are and just run with it. If you want to throw some curve balls, you’ll probably just lose the audience. If this happens, however, you can do worse than just embracing it and producing a film that more closely resembles an acid trip than any coherent narrative. (See also the career of David Lynch). All random is, however, a high-risk strategy.
  4. Have a sense of humour. Very few truly great bad movies are po-faced. A ‘serious’ film needs to be backed with strong direction, layered acting and razor-sharp design, but an honest laugh covers a multitude of sins.
  5. Don’t be nasty. This one is very personal, but my feeling is that if a film is going to be nasty, it has to earn it.  A little gore splatter and swearing is one thing, but serious body horror and sexualised violence in particular shouldn’t be in your film unless you’re making a damn good point.

How about you?

Please comment, let me know what you consider a good bad movie. If you’re a contributing author, consider writing your own version of this rambling post, be it in agreement or counterpoint.

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