Movies come in all shapes and sizes. Not everyone has to be a mainstream blockbuster, nor should they all be arthouse dramas that only a few would appreciate. Whatever kind of film it may be, objectively assessing whether it is good, bad, or middle-of-the-road should be easy. At best, the flick is prime Oscar material, and at worst, it “wins big” at the Razzies.
But then there are those films that are difficult to pin down in terms of quality, meaning that they are unquestionably bad, yet are so fascinating in how awful they seem that we find ourselves drawn to them despite our better judgment. There have been many such movies of particularly enthralling atrociousness that everyone cannot help but enjoy watching.
‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ (1957)
In an attempt to prevent humanity from creating a doomsday weapon that could obliterate the entire universe, aliens threaten them with a plan to raise an army of undead to wreak havoc on Earth.
Ed Wood is often cited as the worst filmmaker who ever lived. But what he lacked in talent and skill, he made up for with passion, which is all over Plan 9 From Outer Space, his magnum opus. The direction, actors, script, and production values are pretty horrendous, yet we love the film for the laughably misplaced love that was put into it.
‘Troll 2’ (1990)
The film, marketed as a sequel to Troll (1986), with a story that has nothing to do with that movie, focuses on the Waits family and some teenagers as they are preyed upon by vegetarian goblins (NOT trolls) who want to turn them into plants so that they can be eaten.
If it was not clear already, this movie is a mess. Every performance, every word spoken, every plot point, just to call out a few aspects, is overwhelmingly cheap and hammy, but those qualities are exactly why Troll 2 is adored. If nothing else, the world is thankful to the film for gifting it the “Oh my God!” meme.
‘Samurai Cop’ (1991)
When a rogue Yakuza faction called the Katana expands its operations by violently taking over the Los Angeles drug trade, the LAPD brings in Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon), a cop supposedly well-versed in Japanese culture, including the way of the sword. Joe is the only man fit to take on the Katana when he is not picking up loose nurses while his partner watches with hilarious expressions, that is.
Where to even begin with this one? From acting to writing to camera work and editing, Samurai Cop epitomizes amateur filmmaking at its most entertainingly abysmal. The only thing it did right was provide an ideal selection for a movie night with friends who are bored by complex drama and high-budget spectacles.
Written by Stephen King (yes, THAT Stephen King), Sleepwalkers centers on a mother-son pair of shape-shifting psychic vampires that arrive in an unassuming Indiana town and a local girl who becomes privy to what they are after being targeted as their next victim.
This supernatural horror flick is such a bonkers mixture of numerous strange elements like cat-fearing vampires, incest, and murder by corn cob stabbing that you have to wonder what King was thinking when he wrote it. One thing that is certain about Sleepwalkers is that it makes for an unforgettable and sidesplitting experience.
‘Batman & Robin’ (1997)
The final installment in the Batman film series started by Tim Burton before Christopher Nolan‘s reboot pits the titular Dynamic Duo, portrayed by George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell, against Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), who may be too much for them to handle, thus requiring the aid of new ally Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone).
Director Joel Schumacher was initially brought on to the franchise following Burton‘s departure to make the Caped Crusader’s movies more family-friendly, though even Adam West would agree that Batman & Robin took things several leaps too far. Clad in rubber suits with pronounced nipples and green leotards, respectable thespians are embarrassing themselves and making Schwarzenegger, spouting his incessant ice-related puns, look like Laurence Olivier. But bless this movie’s campy, neon-bright heart; it is an absolute joy to laugh at.
‘Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’ (1997)
After the cliffhanger at the end of Mortal Kombat (1995), where Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn appears to conquer Earthrealm, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation picks up right where its predecessor left off and sees Liu Kang, Raiden, and the remaining champions of Earth fighting to repel Kahn’s invasion.
The first Mortal Kombat was not especially good, but it had its highlights. Annihilation, on the other hand, is a black hole of cinematic garbage, which, ironically, makes it more memorable. The graphics look like they were pulled from a beta version of an early Playstation project. The so-called screenplay is comically preposterous, and certain line deliveries will leave you in hysterics.
‘Freddy Got Fingered’ (2001)
Gord Brody (Tom Green) is an infantile 28-year-old cartoonist. He wishes to become a professional animator, a dream that he will surely achieve once he is done desecrating a deer corpse, composing music while hanging sausages from marionette strings, and allowing people to believe that his father abuses his brother, among other inanities.
Green is recognized as a shock humorist. Despite the unnerving premise, Freddy Got Fingered is meant to be a comedy, albeit one that was made to be intentionally terrible. The film is almost unparalleled in how random, surreal, and shocking it can be. Any chuckle or positive emotion it may elicit can only reasonably be understood as the result of completely submitting to the madness as you watch it, which many have.
‘The Room’ (2003)
Well-to-do banker Johnny, played by Tommy Wiseau, who also wrote, produced, and directed this film, is engaged to Lisa, who, unbeknownst to Johnny, has arbitrarily grown tired of him and begins having an affair with his best friend, Mark. And well… there is Denny, the creepy neighbor kid, Lisa’s mother, who has breast cancer but does not seem at all ill, a football being tossed around, and… framed pictures of spoons?
The Room is a miracle of a movie. The acting is all over the place, various subplots go nowhere, multiple sex scenes stretch on endlessly, and all that is just the tip of the iceberg. Regardless, the film is so uniquely odd that it has become a legitimate cult classic among cinema enthusiasts. We may never know the full story behind how Wiseau ever got The Room made, but many are genuinely grateful that it exists.
‘The Happening’ (2008)
Across the U.S., people are killing themselves in droves, seemingly affected by some kind of airborne plague. High school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) flees his city with family and friends during the height of the chaos and struggles to keep them alive while trying to figure out what is really happening.
M. Night Shyamalan is an interesting filmmaker, to say the least, and The Happening embraces his director’s style quirks taken to their most farcical extremes. Off-putting performances and bizarre dialogue abound in this masterpiece of unintentional hilarity, topped with an absurd plot twist so haphazardly executed that it had to be misleading and a resolution just as baffling to boot.
‘Pinocchio: A True Story’ (2021)
Prominent fairy tale figure Pinocchio is given yet another re-telling of his story in which he departs his father Jepetto’s home to explore the world with his horse companion Tibalt and comes across a traveling circus run by a shady ringleader. There, he falls for one of the performers, a human girl, prompting the living puppet boy to find a way to become human himself.
It is so easy to think of Pinocchio: A True Story as a troll movie based on the ludicrous title, unbelievably lazy animation, and voice cast led by Pauly Shore and Jon Heder, who sound like they were inebriated when they recorded their equally bewildering lines. You will be laughing for days just hearing how the characters talk.
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