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Attack of the Killer Bs: B-Movies and Cult Films
B-movies, cult films, midnight movies, guilty pleasures; call them whatever you like. There are the Oscar winners, there are the summer blockbusters and then there are these: the films that are so bad, or just plain weird, that they become absolutely hysterical. They're best when watched with good friends or at big parties (maybe while having a few beers), so everyone can laugh together at the sheer insanity of it all. This post is dedicated to any and all films cheap, campy, incomprehensible and/or ridiculous. Here are just a few of them:
Troll 2 may well be the Holy Grail of bad movies. Despite its title, this low-budget Italian film features absolutely no trolls at all anywhere in its 94-minute running time; instead, it pits a family of four (plus their dead grandpa!) against an army of evil vegetarian goblins. What's more, this film was actually notorious enough to merit its own documentary, aptly titled Best Worst Movie.
"If someone vomits while watching one of my films, it's like getting a standing ovation," wrote John Waters in his book Shock Value. He probably got just the response he was hoping for when he made Pink Flamingos. The plot, which involves drag queen Divine's mission to protect her title of "Filthiest Person Alive," is really just an excuse to string together some of the most outrageous (unsimulated) acts ever caught on film, including the (in)famous ending involving a dog and... well, I've said too much already.
The original British film The Wicker Man is widely agreed to be a landmark horror film, eerie and gripping. Neil Labute's American remake, also called The Wicker Man, is, well... something else entirely. For one thing, it stars Nicolas Cage as a loner cop on the trail of a missing child in a pagan colony. Roger Ebert said it well in his review of Drive Angry: "Cage is a good actor in good movies, and an almost indispensable actor in bad ones. He can go over the top so effortlessly he rests up and makes lemonade for everybody." He certainly doesn't disappoint in The Wicker Man.
Chilean-born filmmaker and magician Alejandro Jodorowsky could fill this list by himself. In the interest of space, we shall list only one of his movies: The Holy Mountain. Ostensibly, it's about an alchemist who trains ten disciples to overthrow the gods and seize immortality. But that doesn't begin to describe the experience of actually seeing this movie. Where else are you going to find toads dressed up like Spanish conquistadors? Or arms dealers who sell guns shaped like crucifixes and menorahs? There's nothing like this film; accept no substitutes.
Altered States is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination (its writer was three-time Oscar winner Paddy Chayefsky), but it delivers weirdness in spades. William Hurt stars as a scientist who believes in other states of consciousness, and tries to access them using a combination of drugs and sensory deprivation. From there, he spirals headlong into bizarre hallucinations... and even stranger things.
The Official Razzie Movie Guide names Yor the Hunter from the Future as one of the "100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made". This 90-minute film was adapted from a four-hour sci-fi Italian television series. The star, American actor/footballer Reb Brown, has apparently made a career out of cheesy movies; he was also in Space Mutiny, a movie you may remember courtesy of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Highlights of Yor include: man-eating Triceratops dinosaurs, blue-skinned mutants, killer robots and a Razzie-Award winning rock theme song.
A B-movie making its way into the Criterion Collection? Sounds crazy, but the Japanese horror film House did just that. A satire of American slasher films done in a uniquely Japanese style, the film revolves around a group of girls on a weekend retreat in the country. Of course, things get weird. Pieces of furniture get possessed and start eating people. A man goes crazy for no reason and starts yelling about bananas. The girls all have names like Kung Fu, Prof, Fantasy and Gorgeous. Do you really need to know more?
What can be said about Showgirls that really does the film justice? This picture, from the director-screenwriter team who brought you Basic Instinct, died at the box office but went on to become the highest-grossing NC-17 movie of all time. Saved By the Bell's Elizabeth Berkley plays a drifter trying to make it big in the apparently cut-throat world of Vegas showgirl dancing. The result is over two hours of excessive nudity, melodrama, dance numbers and Joe Eszterhas's incredibly vulgar dialogue, delivered with straight faces all around.
No blog post about cult films would be complete without giving a mention to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the original midnight movie. When two straightlaced lovers get lost on the road and end up trapped in the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania," lots of singing, dancing, partner-switching and fainting ensue. Let's do the Time Warp again!
The Inwood Library is paying a tribute to B-movies and cult films all throughout the month of October! We'll be screening a different one every Thursday evening at 7 PM. If you want to learn about more movies we love to hate, never fear; there are guides galore! You might want to check out The Official Razzie Movie Guide, Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese or Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies, and the scathing reviews collected in Roger Ebert's I Hated Hated Hated This Movie are almost as funny as anything you'll ever see on the screen!