Happy Halloween, one and all. To celebrate, I’m not only going to a lovely woman’s birthday party tonight, but watching awful movies as I do my schoolwork.
Why do awful movies bring us so much joy? Maybe it’s the fact that it is so laughable that they exist in the first place. Maybe it’s the fact that they are expected to compete in a market with things that are Oscar winners. Or maybe it’s just… the fact that… well, they’re terrible. And sometimes involve some of our favorite actors. And make us go “DEAR GOD, WHY DID YOU EVER DO THIS AWFUL THING?”
Today’s example that inspired this ramble is what spawned the nickname of “Kung Fu Jesus,” Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, the Adam Baldwin version. It’s terrible, absolutely awful. What makes it so got me to wondering…
Script: Poorly written in a number of ways. Riddled with cliches, stereotypes, and utter failures at being funny, though there are some gems in a few places.
Characters/Plot: Also stereotypical. Guy only concerned about money drags his wife to Hong Kong to make money as a surgeon (wut?). When asked “why Hong Kong” he doesn’t quite have a reason… PLOT POINT. Oh noes, it happens that he’s the mystical Ninja the White Dragon. There’s some crap with a prophecy and blah blah, but the baseline is that once the Chinese mob kills his wife because he “lets” one of theirs die after being riddled with bullet holes, he almost dies, is dragged back from the brink of death by a mysterious Chinese-medicine-man-come-tour-boat-captain on the side, who just HAPPENS to have a mysterious book of prophecies. Wa-hoo. It’s actually more involved than that, but the basic formula is there: Materialistic+Great Personal Tragedy= Transformation into fighter for good and no longer materialistic, because that’s a crappy quality in a hero.
Shooting: While it doesn’t have that delicious “filmed with a home movie camera” feel to it, the shots are uncreative, mostly uninteresting, and composed poorly.
So why the hell am I sitting here watching it?!
Well, the reason I first bought it for, you know, five bucks, was the fact it has Adam Baldwin and I’m an insane Casey fangirl, even if I’m not a fan of the actor’s politics. And I like eyecandy, damnit. Even if the man himself at times annoys me, he’s got a pleasant outward genetic configuration. And in this movie, he’s shirtless for a decent while. Yes, I’m shallow. Shush. Why I keep watching it, however…
Honestly, it’s fun to watch this thing and pick it apart. As bad as I make it sound, it is good in spots, and I’m pretty sure that given more money and time, it wouldn’t have been nearly as laughable as it is. It’s an interesting take on the original story. It just tried a little too hard to be the Karate Kid with some what the fuck mystical bullshit thrown in. It’s one of those stories where I want to pick it up and see if I can fix it up, shine it a bit, and make it into something either insanely campy on purpose, or something less laughable and more convincing. I think it’s the fact that this could be good(ish), it just ended up deliciously bad thanks to ineptitude upon a number of people’s parts. Maybe not great, but at least slightly more respectable.
Some bad movies are brilliant because they relish in their insanity– See The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That wasn’t trying to be good… it was trying to be Rocky Horror. Nothing else. And that’s why it’s so damned FABULOUS! Same with Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman version), though no one likes that movie but me. That one’s delightful because it’s… something. Damn me if I know what it is, but the insanity draws me in. The list goes on with the likes of Evil Dead and Repo! The Genetic Opera, but the point is that you can take an idea as bizarre as two squares crashing a party at a castle of “rich weirdos” that turn out to be aliens and make it epic. You just have to either pour your soul into it, or just embrace the absurdity. Don’t try to be serious. Don’t try to live up to the Oscar winners. Deal with the fact that you’re the weird kid with the goofy hair by dying the goofy hair orange and wearing vampire teeth to school on Easter.
So, why are bad movies great? They bolster our ego (“God, I could do better than this and I’ve never held a camera.”), they have potential to be good, or else, they embrace their weirdness to the point it no longer seems like insanity, they take the madness to brilliant new heights.
For a great Halloween example: Look up “Trick ‘r Treat” with Anna Paquin, shown to me last night by friends. It’s that weird kid in the corner that chews his toenails, and knows it. Enjoy the ride, boys and girls. And the cult of stripping female Werewolves. Mm.