Bad Movies I Love (Part Two of Four)

This is yet another post that has been inspired by Bob Freelander and his wonderful blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

I’ve ruminated on this list long enough I believe. In the spirit of my recent post about lists not really being finished, I’ll just go with what I have at my disposal currently and spitball it. For the mutual convenience of myself and whomever may read this, I will split the list into four posts.

Now, I did, as most who have compiled this list recently, have to examine what makes a movie both bad and one I can enjoy because of that. There were a few different directions I could’ve gone with this list. I could’ve picked some films universally considered to be bad that I like and I don’t care who knows it (A few of those can be found here). I could’ve picked the rare film that’s so bad that it’s good, which in my mind are few and far between, and I won’t argue if you believe there’s no such thing.

What I decided to do instead was to pick movies that I find to be bad, however, that I still enjoy certain things about them (badness included), and in many cases I have given them more than one viewing due to their uniquely awesome awfulness.

Now, without much further ado, my selections:

Demons 2 (1986)

In one a screenwriting course I took, one exercise we did was to read our short scripts aloud, this was done so we could simultaneously share knowledge and offer each other constructive comments. A script I wrote reminded a classmate of mine of Demons. At the time I had not seen Demons, so the only responsible action I could take was to see it ASAP. I loved it. My short and it shared similarities, but were also different enough.

Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I just had to see Demons 2. The film is directed by Lamberto Bava, co-written by Dario Argento, features one of the first screen appearances by Asia Argento and more of the freaky demons. What ends up not working is the film shifts away from the movie theater setting. However, being an Italian horror film, it will be stylish, bloody and at times bizarre and at others nonsensical, which makes it engaging, if not quality.

The Church (1989)

One not-so-good but watchable Italian horror film deserves another. This film has a lot of the same pedigree that Demons 2 has and a lot of the same issues: Argento has a writing credit, Asia makes an appearance, one of its alternate titles is Demons 3, it has a really good idea that doesn’t quite click and I really want it to. I’ve seen this one a few times, I’ve even listened to the score in isolation and I like that. There’s a draw to it that’s brought me back a few times, perhaps with this one more so than the prior choice, it really is the unfulfilled promise that’s been the reason.

Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller (1988)

There will be another film that makes this list based in part on the audaciousness of its conception. However, I do have to admit that this one handles the execution of its outlandish concept better than the one to come.

As the title implies, in the world of this film you can literally travel by stamp. Now, as a concept that’s something you’re going to either buy or you won’t. The film has its heart in the right place through a lot of it (Such that I almost feel bad including it), it’s just really misguided much of the time, and the caper of bringing back someone lost via ‘stamp travel’ takes a bit away from it I feel. The acting’s not great, nor is the writing, but there is a boldness to the concept.

Also, as a bit of trivia, the film also features a cameo by a young Rufus Wainwright who sings a very catchy song, which is one of the redeeming qualities of the film, another one which becomes obvious as you watch the clip is how incredibly ’80s this film is.

Uncle Sam (1996)

Perhaps one of the best ways to determine a bad movie you love is to gauge just how mixed your feelings on the film are. There are films written by Larry Cohen such as It’s Alive, The Stuff, Q: The Winged Serpent that I would say I love. This one I can’t really defend as staunchly but there are things about it that I do appreciate. Namely, it incorporates militaristic zeal in a horror film in a way I’ve rarely seen. Not only that but note the release date, there was no unpopular or costly (in terms of American casualties) war going on at that time, so there’s a certain gutsiness in telling this kind of tale when dissenting opinions are fairly quiet. The film does end up being sloppy and a bit slow, there’s no Michael Moriarty in it to up the caliber of the cast, but the satire is definitely there which makes it worth mentioning.

The Space Children (1958)

This is a case of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in reverse. Here’s one I saw first and then found an MST3K for, which I don’t do often. I was on kind of on the fence after I saw it and while I can’t ultimately say it’s a quality piece of work, as logic and reason vanish somewhere in the middle of act two, there are things about it I do like. As for the MST3K treatment it’s funny, not one of their best and this is nowhere near one of the legendary duds they’ve covered; in many of the films they watch it’s hard to even ferret out what the plot is supposed to be. Here there are issues but the plot is clear. The tropes of a hivemind amongst children, and some form of other-worldy radiation or possession, are not new but they’re also not the biggest problem. The film is actually consistently interesting, it just emotionally flatlines after a while, which is a cardinal sin, especially when any atomic age sci-fi tale is likely to hook me based on its implications. Michel Ray’s turn as the ringleader is also quite effective.

Part three will be up tomorrow!

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61 Days of Halloween- Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up

Michael Moriarty in Pick Me Up (Starz Productions)

In this series of films I have already chronicled both films in the Masters of Horror series and Larry Cohen, in The Stuff. However, this film is a little different for both parties which is part of the point of starting this series was to find, or reveal, works in the horror genre that are worth profiling.

What separates this film is that it truly does focus on the antagonist more than the protagonist and what’s more is it concerns itself with a cruel twist of fate in which there are two psychopaths covering the same area.

While this film does have Cohen’s typical blend of humor the production values are way up from their usual standard and furthermore it does get pretty darn creepy more than once as this unique scenario is allowed to be investigated almost to its fullest. Aiding in that journey is the fact that the screenplay has been adapted by the author of the short story David J. Schow.

The film is further elevated by the fact that it features yet another brilliant performance by Michael Moriarty, a Cohen regular, who always seems to be a completely different character.

What makes it compelling is not only do you realize early on that these two characters are on a collision course but when they meet you even wonder if they are working in tandem. When you find they are not it still remains interesting as you hear the differing philosophies behind their psychoses. Yet even with all that there is a twist in store that catches you, which is all the more surprising.

Of all those in the series I’ve seen this is the one I’d put at the top of the list for the conventional horror fan to see first. If you’re familiar with Argento obviously see Jenifer but this is likely the most accessible and successful title to date.

9/10

61 Days of Halloween- The Stuff

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Stuff

Frank Telfer and Colette Blonigan in The Stuff (Larco/ Anchor Bay Entertainment)

The one word that can be used to describe Larry Cohen’s film The Stuff is “Wow.” Now this is a word that can be used in a bad thing or a good thing and in this case it is definitely good.

If you’ve heard of Larry Cohen (or even if you haven’t) this is the film to watch as an introduction. It is so annoying to watch people think they have a “scary story” and botch it up so badly. The Stuff is a perfect example of what Larry Cohen does. He works with low-budgets and knows he has a cheesy premise most times but has no delusions of grandeur and works with it as opposed to against it and yet because of that manages to make his point.

He skates the fine line between horror and comedy perfectly. This movie is a perfect introduction to his style and it’s a whole lot of fun. Not only do Cohen’s films not take themselves seriously but they manage to layer subtext in smoothly and easily whereas “real horror” so often fails to do. The Stuff is filled with laughs, the occasional gross-out and great ensemble acting featuring Michael Moriarty as Mo Rutherford the man trying to find the secrets of the stuff, Paul Sorvino as Colonel Malcom Grommett Spears and original SNL cast member Garrett Morris as ‘Chocolate Chip’ Charlie.

It is funny but yet is also an apt satire of 1980s in many ways but also by having this food being a living organism which consumes those who eat it it falls into the horror realm. It also leads to one of the great lines in the film “Are you eating it or is it eating you?” Watch it now!

8/10