James goes by @equaloppdork on twitter!
A funny thing happened to me, last week. I was sitting at home, looking at twitter instead of doing something productive, when I see my buddy bobfreelander putting out the call to various podcasting and blogging luminaries about doing a “Top 5 or 10 Bad Movies I Love” list. Despite knowing the quality of the people Mr. Pupkin was soliciting, I felt an uncontrollable urge to volunteer my “writing skills”. Here's a hint; I don't have writing skills. Still, I volunteered, as it sounded like quite a fun endeavor and I do in fact love awful movies, so I figured I could hash something together that would not look utterly embarrassing if it were to be posted alongside some of the other, far more illustrious writers that have thus far contributed. Without further self-deprecation, my Top 5 Bad Movies That I Love.
5 – Maniac Cop 2 – 1990 – William Lustig
Hold the phone, buddy. You're starting with the sequel instead of the original film in the series? Yea, I am. You see, I love all three Maniac Cop films with a fiery passion, but each one is a different level of dumb. The first film was your basic costumed slasher film based around the premise of a bad cop seemingly coming back from the dead to kill people with impunity, whether they'd done anything wrong or not. In that film, Matt Cordell was Jason Vorhees with a badge and a wicked night stick/sword. Maniac Cop 2 took that premise and flipped it on it's ear. It defied us to believe that Cordell was actually a good cop that had been set up by the mayor, turning Maniac Cop 2 into what is essentially a revenge film....sorta. It makes no damn sense, but I just love that Cohen and Lustig didn't take the easy route for the sequel. God knows I would have still tuned in for “crazy zombie cop beheads woman for jaywalking”, but “crazy zombie cop wants revenge for being wrongfully imprisoned even though he mercilessly killed a dozen or so random innocent people in the last film” was so much more enjoyable. I could have also gone with Maniac Cop 3 aka Cordell Takes a Zombie Bride, but that movie isn't near as fun for some reason.
4 – Demolition Man – 1993 - Marco Brambilla
I once told someone that I thought the writing and world building in Demolition Man was brilliant and they looked at me like I had just told them turds fly out of my nose when I cough. It's true, though (not the turds thing..eww), I think the world in Demolition Man is leagues better than the actual movie it is in. The fact that all restaurants are Taco Bell, the self-driving cannoli cars or how about that deal where they have no paper money but any time you swear, you get a paper ticket? Genius. I love the idea of a world somehow magically free of violent crime filled with cops that aren't “trained to deal with this kind of violence”. Just the idea that you could achieve a docile, peaceful population without the use of jack booted nazi cops is so endearingly Hollywood. I adore the way these people communicate, too. “Be well”? “Fellow greetings”? It's like the whole of the San Angeles population were chain smoking pot heads who had done one too many Grateful Dead album marathon sessions. Simon Phoenix summarized it best, though. “The world has become a pussy-whipped, Brady Bunch version of itself, run by a bunch of robed sissies.” I'd actually love to see a better writer take the ideas set forth in Demolition Man and run with it, just to see where they'd take it. I envision a world where Taco Bell starts serving delicious rat burgers to people in self-driving GTOs.
3 – R.O.T.O.R. - 1988 - Cullen Blaine
Long before The Room became a household name, there was another craptacular example of inempt film making just waiting in the wings for someone to discover it. Don't feel bad, though. Prior to the fine folks at ShowShow covering it, I had never heard of R.O.T.O.R., either. After hearing them gush over it, I just had to track this amazing scrap of Texas trash down...on Netflix Instant Watch. Take all the best parts of Robocop, Terminator and Short Circuit, throw them out the window so that all you have is the worst parts, add in some new parts that are even worse than said bad parts and then, maybe, you'll come close to understanding just how terrible this movie is. The movie opens with our main character being arrested for murder and then the rest of the film is supposed us seeing everything that led up to the moment where the cops found him standing over a dead body. So that means when we are enduring scenes of things like him having lunch with his girlfriend or having sex with his girlfriend or drinking coffee with his horse, that means these are all things he is telling the cops. Even though his whole story should be “Built a robot that went on a killing spree so I found it and destroyed it”, he felt the need to fill them in on every single detail of his life. The only thing that could have made it better is if in the middle of one of the myriad situations that have nothing to do with the story of the killer robot, the movie had suddenly cut back to the interrogation room in time for the cops to tell him to get the fucking point.
2 – People Under The Stairs – 1991 – Wes Craven
Fuck Nightmare, Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left. People Under The Stairs is hands down my favorite Wes Craven film. I have a framed poster for it in my living room. I don't know why, but I saw this crap in the theater and just fell in love with the insanity of it. If you've somehow missed it, PUTS is the story of a kid from the ghetto that decides to help a couple of small time crooks break into the home of the slum lords trying to kick them out of their shitty rat hole apartment. Little does he know that the slum lords are a brother/sister team of the Arkansas variety that like snatching babies, eating intruders and storing their unwanted children in the cellar. Why they kept the naughty kids around instead of, well, eating them is beyond me. Just when I thought the movie couldn't get any weirder, Daddy comes racing down the hallway in a gimp suit. I do believe that was the point where I had to ask what the hell I'd gotten myself into. People Under The Stairs is fun because it strikes the perfect balance of zany and creepy. At no point is it really a scary film, but there definitely some ugh moments that make your skin crawl, a little. It also has one of the best kid actors I've ever seen in a horror film. He's resourceful without being MacGuyver and he's spunky without being an asshole. In fact, I think it's saying something that in a movie that already has a pretty respectable cast, Brandon Adams is the best reason to watch People Under The Stairs.
1 – Shakes the Clown – 1991 – Bobcat Goldthwait
“You Binky? Well, fuck you, party clown!” Where do I even begin? Bobcat Goldthwait made a noir thriller set in a world where being a clown is a 24 hour a day lifestyle choice, mimes and clowns engage in gang wars in the park and rodeo clowns don't consort with party clowns because party clowns are giant pussies. Seriously, man, what the holy hell was he smoking when he came up with this crap? I remember seeing a trailer or catching part of this on cable once just as Shakes is telling the off the dad that presumably hired him before going into his kid's birthday party. “If you EVER talk to me, again, I will twist your head into a fucking balloon animal.” I was pretty much on board from there and have probably seen this movie a couple dozen times over the years. Nothing brightens up my day faster than reciting the speech Shakes gives to the little kid at the party, word for word, from memory. I am also quite fond of Binky's “you hate me” speech, as well. “You all loathe me. Think I'm not funny. Think my balloon animals SUCK!” Wrapped around all this is a story of Shakes being framed for beating his boss to death with a god damn juggling pin and subplot about a competition to be the new host of a Saturday morning kids cartoon show. Apparently, introducing Scooby Doo to a live audience of pre-schoolers is the pinnacle of success for a party clown. It also seems to turn you into a dog fucker, based on certain accounts in this gritty clown crime drama comedy. Just don't let Shakes see you in an invisible box, because he will fuck your shit up.