By Louis Lartigue
To you, what’s worse?
A. A movie that leaves you without making any kind of impression.
B. A movie that, on even its most basic level, was just bad. A movie that, after shuffling mindlessly out of the darkened theater, down the dim, fluorescent-lit halls and through a cold and heavy multiplex side door, leaves you so baffled as to how it made its way from ink to the big screen. You’re probably even more baffled as to how you sat through the whole thing.
Personally, I much prefer the latter. Truly great films are able to evoke emotional responses from their audiences; this is also true for genuinely awful films. But what about a movie makes it so… bad? After several lost afternoons of my life that involved arduous research of some of cinema's finest works of polished garbage, I have singled out three major categories of bad movies.
Movies That Don’t Hold Up
The “Schrodinger’s Cat” of bad movies
For all the ways a movie can fail, this is the slowest and most painful. Whether you remember a film to have an intriguing, puzzling plot, nightmare-inducing special effects or simply a pillar of your childhood from when you last watched it, there’s a large chance that if you watched this film today, you wouldn’t agree with your first opinion of it.
Instead, you might find yourself in utter shock at just how much your memory fooled you.
Childhood classics become campy, unsettling and over the top. If you had no prior knowledge about a certain movie that you watched as a kid, and then someone pitched the plot to you, I doubt you would be beaming with the same amount of enthusiasm.
If I was pitched The Cat in the Hat Movie and the person started with, “Okay so it’s a live action adaptation of Dr. Seuss's’ Cat in th-” he wouldn’t need to continue for me to know that I do not have the capacity to watch this thing all the way through and genuinely enjoy it.
Not all old movies fall flat— there are movies that came out when I was a kid that completely hold up. The movies that you might think “lose their charm” overtime probably weren’t as good as you thought when it came out. It just took you this long to find out (sorry).
Popular examples: The Cat in the Hat Movie, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Surf Ninjas
Not as deep as it once was
21 (2008) was a movie I really enjoyed when I was in middle school. It’s a fun movie that was an adaptation of the book about the true story of a group of MIT students who counted cards in Las Vegas. After re-watching it for the first time in maybe seven years, I found that the film could have done so much more with the base material. A cozy $35 million dollar budget, a cute love interest, bad guy, comedic relief, and enough mathematical and gambling keywords to occasionally remind you that these uninteresting characters are really smart set the stage for a mediocre film. In the machine, this is the fate for many stories that deserved a better go at it.
Popular examples: 21, The Island, Contact
Wine turned to vinegar
And finally, groundbreaking films (in their time) that moved a genre forward in style, technology or whatever the case is, generally prove to be lackluster and altogether underwhelming. I guarantee you that when you show your grandchildren Avatar, it will make you question how you ever paid $16 to watch such a grainy and unremarkable film. GET WITH THE TIMES!
Popular Examples: The Blair Witch Project, Ghostbusters
Please, just let Space Jam live in your memory — where it belongs.
Welcome to the Machine
The movie business is just that — a business.
When any business can either minimize risk and maximize reward or chance the possibility of taking a loss on a project, they’ll choose option A every time.
This is why we have the following: sequels, prequels, reboots, revamps, reloads, requiems, resurrections, revolutions, etc. (really any cool-sounding word that starts with “r”).
A film released as a sequel (or any other kind of tangential release) of a proven title has a far better chance to make more than, or at least make back their budget, as opposed to a movie that no one has heard of. Especially films that have that one actress from that one thing.
The “business mindset” in Hollywood is the main reason for drawn-out franchises that might as well be put together on an assembly line. These are movies like Transformers, Fast and Furious, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Marvel Universe Franchise to name a few.
These are movies whose commercials make you say, “How do they keep making these?!”
The answer? Because they keep making them. Unless in the hands of people who actually care about the films, their integrity and the audience that loved a film enough at the start to keep coming back, then a sequel can very easily disappoint, infuriate or destroy the reputation of a once-great
There’s Always Room
Sometimes a bad movie can have such a distinct and indefinable quality that is so objectively bad, but so imbedded into its DNA that the movie is so bad it's good.
For me, at least, a movie that was made to be terrible on purpose is not the right kind of bad movie because it’s a farce and nothing more.
An example? Sharknado.
No, a good, bad movie is one made with the intentions of entertaining an audience for the right reasons. But, in execution it fails to such a disastrous degree that the film collapses into itself and you can't help but revel in the well-produced garbage heap before you.
Films like The Room (2001) and Trolls 2 (1990) are such films whose chaotically derived charm packs small theaters across the country with devoted audiences and cult followings who know every beat of their favorite train wreck.
Agree or disagree? Let us know what you think are terrible movies by sending us a tweet @bwff_ua!