The films I’m going to list in this top five are all often described as 'so-bad-its-good.' I prefer the term 'terribrill' myself, but essentially, that is what I’m going to talk about today. Contained in my top five are films that are either mightily entertaining despite their failures, or those that are so poorly-realised that watching them is like looking at a car crash that you can’t tear your eyes away from, no matter how much you know you should. By no means is this the definitive list. There are undoubtedly hundreds of films from the Sy-Fy Channel alone that could go in here. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I’ve not had the chance to see them all.
By modern 'terribrill' films, I am talking about those released post-millennium. I’ve only chosen this stipulation because it was the only way I could narrow this list down to five. I also want to point out that this is not a guilty pleasure list. I don’t have guilty pleasures, because I don’t feel guilty about any of the awful nonsense I watch.
This spiritual sequel to John Carpenter’s Vampires, produced by John Carpenter himself, stars Jon Bon Jovi as surfer/vampire hunter Derek Bliss. Yes, Derek Bliss is a dumb name for a vampire hunter, but exactly the kind of name you’d expect a character played by Jon Bon Jovi to have. Along with his team of slayers, including a fourteen year old boy played by Diego Luna, a fake priest, a female vampire treating her condition with medication, and an obligatory black badass, he hunts the vampire princess Una through Mexico as she seeks out a legendary black crucifix. Highlights include Diego Luna getting a permission slip from his mother to hunt vampires with Jon Bon Jovi, a character getting turned via a bite on the penis during a blowjob, and Jon hiding weapons in his surfboard.
This Australian horror, known as Road Kill in the US, is utterly baffling. The plot, as far as I can tell, is that four teens on a camping holiday in the Australian outback get run off the road by a sentient evil road train. One of the four, Craig, breaks his arm in the collision, so they plan to use the abandoned truck to escape. But the road train is possessed by wolves, and in turn it possesses Craig, who then decides to kill everyone. I think. Oh, and the road train is fuelled by people. Along the way, we meet a random gunman who has no significance except to introduce a gun to the mix, watch as the leads descend into cabin fever and drinking their own urine even though they’ve only been stranded for about a day, and are expected to believe that none of the leads have a mobile phone despite this taking place in 2010. Separate scenes are seemingly spliced together to make one nonsensical conversation, character motivations are almost non-existent, and the wolves are never explained, but the song played over the final scene is pretty good. Surprisingly, the entire cast has gone on to have careers. The random gunman is one of Australia’s most beloved character actors, the lead heroine is now the star of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, another character had a supporting role in Fringe, Craig’s actor went on to appear in Neighbours and then the CW’s latest sci-fi show The 100, and the other dude was in Twilight: Eclipse, apparently.
I am a huge fan of the original film, and so incensed was I about this remake that I didn’t discover the utter madness within until quite late. This version is so bizarre, so hilarious, and so over-acted that it could be retitled Nicolas Cage: The Movie and nobody would notice. As a remake of the original classic, it’s awful and frankly blasphemous. Away from the original, it is the greatest comedy of 2006. I’m sure you’ll have already seen the greatest bits on youtube: Nicolas Cage screaming “NOT THE BEES!”, Nicolas Cage punching a woman while dressed as a bear etc. Watching the whole film puts that mirth in context and makes the proceedings even more enjoyable.
In terms of production values, this is the absolute worst film on this list. The sound quality is all over the place, and edits are rough and choppy. This is especially notable in the looped “applause” scene, when shots are reused and poorly stitched together, with the resulting scene lasting around two minutes. Due to copyright, the score is terribly synthesised free use music, again, terribly looped. The acting is bad, the script is bad, and the cinematography is bad. But the worst of all these is the special effects; the titular birds are 90's clip art animations pasted directly onto the screen, which the lead cast bravely fight off with coat hangers.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror is the story of Rod, who works in solar power energy, and his new girlfriend, fashion model Natalie, developing their romance while fighting off killer birds with the ability to explode and to shit acid. They also have to contend with lengthy speeches from environmentalists, and look after two annoying orphan children who want McDonalds. The film also shamelessly lists Tippi Hedren as one of its stars, purely because an image of her appears on a TV screen.
The joy of Birdemic stems from the fact that, even though the cast all seem to be in on the joke (although this doesn’t redeem their acting skills), director James Nguyen is taking everything entirely seriously. Its sequel, Birdemic 2: The Resurrection, loses something in being more tongue-in-cheek, but is still a joyous romp. And may I suggest you follow star Alan Bagh on Twitter? He may be the most wooden actor on the planet, but he’s also pretty damn hilarious.
I have a very special relationship with Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece. I have had the privilege of experiencing not one, but two Edinburgh Fringe Festival screenings of the film, full of 700+ Scots throwing plastic spoons and screaming “O HAI MARK!” at the screen. I have seen The Room over 20 times, at screenings, introducing it to various friends, and yes, even alone for my own amusement. I pre-ordered star Greg Sestero’s book on the making of the film, The Disaster Artist, the day it was announced. My fascination and enthusiasm for The Room is limitless.
If you’re one of the few denizens of the internet who isn’t aware of the film, it is the story of the world’s most perfect man, Johnny (played by writer/director/producer Tommy Wiseau), whose future wife Lisa (Juliette Danielle) is having an affair with his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). So far, so melodramatic, but not especially difficult to follow. But also thrown into the mix is Johnny’s ward Denny, who owes money to drug dealers and is destined to grow up to be a sex offender, Lisa’s magically cancer curing mother, and an assortment of supporting characters who show up with absolutely no introduction whatsoever, and who disappear without a trace. My favourite of these is Mike, an underwear-obsessed chocolate fetishist. And a tiny dog.
I cannot even begin to describe to you the dizzying 100 minutes that makes up The Room. It is something that can only be understood once you have experienced it, and will change your life irrevocably. A bit like losing your virginity. Coincidentally, one of the most memorable aspects of The Room is its numerous sex scenes, in which you are exposed to countless shots of Wiseau humping a poor woman’s navel set to an endless stream of generic slow-jams.
Like the tuxedo-clad football game mid-way through the film, little of The Room makes any sense, but it is still incredibly enjoyable. By breaking every single rule of filmmaking, Wiseau has created something so subversive in every way; it could almost be elevated to the status of art. Tommy Wiseau always wanted to become a Hollywood success story, and in the most unlikely of ways, he has succeeded.
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