Incredibly Bad [Culture] Show

Perhaps the word ‘bad’ should have been in inverted commas, because none of the films that’ll be discussed in this spot are films we dislike, or would not enjoy watching. Instead, this is about films that will never win an Oscar, because they have one purpose – to entertain, generally in a trashy manner. Of course, most critics can not tolerate this and so the films are labelled ‘bad’, perhaps justifiably in some cases, but we would still rather watch them than any of Richard Attenborough’s films…

barbwireThose words were written in the very first edition of TC, the legendary (and now hopefully forgotten!) issue 0. But it still largely holds true today, since my fascination for, and interest in, movies which fail for one reason or another remains almost intact. Looking back over the years, it’s apparent that these fall into three categories:

  • films generally regarded as “bad”, which I feel possess qualities largely ignored for some reason e.g. Edge of Sanity,
  • those which even I can’t really defend as art, but that are still huge fun to watch, such as Barb Wire,
  • movies which are enjoyable through their sheer badness, the classic being Plan 9 From Outer Space.

I should point out that the third category, road accidents on the cinematic highway, differ from the second because their appeal to me is in ways the directors, writers and actors never intended. However, for Incredibly Bad Film Show purposes, the two groups are deemed equally valid. On the other hand, stoic defences of the first-mentioned have also been mounted in the pages of TC, but you’ll never convince me that Showgirls is a bad film, so it and its kin will not be found in this section.

Initially, it was only movies which were covered, and this still remains the main focus of the series: however, we have also moved into other areas, as diverse as fiction and dance. For there is absolutely no reason why the cinema should have a monopoly on the field. Indeed, the costs involved could be said to mitigate against it, in comparison to other media. It’s a lot cheaper to, say, publish an Incredibly Bad novel than make – and crucially, distribute widely enough to reach TC’s attention – an Incredibly Bad Film. And, as the Internet shows, when you drop the barriers, you inevitably also drop the lowest common denominator. I might venture to suggest that the success of The Blair Witch Project may well lead to something of a renaissance of badfilm: when any idiot with a camcorder is able to make a film, you can rest assured that plenty of idiots with camcorders will.

And so, in here you will read of both the deliberately poor, and the accidental roadkill on the cinematic highway. Those of us buried in the depths of trash culture can’t afford to be picky about where we get our pleasures, and so we laugh in the face of death, smirk at over-wrought emotion, and head to the kitchen to get a beer during plot exposition. This may seem disrespectful, but I’ll recount a quick story which may convince you otherwise. At the London Film Festival, I was at a Guardian interview with Abel Ferrara. Beforehand, they showed a montage of clips from his movies, but it soon became apparent that someone was laughing loudly at the back. This became hysterical cackling during the rape scene from Ms.45, and everyone wondered who it was being so disrespectful to the director.

When the lights came up, we saw it was Ferrara himself, clearly not taking his own work seriously at all. It’s in the same spirit, that we offer you these reviews and articles.