Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bad Movie Marathon

This past weekend, I went to a friend's house for a "Shitty Movie Marathon," two days and nights of bad movies, junk food, and alcohol as attendees took on the worst the world of cinema has to offer. It was fun times, so I decided to give a rundown of the films I saw.

1) Heartbeeps. Directed by Rock N Roll High School director Allan Arkush, this is the only Academy Award-nominated movie on the list (best makeup by the great Stan Winston). Heartbeeps stars Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters as a pair of robots who fall in love and get chased by a police bot that looks like a Dalek. Most of the humor consists of robot-speak observations on stuff they find in the woods plus bad jokes provided by a robot doing a Rodney Dangerfield impression.

2) Battlefield Earth. I've reviewed this one already. It's as bad as I remember but enjoyably so, like watching a train wreck. For a movie that cost so much, the special effects are about on par with a Windows 95 flight simulator. Watching this movie led to a lot of bad "It's so easy, a caveman could do it" jokes by a member of our audience (OK, it was me).

3) Manos: Hands of Fate. A legendary bad movie, this one is completely incomprehensible nonsense filled with bad dubbing, incoherent editing, random nonsense, and a lack of logic and plotting so bad it makes Fulci look like Dostoyevsky. A family gets lost and ends up at a house in the middle of nowhere and become threatened by some kind of Satanist(?), vampire (?), frail Mark Spitz-lookalike and his pack of brides. Intercut with a lot of footage of a couple making out along a desert highway and being told by the sheriff to move along. You'd think that last thread would have something to do with the other stuff. You'd think wrong.

4) Zardoz. Another one I've already covered, Zardoz is somehow worse than I remember. The underlying sci fi elements might have made for an inventive, fascinating story, but there is so much random weirdness and pretentious symbolism that symbolizes... I don't know. Every time you think the movie might be settling into something, it piles on even more ridiculousness. Most famous for a giant, floating stone head that spits out guns and declares "The gun is good. The penis is evil," while Sean Connery spends most of the movie in a red diaper.

5) The Apple. Connoisseurs of bad movies cherish the output of Cannon Films. The Apple is a campy, overproduced, disco musical situated somewhere between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the story of Adam and Eve. Set in the far-flung future of 1994, it tells the story of two young singers who get seduced by the extravagance of the music industry, represented by the evil corporate boss Mr. Boogaloo, who dresses like Dracula with a devil horn. It has a "spiritual" ending that comes out of nowhere, looks as if they ran out of money while making it, and has to be seen to be believed.

6) Fateful Findings. Oh good God. See what I said above about the craftsmanship of Manos: Hands of Fate except this was made in 2013. The acting is hilariously flat, the dialogue repeats itself, several plot threads are set up and never resolved, and a setting that is supposed to be a void of nothingness is created by having a room covered with black garbage bags. Watching this is an exercise in how not to make a movie. Written, produced, directed, edited, and starring Neil Breen, this is the new standard in bad movie classics. I'll end with a quote from A Mighty Fine Blog, "It's highly probable Neil Breen is the first filmmaker since the Lumiere Brothers to have directed more films than he's watched."

7) Hercules in New York. The first film to star Arnold Schwarzenegger, this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe because it followed Fateful Findings, but Hercules in New York is competently put together (relatively speaking) and banks on what would become Arnold's trademark goofy charisma and predictable fish-out-water humor.

8) Never Too Young to Die. This is like a fevered dream by someone who's watched a lot of 80s movies and TV. John Stamos plays a high school gymnast whose spy father George Lazenby is killed, and he sets out for revenge. He romances Vanity and takes on the villain, a hermaphrodite played by Gene Simmons. Yes, this is a real movie.

9) The Room. The Citizen Kane of bad movies. Hilariously overwrought, The Room is the result of the mad genius of Tommy Wiseau the star, writer, director, and producer who looks like the melted crayon version of Jeremy Irons with long black hair. It's so bad and so weird, I don't know where to start. The plot is pure soap-opera melodrama and filled with many "iconic" moments that have become embedded in the Parthenon of bad movie infamy. So bad it's good indeed.

10) Birdemic. A modern take on Hitchcock's The Birds, this a zero-budget slog. The attacking feathered fiends are created - not with mechanical props, CGI, or even trained animals - but animated GIFs. This is a glorified home movie.

Random notes:
1) Time works differently with bad movies. An 80-90 minute feature can somehow feel like it's gone on for hours, and yet, from the beginning of the movie to the end, not much will have changed.

2) It's really hard to find an Arnold movie that isn't in some way fun to watch.

3) These marathons require copious amounts of alcohol.

4) If you want to appreciate the importance of editing, staging, lighting, and quality sound, watch low budget bad movies to see what happens when you lack these resources.

5) It's easy to tell when the dialogue of two characters in the same room was filmed on separate days.

6) Bras are apparently the first line item cut from a movie's budget. It's amazing how little support so many female characters in these movies have.

7) I did not catch all the movies. I missed Can't Stop the MusicPerfect and Lifeforce. Lifeforce was not originally scheduled for the marathon but served as a replacement for Howard the Duck, which was turned off after five minutes. Yes, Howard the Duck is so bad, that people attending a bad movie marathon could not bring themselves to keep watching it. Lifeforce, say what you will about it, has Mathilda May, who is naked throughout the entire movie.

8) If you are a young, attractive actress looking to make it in the movies, be wary of the middle-aged auteur with delusions of grandeur who stars in, writes, and directs micro-budget films. Chances are he will have you and every other female in the cast fawning over him throughout the movie for no discernible reason.

9) Somehow a red diaper is only the second least dignified outfit Connery wears in Zardoz.

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