Sunday, June 5, 2016

Bad Movies: Advanced Studies II

It's time for another session of bad movie examination. I trust you've all had time to review the required viewing from last year's assignment and I'm looking forward to reading your papers on The Giant Claw and Pieces. Now let's have a look at our new syllabus.

Cathy's Curse

The Exorcist's reputation as the scariest film ever made is generally based on the early stages of Regan's possession. The movie shreds your nerves with the horrific medical procedures the poor girl is subjected to, plays on your anticipation and freaks you out with its subliminal flashes of demonic faces. It's dreadfully effective and while Linda Blair's makeup is still hideous enough to inspire many a nightmare, her gravelly profanity isn't quite as scary. In fact, it makes a lot of viewers laugh. Even in the midst of extreme terror, something about children swearing is just funny.

That's about the only reason to watch Cathy's Curse (or maybe it should be Cathy's Cursing), an incompetent Exorcist rip-off that turns an eight-year-old girl into a profanity-spewing villain. The writer really seems to be enjoying himself with these rants and I'm honestly surprised it doesn't have more notoriety. The movie fell into public domain at some point but the only print available is in horrible condition. This isn't just me being a picky film buff - it looks like someone pissed all over the negatives. But even if it were in HD and "crisp," this would still be right up there with Manos in terms of how poorly made it is.

Savage Streets

And speaking of Linda Blair, she also has a ridiculously bad movie on her resume (one of many, if we're being honest). This unbelievably crass, lewd and over-the-top revenge drama could have only come from the 1980s. She plays a tough broad at one of those 80s dystopian high schools where all the kids look 10 years older than they should be and the bullies aren't just jerks but irredeemably evil.

After her deaf sister is assaulted by a group of loathsome thugs, our heroine takes it upon herself to exact revenge by taking it to the streets in a leather costume and crossbow. It's kind of awesome in a trashy way, although I should warn everyone that this is by far the most disturbing film on the list. It's got its share of laughs but there's also a nasty rape scene that still shocks viewers. It may not be eroticized, which is a step above some of the other films coming out in this era, but anyone sensitive to this kind of subject matter should stay far away.

Mac and Me

Many of you have likely heard of this one - a half-baked E.T. rip-off that bombed at the box office and would have faded into obscurity if not for bad movie fans. A mysterious alien creature (MAC) is accidentally taken to Earth by a space probe and meets two brothers who have just moved into a California neighborhood. Viewers today watch it for the ridiculous rubber alien costumes, canned dialogue, huge plot holes and an overly epic score from Alan Silvestri.

While the famous falling wheelchair scene gets the biggest laugh, the movie is particularly infamous for the shameless product placement, including a five minute dance number inside a McDonalds. Not only that, the aliens literally need Coca-Cola to live! Most of the movie seems like a cheap but generally agreeable kids movie but the last half-hour or so is totally nuts. There's a fight inside a supermarket, a massive explosion and one of the most deeply stupid endings in film history.

I Drink Your Blood

This early zombie film was made during an era where God-fearing adults were terrified by all these kids doing drugs and not respecting authority. But rather than vote for Donald Trump, the people behind this movie told the reactionary story of a band of Satan-worshipping hippies who show up in a small town. After assaulting a woman, a young boy decides to get revenge on them in a very creative way - giving them all rabies. Wait until you see how he pulls this off.

Obviously, it backfires as rabid hippies begin leaving a trail of dead bodies all over town. With its paranoid view of 60s counterculture, goofy dialogue and a synthesized score that sounds more like a car alarm, “dated” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Some 30 years before Signs, it turns out that their weakness is water and viewers are treated to the sight of the zombies running away in fear from people splashing water at them. Audiences at the time didn’t find it so funny and it was cut to ribbons all over the world until an uncensored version emerged over 30 years later.

Cool As Ice

The white rapper Vanilla Ice was briefly a huge star in the early 90s before being shooed away by an embarrassed nation. During his time in the spotlight, he cast himself as a Marlon Brando-esque rebel in this affably silly film. Ice plays Johnny (seems to be the go-to name for protagonists in shitty movies) and whether he's jumping a fence on a motorcycle with very little momentum or resting his dirty shoes on his love interest's bed, Johnny embodies that superficial 1990s "attitude," like Sonic the Hedgehog sticking out his tongue.

What starts as a John Hughes-esque romance between a snotty rich girl and a poor authentic (i.e. rude) guy takes a turn towards action in its second half with the arrival of some organized crime antagonists. Naturally, Vanilla gets to prove his mettle and take down the bad guys. It's not as obnoxious as you might expect. The whole movie is so dated that it's easy to just accept it as a product of a strange time and enjoy it. Although there's still the opening scene, which has possibly the worst dancing I've ever seen on film. Seriously, it makes Elaine Benes look like she should be doing Tchaikovsky on stage.

Vampire's Kiss

Out of all the movies on this list, this is the only one that I'm not totally sure is "bad" or not. It's either a ridiculous horror/comedy with glorious overacting by Nicolas Cage or a cheeky satire of 1980s corporate debauchery with glorious overacting by Nicolas Cage. Either way, if you enjoy Cage's weird mannerisms, I don't think he's ever gone more out there than in this bizarre film.

He plays some kind of publishing executive who's already on the edge of a breakdown. When he gets attacked by a bat, he becomes convinced that he's becoming a real vampire. From then on, Cage rants about the alphabet in his psychiatrist's office, starts wearing plastic vampire fangs, drags a cross across a street while shouting and develops a creepy fixation on a frazzled employee played by 80s mainstay Maria Conchita Alonso. If you thought his "Not the bees!" or "How'd it get burned?!" moments in the 2005 Wicker Man were great, you haven't seen anything yet.

Despite all the wacky behavior on display, I realized after it was over that the premise and themes were actually pretty close to American Psycho, another film with a balls-out lead performance that few people would place on a list like this. Oh well, my ambivalence doesn't change the fact that this is a very funny film to watch.

Fateful Findings

As for our final film, I have no doubts about its badness, its hilarious, wonderful badness. Already burning its way through bad movie circles, Fateful Findings is just shy of breaking into the big time and taking its place among bad movie royalty like The Room and Troll 2.

Like The Room but more ambitious, this 2013 film was brought to you by a strange looking middle-aged man who clearly believes himself to be the most talented and handsome man on the planet. The movie is hard to describe but I'll do my best. Most of it is some bizarro Douglas Sirk domestic drama where the greasy Breen proves irresistible to several younger women and scolds just about anyone within reach. However, there's also insane stuff about a magical black box and a subplot about Breen hacking into government databases that takes center stage in the jaw-dropping finale. Whatever secrets Breen found are never revealed but clearly they were quite scandalous, judging from what happens next. I'll leave it at that.

To watch this movie is to enter a bizarre alternate universe where everybody moves slowly, none of the women wear any bras and nobody is allowed to say anything until a slow camera pan over the area is finished. Trust me guys, this is the total package. Spread the gospel.

Till next time, enjoy the films and more books!