Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: The Vicar of VHS ""

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: The Vicar of VHS

The Vicar of VHS can be found on twitter @vicarofvhs.
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In his wonderful poem "Andrea del Sarto," Robert Browning famously wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp--or what's a Heaven for?" To me, this line encapsulates the special quality I love about "bad" movies. The films that speak to me are those in which one can see the filmmakers striving to accomplish something grand, something unique, something personal--even though that accomplishment is hopelessly out of their reach. The simple fact that-- despite lacking resources, training, or in some cases even basic talent--these dreamers still strove and sacrificed to get their visions on film...there's something inspiring in the attempt, a poignant and genuinely moving nobility.

Best is when in the midst of a terribly composed shot or laughably inept line reading, a glimmer of the brilliance for which these filmmakers were striving breaks through the clouds, and for an instant you can see the magnificent edifice they wanted to construct. But even if such a revelation is missing, often the heart and inventiveness of these deluded visionaries provides more joy and entertainment than a dozen soulless Hollywood blockbusters. It's what my cohort the Duke of DVD and I call the "Glorious Failure," and it's what I love about so-called "trash cinema."

Our site, Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies (, is dedicated to celebrating these nuggets of gold in the dung heap of film history, and most of my favorite "bad" movies are already examined there. But here are a few flicks I love that for some reason haven't made it onto the site.

1. The Attic Expeditions (2001)

I haven't met that many people who have also laid eyes on this quirky little mindfuck of a movie, and in my view that's a shame. The set-up is pretty simple: declared insane after murdering his girlfriend in a fit of madness he only barely remembers, Trevor (Andras Jones) is sent to an asylum cum-halfway house for treatment. What starts out as nurturing, healthful therapy quickly takes a turn for the WTF when Trevor finds a mysterious portal hidden in a steamer trunk in the attic, which takes him to a dark netherworld of mad science and semi-conscious brain surgery. After that, he's never quite sure which world is reality which just his fevered dream-state, or if there's even a difference. The film boasts some b-movie star power with glorified cameos by Jeffrey Coombs, Ted Raimi, and Alice Cooper, but it's the unknown inmates of the asylum who steal the show, among them Beth Bates as Faith, Andras' innocent- or-is-she love interest, and Jerry Hauck as Ronald, an inmate who communicates through an alligator puppet with a mind of its own. There's very little love for this movie out there, but I found it engaging, fun, and even a little existentially disturbing.

2. Nightbeast (1982)

A grizzled old sheriff (Tom Griffith) and his hair bleach-abusing, overtanned lover (Jamie Zemarel) find themselves in a fight to save all humanity when their small town is invaded by an alien killing machine in a tinfoil tuxedo. That's the story in a nutshell, but Don Dohler's NIGHTBEAST delivers so much more. The Nightbeast's initial assault on the townsfolk, with wave after wave of mesh cap-bearing rednecks going up in a cloud of sparkling ash, is a joy to behold. The sheriff's building exasperation as the carbon piles up and his constituents refuse to clear the beaches--erm, evacuate the town--is also fun. And the out-of-nowhere, lovingly photographed sex scene between the film's leathery protagonists simply cannot be un-seen. Though it appears on a vast number of "worst movie" lists across the net, for the proper audience Dohler's opus is an entertainment gift that just never stops giving.

3. Love/Object (2003)

Cubicle jockey Kenneth (Desmond Harrington) has a very high salary and absolutely no social life. Despite being heels-to-the-ceils in love with effervescent coworker Lisa (the beautiful Melissa Sagemiller), he is so crushingly socially awkward that he just can't make his move. What's an obsessive Aspbergers' sufferer to do? Why, just order a perfect facsimile of his beloved from a Real Doll-knockoff website, of course! Unfortunately, once his artificial amour arrives, she proves to be quite the jealous type. Released just a year after Lucky McKee's MAY, I see this movie as the male flipside of that story. Though Harrington is perhaps too GQ-ish to pull off the same intensity as Angela Bettis famously did in her performance, I still found his gradual descent into madness strangely affecting. A few creepy touches (what's going on with that delivery man from the doll factory, and the slight body-horror vibe that's hinted at, but never fully explored?) add frosting to the "head-on collision between fantasy and reality" cake, and almost make up for the frankly ridiculous finale.

 4. The Revenge of Dr. X (1970)

The movie now known as "The Revenge of Dr. X" is not really that movie at all, but another movie with the same title. (Actually a 1970 low-budget scifi flick called VENUS FLYTRAP, which when shipped to distributors was mistakenly given another movie's title card and credits sequence!) Whatever you call it, though, this movie is NUTS. After Dr. Bragan (James Craig), the World's Angriest Rocket Scientist, collapses at a missile launch through sheer assholery-overload, he takes a trip to rural Japan in order to convalesce. Once there he constantly berates his hosts, yells at his meek assistant Noriko, and engages in some therapeutic gardening/mad science. Working on the hypothesis that plants could be forced to evolve into humanoid forms (?), Bragan succeeds in creating a Frankenplant with flytrap hands and a very bad attitude. Written by the one and only Edward D. Wood, Jr., and featuring hilarious culturaltensions, interesting creature design, and even some surprising nudity, this flick is just one slice of insanity on top of another. Highly recommended.

5. The Children (1980)

A factory leak sends a cloud of unstable chemicals wafting over the countryside, through which a bus full of children on their way home from school quite unfortunately passes. As a result, the kids become zombified little monsters with dark eyes and black fingernails whose hugs bring screaming chemical death! As if that's not enough, any adults wanting to survive must murder the monster children by chopping off their infected hands. I saw this one on video while still at an impressionable age, and the idea of worried parents having to choose between personal survival and the murder of their own progeny left an indelible mark on my psyche. Poorly filmed and badly acted, the movie still holds a special place in my heart. The sideways indictment of lax parenting seems less a theme than an incidental idea, but watching a pregnant woman apologize insincerely to her unborn child while lighting up a cigarette still gives me an icky smile. Maybe there's something wrong with me.

6. Pinocchio's Revenge (1996)

I love it when a movie with a threadbare premise and ridiculous title actually steps up and knocks it outof the park, and for me, PINOCCHIO’S REVENGE is one such movie. DA and single mom Jennifer Garrick(the lovely Rosalind Allen) is assigned to defend an elderly serial killer, and brings home an unusual pieceof evidence--a whimsically styled wooden puppet--in order to help build her case. But then her youngdaughter Zoe mistakes the doll for a birthday present, and soon the household is plagued by a series of increasingly dangerous "accidents." What could be a simple CHILD'S PLAY clone turns into a twisty tale of scarred childhood and possibly supernatural happenings, as the viewer is never sure whether Pinocchio or Zoe is the pint-sized psychopath responsible. Director Kevin S. Tenney (WITCHBOARD, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS) gets a lot of mileage out of this confusion, and surprisingly, it works. Add some truly gratuitous nudity and sex you wouldn't expect in a movie with a pre-adolescent protagonist, and I'm in Mad Movie heaven. Ignore the title and give this one a chance.

7. Parents (1989)

In 1950s suburbia, grade school transfer student Michael (Bryan Madorsky) finds himself on the flipside of the previous equation in this dark and truly wacky period piece. Mike is a quiet, weird kid, but at least he comes by it honestly: his dad (Randy Quaid) works for a chemical weapons factory and often brings his work home with him, and his mother (Mary Beth Hurt) is June Cleaver via the Bearded Spock dimension. When the kid notices they're having leftovers for dinner every night, but can't remember what exactly they're leftovers of, he and fellow weirdo Shiela (London Juno) start investigating, with horrifying results. The film's deadpan delivery and fairy tale vibe combine with colorful set design (not to mention wonderfully whacked-out performances by Quaid and Hurt) to create a dark comedy that's funny, unique, and disturbing. Any kid who ever wondered what their parents might be up to while he was at school should seek this one out immediately.

8. Necropolis Awakened (2002)

There are some movies that I love so much, I'm almost afraid to tell other people about them. I know the movie rocks, but I'm afraid that my friends might not receive its greatness with the same generosity of spirit that I do. And such is my deep, abiding love for the movie, I want to protect it from that kind of indignity. For years I have felt perversely protective of this, probably my favorite no-budget, straight-to- video movie of all time. But perhaps the time has come to stop shielding it and shout my love from the mountaintop.

In the near future, the town of Skyhook has been taken over by Neo-Genetrix, an eeevil corporation using the townspeople as guinea pigs for its new zombification formula. With most of the population now the slavering zombie slaves of corporate overlord Nefarious Thorne, the only thing standing between the corporation and world domination is young go-getter Tiden and his alcoholic, reclusive Uncle Bob. Chased by zombies and a trio of hired hitmen, Tiden and Bob fight off armies of the chemical undead to keep Thorne from spreading his infection to the Next Town and beyond.

Words really cannot contain the wonderment I feel watching this movie. With a budget of $10,000 or less, NECROPOLIS AWAKENED is a true labor of love by father/sons trio Duke, Brandon, and Garrett White. With few resources and little experience, the Whites make up for it with passion, boundless energy, and good old fashioned moxie. Everyone in the cast plays dual and sometimes triple roles, builds the sets, works the camera, does the makeup--there's really no way this movie should work. But somehow it does, with all that exuberance and energy just bleeding out of the screen. Duke White does an amazing job in the dual role of Uncle Bob and head hitman Judas, completely transforming himself and throwing everything he has into both roles. Funny, exciting, and almost insanely ambitious, a project whose passion makes it much, much more than the sum of its parts, NECROPOLIS AWAKENED is a perfect example of all the reasons I love "bad" movies.

Check out the film's website at, order a dvd, and tell them the Vicar sent you.

Thanks to Rupert Pupkin for inviting me, and for being so patient. Stay MAD!


The Vicar


Anonymous said...

PARENTS is most definately not a "Bad Movie". It has a respectable 6.2 on imdB and garnered some decent reviews upon its release. Heck, I saw it in theaters because of the reviews. It's sort of a suburban America version of the terrific French film DELICATESSEN.

dfordoom said...

I'm definitely going to have to see The Revenge of Dr. X!

deadlydolls said...

Aw The Children, one of the few films to utilize hugs as murder weapons.

And hollah that Pinnoccio's REvenge! I totally agree that it's a surprisingly strong little movie.

The Vicar of VHS said...

@joestemme--PARENTS really deserves to be better known than it is. It takes off running with its wild premise and never looks back for an instant. And you're right to compare it to DELICATESSEN--another wonderfully weird movie with a similar offbeat sensibility.

@dfordoom--REVENGE OF DR. X is another of those Mill Creek offerings that makes the whole 20 movie set it appears on worth it. Totally insane, and entirely entertaining.

@Emily--we are kindred souls, you and I! How about a karaoke duet of "When You Wish Upon a Star" next time we meet? ;)

dfordoom said...

Vicar, which Mill Street set does it appear on? To buy the movie individually would cost ten dollars and it appears to be a public domain offering and is probably no better than the Mill Creek version. So I'd be tempted to grab the set instead.

The Vicar of VHS said...

@dfordoom--It's on the CHILLING CLASSICS set, which is actually chock full of wonderful stuff. BELL FROM HELL, CATHY'S CURSE, DEVIL TIMES FIVE, LADY FRANKENSTEIN, MESSIAH OF's an embarrassment of riches! :)

deadlydolls said...

1-Of COURSE we'll wish upon a star!

And 2-The 50 Chilling Classics is indeed worth the moderate splurge. Cathy's Curse and Devil Times 5 are positively amazing, no questions asked. A few other good titles on there: Alien Zone (weird lil anthology)and Ken Russell's star-studded Gothic.