When Bad Transcends Bad

What makes a film good? Is it the emotional mark it leaves on the audience after it is over; or is it how entertaining it is during the viewing? Even if this may sound like a bit of a copout, the answer is entirely subjective, leaving it up to the individual to decide whether a film is good in their eyes. While I personally wouldn’t, one could argue that the films of Michael Bay are great as they accomplish what they intended to: mindless entertainment. The challenge to this argument comes from a strange quarter, that being films that are so bad they are entertaining.

Often referred to as films that are so bad they are good, these films have been popular for some time within certain exclusive film communities; however the recent mainstream popularity of films like Troll 2 and The Room have changed the way the general public sees these kinds of films.

It is an interesting kind of film that falls under this category, as they are ones that certainly did not hit their intended mark but rather something else entirely. Certainly not all terrible films work the same as Troll 2, but the ones that do have a certain quality that makes them, not only watchable, but strangely entertaining.

We have seen over the last decade a growing cult following of films like Troll 2 and The Room, with continued sold out screenings all over North America. It is a strange phenomenon, as these in no way are good films, in fact they are some of the worst ever created. A film like this must have certain qualities to let it still be enjoyable even with its catastrophic flaws.

But what are they?

Most of the movies that fall under this category are low-budget indie films. The reason terrible Hollywood films usually don’t have this watchability is due to the money and time spent making the picture. Instead of being fun, these films just tend to be sad as so much time and effort, not to mention money, were spent making something that misses the mark so completely .

In high school many weekends were spent searching out the absolute worst films we could find. Titles like Leprechaun 4: In Space, Frankenfish, and Carnosaur were our main targets for these nights of terrible movie marathons. Part of the entertainment was realizing how naive these filmmakers were.

These films were so bad they begged the question: have any of these directors ever watched a film before? When it comes to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room the jury is still out.

With the huge number of people who take great pleasure in viewing Troll 2 and The Room, it makes you wonder, are these films still bad? Or have they transcended bad and risen to a state of cinematic grace?

While they did not hit their intended mark, these films hit something else with their audiences which still allows the film to be enjoyable, albeit in a very different way from mainstream films.

Even if the film did not remotely accomplish what it attempted to do, it can still entertain and bring enjoyment to people in ways other films cannot. This is an accomplishment in itself.

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2 Responses to When Bad Transcends Bad

  1. Anthony Van says:

    This post reminds me of a terrible/great film called “Birdemic: Shock and Terror.” If you ever get the chance to watch it, I think you’d love it.

    Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birdemic:_Shock_and_Terror
    Amusing trailer: http://vimeo.com/9592175

    (PS: Your blog is wonderfully written, good job.)

  2. Birdemic played at a local cinema in Ottawa and I was hoping to see it but unfortunately was unable to attend. I think I will have to find a copy to show to my friends for one of our bad movie nights. I always thought the film was a joke until I started to read about the director, which makes it all the more fun.

    Thank you for the compliment, I really appreciate it.

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