On the 16th my mother, my sister and I will be driving 45 minutes out of our way to go to a movie theater playing a film called Manos: The Hands of Fate. Now, I’ve traveled longer to see a movie; that sort of thing is a film buff's burden when they live in a cow town in Maryland, but usually I save such trips for good movies. Manos is not a good movie. In fact, it’s a terrible movie. But it's worth it to go when Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy will be there (via satellite since the movie is playing across the country at the same time) to riff on it. These three men were behind the show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which had a huge influence on me growing up. Once a week this program would show a truly awful B-Movie and these three guys would come up with quips and observations that would crack me up and make me appreciate a movie that I wouldn't ordinarily look at twice.
Let's face it, there are some bad movies out there. You've got your old 50's B-Movies, you've got your Kevin Costner movies (soon to be renamed Taylor Kitsch movies), you’ve got your gory horror flicks. Some fall into the "completely unwatchable" category, others fall into the "I liked it but I'm embarrassed to tell anyone that" and then you have the "so bad it's good" category, which is like a mix of the first two. With the right mindset almost any movie can turn into the "so bad it's good" category. I recommend only quipping about movies out loud in the privacy of your home or in a theater where that stuff is acceptable such as theaters that have midnight showings of The Room every now and again. Otherwise you're being an annoying jerk. Don't be an annoying jerk.
The most important rule of watching bad movies? Lighten up! Look, I get being mad over crappy movies. Mention the words Percy Jackson to me and I will go on a rant that would make it seem like the movie shot my sister. But to enjoy a bad movie you do have to relax and enjoy the poor lighting, horrible acting and inane writing. Pretend you were a part of the filmmaking process and every bad thing about it is some little joke you can laugh about lovingly. You want to be critical but don't get all film student on people. Be funny, not pretentious. Also don't get all noble and feel bad because people put hard work into making this bad movie. Look, unless you are at the premiere shouting insults at the people involved no one is gonna know you're ripping into their movie. It's actually a bit egotistical of you to think someone gives a crap about your opinion, sir or madam. Sheesh.
And pick movies that suit your taste. Now you might be asking "But Sam, they're bad movies, why would they be my taste?" Look, everybody has genre preferences when it comes to movies and bad movies are no exception. I'm someone who can enjoy movies of all genres but when it comes down to it I'm a sucker for horror movies, especially the gory slasher ones that started in the 80's. I don't know, there's something about an evil clown trapping someone in a hot tub and electrocuting them to death that gives me the warm fuzzies. The majority of bad movies come in two flavors: horror and sci-fi but you can find some real bad ones in other genres. For example the Citizen Kane of bad movies, The Room, is a drama. A ridiculous, hilarious drama. You know what you like, pick from that pool to get yourself started.
You're tearing me apaaaaaart!!!
To help you out I have provided a list of some terrible movies that I am quite fond of.
The Room: Mentioned it a couple times already but this movie is freaking fantastic in all the worst ways. Bad accents, inane plot, some of the most awkward sex scenes of all time. Adult Swim used to loop this movie all night on April Fool's Day because it is just that great. A must see.
Waterworld: Actually any Kevin Costner movie is appropriate. I'm fond of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well. Alan Rickman chewing scenery like it was made of doughnuts.
Any 80's horror film: Look, I love Freddy, Jason and Chucky dearly but you have to admit those movies did not stand the test of time. I about die laughing every time the Tina body bag gets dragged down the hall in Nightmare on Elm Street.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes: If you're new to the bad movie thing, why don't you watch the masters at work. My favorite episodes are The Final Sacrifice (A Canadian nerd fighting against a cult!), Pumaman (He's a guy with puma powers!) and of course, Manos: The Hands of Fate. I can't even put the last one into words but the fact that the movie's title translates to Hands: The Hands of Fate should tell you enough.
Plan 9 From Outer Space: A bad movie classic. Even better if you watch Tim Burton's great Ed Wood beforehand since that movie takes place during Plan 9's production. Oh and if you're into movies about making bad movies? Bowfinger. Great, great movie. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe it was the last time Eddie Murphy was funny.
John Carter and Battleship: Too soon? I didn't mean to pick at fresh wounds.
So there it is, my helpful hints to making a bad movie better. It's hard work to make a movie, the least we can do as moviegoers is watch and appreciate them. Praise not required.