Friday, August 12, 2011

Shaking it up a little

This rant is in lieu of a review of  Troll 2. See, I've actually been meaning to do this for a while, and avoiding doing a review of Troll 2 is a perfect way to do it. So today, I'm gonna do something a little different. Rather than inform you, as you probably already know, that Troll 2 is an absurdly terrible film, to the point where it becomes hilarious, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to explore the concept of 'So bad it's good,' because there are several traits common to these films that I find interesting.

Trait 1: Odd dialogue delivery

This one appears to be universal among the 'hilariously bad' movies. From Troll 2's flat, disengaged dialogue, to Torgo's awkward stilted delivery, to Tommy Wiseu's untraceable accent, all hilariously bad films seem to feature weird delivery on simple dialogue.

And in a way, I wonder if that isn't part of their appeal. After all, we can go anywhere to hear awkward dialogue. But we have to go to The Room to hear Tommy Wiseu deliver that awkward dialogue (love is blind in his accent becomes 'Lauve is bloind'). It adds an extra layer of hilarity to already absurd films.

Trait 2: Nonsensical Actions

The villains in Troll 2 are defeated by a bologna sandwich. No really. And when the main character gets ready to eat it the villainess can clearly be heard to say 'Think of the cholesterol.' No. Really. That sort of nonsense is common place in Troll 2 and it can be seen elsewhere in movies on this list. In The Room events rattle off unrelated: a good 2/3rds of the movie could be removed without the plot suffering at all.

This is similar to the first one, as it adds a layer of extra amusement that wouldn't be there in a run-of-the-mill terrible movie, like Transformers 2 or Disaster Movie. I can predict, moment for moment, what will happen in something Alone in the Dark but Showgirls kept me guessing, because none of it made any damned sense. This makes the film more amusing, as you can point out plot holes, or just gape at the sheer stupidity of it all.

NOTE that being unpredictable is not necessarily a good or bad thing, and being unpredictable is not relegated only to bad movies. I couldn't predict Black Swan or Source Code at all, but that was because they were good and intellectual films that took interesting turns as the plot went on. At the same time I could tell at least 2 scenes in advance what was going to happen in Hanna but it was still a good movie, because it was well executed.

Trait 3: Poor Filmmaking

For all of the (well deserved) bashing it takes, the cinematography in Batman and Robin is quite good, and while the way it's shot ruins much of it, the CGI in the Transformers films is actually quite impressive. On the other hand, the Goblins in Troll 2 are clearly just midgets in burlap sacks, with Halloween store masks on their head, and during the end of the film rampage in The Room, when Johnny knocks over a picture it literally leans against the camera.

Good filmmaking put into bad movies is annoying, because it speaks of wasted potential. When I watched Transformers 2 I was practically pulling my hair out thinking 'Goddammit Michael, if you'd just get a screenplay that wasn't shit and cut back to 20 cups of coffee a day, you might make a good action film' (The closest he's come so far is Bad Boyz 2).

No, for a movie to be truly 'so bad it's good' it must be incompetently executed at every step. That way we're not laughing at a young up-and-coming filmmaker who just caught a bad cast. We're giving someone a well deserved laughing out (I think I may have just mutilated my english there, but what the fuck do I care, I'm on a roll). The backgrounds must be obvious greenscreens, the screenplay must be an unforgivable piece of shit, the characters must be bland and one dimensional, the cinematography must be either flat and inert or fucking crazy. Think of Battlefield Earth's insane use of Dutch angles, of Manos's sudden switches to the makeout couple or the guys wandering into the woods and walking back without investigating. Think of The Room's terrible continuity or Plan 9's obviously fake graveyard. Terrible filmmaking in our terrible films assures us that the filmmaker deserves our scorn and can also serve to entertain us: If you put Battlefield Earth at regular angles throughout the film, the cinematography would be incredibly flat. As it is, you can mock it and try to find the scenes where they don't use Dutch Angles.

Trait 4: Unwarranted Self Importance

Did you know that, to this day Claudio Fragasso (the director of Troll 2, he goes by Drake Floyd in the credits) maintains that his movie is not only a masterpiece but an 'Important movie,' and will flip out at you if you point out it's shit? Or that Tommy Wiseu and some other guy are fighting over directing credit of The Room (personally if I directed The Room and someone wanted to take credit away I would thank christ).

This is the final and most important ingredient in a movie that's so bad it's good. The idea that despite being nearly unsalvageable, the movie is so full of itself as to think it's an important piece of cinema. Showgirls for example is so full of itself that if it wasn't so incompetent it'd practically be an art film. This aspect can make a merely bad film insufferable (looking at you The Island) but in a movie that fulfills the other requirements, it adds that extra layer of pretention that makes it complete.

So that's more or less it for my analysis of 'hilariously bad' movies. Hope this was an interesting break from me telling you that a movie is hilariously bad for 10 minutes.

Next time on Second Age Reviews: Chained Heat

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