I watch a lot of television and films with different kinds of monsters in them. Same for the books I read. But for me, there’s one type of monster that no matter what, when I see it, or read it, or even think about it for more than five minutes, I end up having a nightmare about it. It doesn’t matter if I am watching Zombieland, Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days later or Shaun of the Dead. It doesn’t matter if I am reading a quality zombie book, or a terrible zombie book, or anything in between. Every time I read this stuff I have a nightmare. I love these stories so I keep reading and watching. Just wondering if anyone else out there has this happen to them? Do you have another type of creature that does that for you? I can watch vampire movies and read vampire books until the sun comes up (see what I did there?) and no trouble in my dreams. Werewolves, no problem. But if you put a flesh eating crowd monster in my head. it’s there to stay. Let me know what your favorite nightmare monster is in the comments.
I read a fair amount and while I do try to focus on the story, sometimes my mind wanders. Here’s ten thoughts I have had recently.
How does everyone in romance novels stay so fit and healthy, yet never seem to go to the gym?
Who chose Tuesday as the day new books come out? Why is Tuesday so special?
Do hardcover book jackets automatically get destroyed or is that just because I am not careful enough?
In zombie books, why don’t the animals ever become zombies? If they did, would they have to eat the same kind of animal? Or could like a horse eat a chicken and be good?
I’ll go to sleep in twenty minutes or once I finish this chapter. Twenty minutes later… that chapter was too good, I’ll go to sleep in twenty minutes or when I finish this chapter. Twenty minutes later… you get it
Lifting a heavy book totally counts as exercise. I need another Oreo.
This whole entire book is just made up of different ways of rearranging twenty-six letters.
Wait, so the guy is a werewolf, dating a woman who is a vampire but the witch coven hates them both. Have I already read this? Aww man I have already read this…
Did anyone far in the past predict fax machines in a story? And if they did, were people who read that story super excited when we finally got them. And if they were, are they still excited now?
How do you know something is not just bad, not just awful, not just terrible, but so bad it’s good? I mean something where the film stands out in it’s awfulness so much that it is destined to become a cult classic? I’ve spent a lot of time around bad films so I came up with this list to help you identify that something has gone so bad that it will last forever. Here’s how we separate TheEmoji Movie, destined to be forgotten and hated forever, from the stand outs of trash cinema like The Room and Pink Flamingos. Hope you enjoy!
The plot is utterly outlandish. While this isn’t the most essential part, usually having a strangely concocted plot helps. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is about a couple that get stranded on a rainy night in a castle run by murderous transvestites (I know that word may not be PC anymore but it’s what is used in the film). Tremors is all about giant earth worms being mistaken for earthquakes. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is about, well, the title sums it up doesn’t it? If you are watching Sharknado and it’s got a tornado full of sharks, it’s destined to be so bad it’s kind of awesome.
Production value is low. Again, this is not the most essential ingredient but it sure helps. There are films that counter this point and have a great production value but are still cult classics. But you know something is awful when everything looks like it’s duct taped together and held in by rusty screws. One of the reasons Ed Wood films stand out in cinema is that you can see how little money was put into them. In Plan 9 From Outer Space you can actually see foam gravestones get kicked over as if they were made of… foam. Upon repetitious viewing, it’s still hilarious.
The Budget has exploded. This is counter to point 3. Watterworld had a huge budget. So did Battlefield Earth. Yet they failed on essentially every level. People still watch them today because of how bad they were. It’s incredible to see big name actors like Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper prance around these huge sets and just kill the whole thing with the absurdity of it all. It combines to make a truly unique, so bad it is good kind of experience.
The Acting is Awful This one is vital. You can have a low budget, or an overblown budget and an absurd plot but if you have even one stellar stand out acting performance, there is no way this will become a cult classic. Tim Curry does nearly invalidates this point in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But if you have seen The Room, you know without question how bad acting can take an otherwise so so plot, fairly decent production costs and a typical love triangle and make into a sort of car wreck you can’t take your eyes off of. It’s so bad it’s good. You can watch it over and over again, and it’s even more fun if you watch it with a live crowd.
There’s a shocking amount of Something. For this one, it can be gore, it can be foul language, it can be a creature of some type but most essentially it has to be excessive. The Toxic Avenger has a stunning amount of gore, practically pouring through the screen in every other scene. The film doesn’t shy away from it. It revels in it. While this point does not always have to be in a film for it to be so bad it’s good. a majority have this. Another good example would be Showgirls. It has a seriously alarming amount of unnecessary nudity. There are other things about that film that make it so bad it’s good but this aspect contributes heavily.
The dialogue isn’t just bad, it’s memorably bad. Good films need stand out lines like, “I’ll be back.” Cult classic films need lines like “You’re tearing me apart!” (The Room) and “Alright everybody, drop your tacos or I’ll blow your brains out.” (The Toxic Avenger). It might not be Casablanca but I guarantee you will find yourself quoting these lines to your friends.
The special effects don’t work. Can you see that the body thrown off a cliff is just a mannequin with a wig on it? Do the ray guns used in the film just emit a slightly grainy light? Is the makeup so bad that you can’t even tell what the character is supposed to be? Then you just might have a cult classic on your hands. This is usually more reserved for the cult classics that are science fiction related than set in every day life. But, if you have seen Space Zombie Bingo!!! then you know how bad poorly designed effects can be. So bad that you have to watch again just to convince yourself you really saw what you think you saw.
There are problematically unusual directing choices. It’s one thing to get experimental on purpose and try something out in film. It’s another to have jagged and pointless cuts, splice in stock footage, switch from day to night in the same scene or make someone look ten feet tall in one shot and like they are vertically challenged in the next. Normally, one or two of these in a film would just be considered a mistake. A cult classic takes this to the next level. There are so many errors in there, you get to thinking they must have been planned. Actors flub their lines, drop things and get tangled up in the scenery constantly in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It’s like the original Easter egg just watching that movie to see all the times something went horribly wrong.
The film either takes itself too seriously or not seriously enough. Waterworld thinks it is staging Hamlet. It’s not. Showgirls wants to be a serious exploration of the working conditions dancers (not strippers!) have to deal with every day. It doesn’t. Plan 9 From Outer Space didn’t take itself seriously enough to take the time to develop into a decent story. When you get either side of this spectrum you can end up with an amazingly bad movie that is just fun to watch.
People know the film is bad but they watch it repeatedly. This is the ultimate sign of a film being elevated from bad to so bad it’s good. I think The Meg was trying for this but it missed the mark. However, The Room, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Toxic Avenger, and Plan 9 From Outer Space have all taken on a life of their own outside of the regular box office. Showgirls has web pages and forums dedicated to it. People don’t view these things to appreciate them on the surface, They go because it’s a chance to laugh a little. They go to interact with other weirdos and oddballs that can also see the mangled attempt at art these movies represent. There’s nothing wrong with being bad. Heck, at least these film makers tried. That’s a whole lot more than 99% of people can say.
So the next time you are watching something and you are sure it is bad but not sure if it’s so bad it’s good, remember this list. It can separate out the cult classic from the classicly awful.
I hope you enjoyed my take on this. Did I miss anything? If so, leave a reply.
It’s been a long time since I have been outside of these dark dungeon walls. I’m not sure if I can remember the last time I felt fresh air blowing past my face as I struggled to keep my top hat upon my head. But I do remember when video stores were a real thing. And I remember a time when a film like Space Zombie Bingo!!! might lie on the shelves in hopeful anticipation of an evening rental.
This film is uniquely of that era. Have you ever heard of a found footage film? This is a stock footage film. A similar movie would be Plan 9 From Outer Space. This film is almost a reboot of that movie. At the time, reboots weren’t really a thing, so I can’t quite call it that. It mixes live acting with stock footage that movie studios let anyone use for free without any strings attached. They throw in some horrible effects like fake weapons blasts and body parts that are supposed to look like they have been cut off etc. It combines for a stunningly cheesey effect.
I wish I could give you a good summary of the plot here but that’s essentially impossible with this film. It’s insanely disjointed but I’ll give it a go. It’s so disjointed I think calling it an actual movie might be a bit of a stretch. Like, a downward facing dog across the Grand Canyon size of a stretch.
The film starts off with a voice over telling us what is going to happen. There are space robot zombies that are trying to take over Earth. As far as the plot goes, it’s pretty basic but the way it plays out is, totally nuts. So there are alien invaders with weapons that outmatch ours. These space robots want to destroy or take over the earth and then the military fights back. Luckily a mad scientist is able to engineer a weapon in order to fight back against the invaders and Earth is once again safe.
The film is grainy and scratchy like most from the late eighties or early nineties. It’s full of bad pun dad jokes. The love interest is named Barbie Queue while the heroic military soldier is named Kent Bendover. The news station featured is K-I-L-L. It does not improve from there.
During one portion of the movie, the news anchor literally looks into the camera and says that you paid $3 to rent this so you might as well watch it or your money is wasted. Pretty sure your money is wasted anyway. They are also sure to point out that they are telling you this after the fifteen minute mark. Video stores used to do a thing where if you watched more than fifteen minutes of a video, you couldn’t take it back and get your money returned. That was the policy of most places but sometimes you could rewind and lie and get your money back anyway. They later added a mechanism to prevent that.
The space robot zombies wear a cardboard suit that basically looks like a reject from a lost episode of Dr. Who some time in the 1970’s. And in one scene, there are mannequins that have been dismembered and painted with fake blood as the narrator assures us that those are real actual humans who have been dismembered and NOT, painted mannequins.
This film revels in it’s awfulness and that kinda makes it almost great. Of course the acting is far below the level of a third grade Thanksgiving play production. But some of the more hilarious things are in the actual plot. In order to destroy the space robot zombies, the military decides to nuke the earth. Barbie Queue gets mad at Kent Bendover because he doesn’t park his jeep far enough from the mushroom cloud. They both survive of course, but then Kent is abducted by the aliens. There he makes a umm… let’s say “friendly connection” with one of them. This alien wants to go to Earth and live in peace with the “Earthians” and be Kent’s wife, never mind the fact that this alien would want to eat every other human for dinner. But we Earthians are lucky because Kent (the guy who had the idea to nuke the Earth) has tricked this alien to coming back where it can be dissected. A brilliant scientist who we know is brilliant because he wears a lab coat (don’t they all?) is able to discover through looking at a fake helmet and some seriously fake looking guts that the thing is made of “Pure Evil”. The only thing that can stop them is the solaranite bomb. If you are wondering if that is the same weapon used in Plan 9 From Outer Space you would be right, and you have seen too many bad movies. Welcome to the club! Also, they straight up say that they ripped the weapon off from another movie, in case there were any doubts.
Also, the narrator turns out to be this psychic guy who can predict what is about to happen. He doesn’t seem to do anything about it, but he knows it’s coming. So between the scientist and the narrator we know that we need to use that Solaranite weapon on the zombies, We do. The end comes stunningly abruptly and what’s left of Earth gets to live happily ever after.
However, I think I have to say that my absolute favorite part of this movie comes when the nuclear bombs are about to be dropped on major cities all across the globe. The news anchors tell the audience that they will be safe as long as they cover themselves in wet newspapers. Yep, wet newspapers will totally work!
Honestly, with this film, I don’t think they could have made something worse if they tried. And I believe they tried. Very hard. If that’s what they were going for, so that they could bilk a sixteen year old out of his allowance in 1993 by putting the words Space, Zombie and bingo (because teenagers really love bingo) on the cover, with a picture of women in bikinis holding a machine gun, they succeeded. I should mention that the women with the machine guns in bikinis never appear in the movie. Neither does bingo.
I can’t imagine this film made much money if any at all but any that it did was definitely through trickery. It’s an awesome spectacle of horrendously bad taste and worse film making. This is the kind of thing that will one day end up in the congressional library as an example of what not to do when making a movie. It should be watched. Late at night when you really have nothing else to do, this is perfect for the sheer spectacle of badness.
I can’t imagine that I can actually watch something worse than this. But then again, the next film on my dusty shelves is Attack of the Tromaggot! so we’ll see.
Slick Dungeon here. What are the odds that a person with the last name of Dungeon is trapped in a dungeon? I’d say pretty high since here I am. I’ve slogged through another mystery book this week. While Death on Demand was actually not a bad book exactly, it left me with many questions.
If you like tight little mystery books, seriously you could do worse than this one. It is the 19th in a series though, so at points I was a little lost as I haven’t read the others. But I have questions. So many questions. One of them involves salty snacks and soda fizz. This book led my mind to some strange places.
The story centers on a bookshop owner who runs a little place called Death on Demand, that sells mystery books. Apparently, Annie, the bookstore owner has been involved in solving some crimes in the past, including clearing her own name and later her husband’s name of murder. For this entry in the series, a young woman named Iris comes back to the island everyone in the book lives on, gets invited to a party that Annie is hosting and winds up dead. Annie, her husband and the local police solve the murder. Since this book is a decent enough read I am not going to spoil the plot too much in case anyone wants to read it. But I am going to ask a few questions. If you have answers, let me know in the comments.
Does every mystery author have to name drop Agatha Christie?
There’s a pretty funny part with Annie’s mother-in-law who teaches Tai-Chi in the bookshop. How big is this store? Is there really room to do Tai-Chi?
If it weren’t for the deaths I would say this book is full of first world problems, these people drive around in golf carts, have oyster roasts and are moving into this big house. So my question is, who did they kill to get all that money?
Okay, so if Annie was once suspected of murder, and so was her husband, Max, why the heck would cops be so friendly with these people? Cops can be jerks (not all cops but some) when you haven’t done a thing so why be so deferential to two people who keep getting wrapped up in murder cases? Nothing suspicious here!
With all these deaths on the island of Broward’s Rock, why do people freaking live here? I mean the scenery seems nice and all, other than the dead bodies you seem to practically trip over.
If Annie and Max have solved crimes before, and their friends who might be suspects in this murder investigation know it, why would anyone talk to Annie and Max? I mean the killer does try to kill them but why lead them on at all. Hey Annie and Max, – bang your dead, seems like a more effective way of silencing them to me.
More to the point, if Annie and Max have been framed for murder, and presumably almost been killed before why o why would they talk to people who might have murdered someone else? That’s just asking for it.
Okay, so ignoring questions 6 and 7, let’s say it was fine for these people to talk to Annie and Max, they are not police. Whatever evidence they gather wouldn’t really be admissible in court would it? So what’s the point? Let the cops do their jobs in this case guys!
As a way of deluding herself into thinking that she isn’t really getting involved in the case, but helping Iris’ soul to find peace, Annie calls all of Iris’ old friends to get information for a “spirit poster”. Is that a real thing? I mean what is that? I get having nice blow up pictures of the deceased for funerals but seriously, is a spirit poster a thing? Everyone in the book seems to know what that is and I was like, what is a freaking spirit poster?
At one point in the book a character says this, “Of course I can smell. It’s my head that hurts not my nose.” Are noses no longer considered part of the head?
Does this book have to name drop ever mystery book and author that ever lived? Here’s a quote from the book, “She had delighted last week in pointing out to Annie the little-known fact that the office of Charlaine Harris, bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern vampire series was decorated with black-and-white photos of New Orleans grave art. Annie wondered if Charlaine Harris enjoyed Sarah Stewart Taylor’s mysteries that celebrated funerary art.” I wonder if Carolyn Hart had a word count to fulfill and realized paragraphs like the one quoted above would help her with that.
No but seriously, is it every mystery book ever? Here’s another quote,”A poster of Allies Day, May 1917 by Childe Hassam rested on an easel. Annie nodded her approval when she saw the books with their roots in World War I: The Murder Stone by Charles Todd, Angels in the Gloom by Anne Perry, Pardonable Lies by Jaqueline Win-spear, The Mark of the Lion by Suzanne Arruda, and Twenty-Three and a Half Hour’s Leave by Mary Roberts Rineheart.” The book is littered with passages like these. So many mystery novels, so many. Yo Dawg, I heard you like mysteries so I put a mystery in your mystery so you can mystery while you mystery.
An odd quote to me here, “She attracted men from nine to ninety…” Never met a nine year old man myself, but I guess you never know?
This question is my most vital question. I have to know the answer to this.If anyone out there in the internets can answer this, even if you ignore all the rest of my blog post, I will be eternally grateful to you. There is a part in the book where a character asks “You like peanuts in your Coke?” The book seems to indicate this is a southern thing. IS THIS REAL? Like for real, do people do that? If so that utterly blows my mind. Who thought to do that? Where does that come from? Why? Please let me know, my life is incomplete until I have an answer.
Back to the thrust of the book. In one part Annie goes back to the woods where the murder happened and thinks to herself there is no danger now. Why would she think that? Dead bodies, attacks on her life, and the dang crime scene is safe? I don’t think so.
In addition to all the name dropped books, did we have to go into extreme detail about every meal that Annie and Max ate? I get you want to say they are eating dinner but is this necessary? “He deftly served their plates, flounder with mushrooms and sour cream and grilled asparagus for Max, fried oysters on an onion bun and a hot German potato salad for Annie, Two unsweetened iced teas.” I’m no professional writer or script doctor but I think I can safely say, typing out a menu doesn’t drive the plot forward here. Also, Carolyn Hart is totally trying to meet her word count right?
Another quote that struck me as odd, “Nice thing about an island is that everybody’s here unless they’re not.” Isn’t that true of all geographical locations? If I was not in this dungeon, I would not be here. Then again, maybe I’m out. I’ll have to check later. (A few minutes later) Nope, still here.
In the climax of the book, they ask all the suspects to gather at a pavilion. Why would someone smart enough to murder the right people just show up to this?
On that note, just because you know who had motive to kill someone doesn’t mean you have the actual evidence, This happens all the time in mystery novels but you really actually need hard evidence in a murder case and all the motive is just figured out by Annie and Max, I don’t think you’d have to be a good lawyer to get the murderer off. Pretty easy to sow doubt and say, who are these people that got to go interrogate witnesses. What’s the badge number? This is more a criticism of mysteries than this book in particular but it will always bug me.
Are Annie and Max going to start hanging out with Agatha Raisin? I think they could have a nice little serial killers who got away with it brunch together sometime.
Twenty seems like a good round number to end on. Next week I will be back to review A Time to Love (Quilts of Lancaster County Series #1). Is it a quilt with a picture of Lancaster County or just quilts that belong to Lancaster County? Who is Lancaster County anyway? Sounds like a cowboy name to me. Do cowboys like quilts? Why won’t my brain turn off? Anyway.
Welcome back to the place where the lights are dim, the air is musty, the danger is clear and the media I consume is… awful. Yes, I admit it, by most objective standards the things I watch and read are bad. But I believe they are also, essential.
In my last post in this series (does two count as a series?) I argued why I thought that bad movies were important to exist and even be watched. Today I make my case for bad books.
I’ll admit that I have a harder time defending bad books than I do defending bad movies. Movies have a large structured studio system where in order for any creators to make any real money they have to be a part of it. People can and do produce independent films but it’s a relative term. There are independent films with budgets of ten million dollars. I think we can agree that the majority of us do not have access to that kind of money and unless your film is released by a studio, not that many people are watching.
You might argue that books have something similar. There are large publishing houses and it’s not like just anyone can get published by them. The major authors, people like Stephen King or James Patterson are advertised by companies with serious money to get the word out there. Just like Hollywood can advertise the biggest blockbusters.
Unlike film though, authors can and do write something, put it out there and be published on a large retailer instantly. Don’t believe me? Look at the vast amount of kindle books out there by independent authors. Some of them sell very well. A lot of them are not very good, but due to the subject matter might be purchased frequently.
And with books, unlike films, I think a good story will always rise to the top. Harry Potter isn’t famous due to its advertising budget. Although that certainly helped, that story is flat out brilliant, well written and above all, fun to read.
So who wants there to be bad books around? I do. Why? I ask myself. There are a host of reasons and I will do my best to summarize them all but I may forget a thing or two.
First of all, books cover literally every topic there is. I suppose you might say film does too, but I don’t think film covers as much, otherwise people would not say that certain books are “unfilmable.” Since books cover such a range of experience, books that might be considered bad may actually speak to a person in ways that I wouldn’t relate to. I’d hate for a reader to miss out on that experience.
Some people out there feel like Harry Potter is too tied up in “dark magic” to be okay for children. I obviously think that’s ridiculous but those people will certainly say that Harry Potter is a bad book series. Some of those people want those books to be banned, They want them banned from schools, libraries, bookstores and anywhere else you can pick up reading material. Harry Potter isn’t any kind of hate speech, it isn’t attacking a protected group or assailing an individual in an unfair manner. Yet some people think it deserves to be destroyed.
I flat out disagree with that. We shouldn’t be destroying books, even if we think that they are bad. I know, this is just an argument against censorship, not an argument in favor of badly written books.
Well, here’s one. Sometimes an author can write a bad book and then, write a really good book. I’m not going to name names here but there are authors that I like that had books I could not stand at first, then came out with something that blew me away. If that first book did not exist, then the later book would not have been printed and I would have less joy in my life.
Also, like a bad film, sometimes a bad book can be so bad that it’s good. It’s not so entertaining to read perhaps, but it’s definitely something to talk about. And, personally I like putting my thoughts about these things out there in the world. I can acknowledge how much time and effort it took the author to create something and how much bravery it takes to publish it for all to see. Of course once something is out there in the public sphere, it’s free to be reacted to. My particular reaction happens to be to poke fun at these books.
And, like in film, books that speak to a certain category or group that is underrepresented need to be out there. We need books out there for girls who want to be scientists and boys who want to be ballet dancers. Or books that boys can just relate to and the same for girls.
I guess my argument when it comes to books is that, more is better. The more books we can have out in the world, the more likely someone will have a transformative experience because of it.
Now just because I think Agatha Raisin is a terrible series about a self indulgent woman, whom I simply cannot stand, does not mean anyone else has to think that way. If you love Agatha, love away. I’ll disagree with you but, hey if those books bring you pleasure, entertainment, or make you think, good on you.
It’s hard to know what is bad and what is not in fiction. It’s not something everyone will ever agree on. But don’t you think the right to have what you like and what everyone else likes is important to be protected? Even if the thing being protected is a terrible book? I know I do.
Okay, I am getting off my soap box now. Who left that in here anyway?
Thanks for reading if you got this far. And please, let me know what you think.
Some might say that I am locked up in this dungeon where all I do is read bad books and watch bad films. That’s not technically true as there are no locks on any doors here. There are just creatures as strange as Owlbears and as dangerous as zombies crawling around everywhere, making leaving a bit hard to do. But I have never felt as caged as I did while watching Locked Up.
First a clarification. There is a series on Netflix called Locked Up. I have never watched it so I am not sure if it has anything to do with this film or not. What I am reviewing is the film, not the series.
I think this was perhaps the most uncomfortable viewing experience I have ever had. Here’s a summary of the plot. An American teenager in Southeast Asia gets into a fight, in more or less self defense, bashes a girl’s skull with a pipe and ends up in what is supposed to be a reform school. The place is actually a prison and the women there are forced to do hard labor, be used as sex objects and fight each other, sometimes to the death. The teenager who is sent there has to win a fight in order to be released from the prison. That’s the whole plot, not much more I can expand on here. But I’ll get into the cringe for ya, cause believe me, you don’t want to watch this.
I’m going to start off with the normal things that I point out in a bad film. In a lot of them, these things can make a film so bad it’s good. In this one it just adds to the whole uncomfortable viewing experience.
The acting in this film could not have been more wooden if the actors were made out of popsicle sticks. The performances are so bad, it makes you want to reach through the screen and ask these women, “Are you ok? What life choices lead you here?” It’s really such bad acting that I can’t even consider it funny.
The score for this whole film is supposed to be ominous, in a creepy buildup to the climactic last fight but the pacing of the film is so slow that all it did was make my eyelids droop. I seriously nearly fell asleep several times trying to watch this.
The concept of this movie was not original but they could have had a creative take on it, considering the location they were shooting and the shift from these types of films usually being male led. They blew that chance by about twenty miles.
The fight choreography in this film is pretty much non-existent. The women who are supposed to be portrayed as deadly are often shown in a gym punching a bag. You can see that there is no power in the punches. And the actual fights move really slow. Maybe not quite Undercover Grandpa slow, but you watch and just think, maybe she could have ducked in the five seconds it took for that blow to hit her.
The climax is a let down even for the low expectations that build for this film. The death match fight lasts for under two minutes, is mostly pulling hair and kind of grappling around. But then to win the fight the main character pulls a move she never learned in the film or anything and it’s suddenly over. Then they escape. Yay!
There’s lots of scenes where the main character gets more and more tortured but then of course there’s a montage of her getting stronger before her big fight. It was incredibly dull to watch and I could never get behind the character enough to care. Plus all the exercises they show her doing are exercises you would expect any average, fit person to be able to do. Except for the one where she holds dumbells fully extended for two minutes. They don’t show her do that for two full minutes, but that’s damned hard.
There is an uncle that the main character has and he is sort of an advocate for her but pretty much ruins the whole part with the terrible acting. Also, the uncle seems to be like, yeah ok, she can have 2 years punishment here, I’m not even going to approach the American consulate which would be the sensible thing to do.
Now for the seriously cringe-worthy. I didn’t clock this exactly but my estimate is that about 70% of the film involves nudity. Now, I get films having nudity and I don’t think that automatically makes it bad, and in the right film, done in the right way, there’s not anything wrong with it. But in the context of this film. hooo boy, this is hard to watch.
For starters, the main character has a guardian, which I at least, take to mean she is under age. To clarify before I go on, all of the actors in this film were adults at the time of filming. But early on, the main character is told to disrobe and we get the complete view. This happens frequently and it is just as uncomfortable every time. It just made me imagine that sexual predators probably love this movie, and seriously made me hate the film. Like, I hate this movie with a passion. DO NOT WATCH THIS.
In addition to the plain nudity, there are instances of sexual violence. While these are as poorly acted as the rest of the film, these scenes are even harder to watch. It’s both ridiculous and head spinning. I just can’t even describe how despicably exploitative this film is, Honestly, I don’t know how anyone could have gotten away with not only making but releasing this film. The whole thing was such a bad idea,
Usually, I go on a bit longer in my reviews but for this one, I don’t want to give it any more attention than it rightly deserves. What it pretty much deserves is a warning label that you should stay as far away from it as you can get.
After this one, I need something with a bit of potential for fun. So, I am going to hop back onto the Troma train and give a watch to Space Zombie Bingo. Not sure who’s going to be calling the numbers but I’ve got my card, my markers and paid my entry fee. See you next time.
Fiction Friday is filled with zombies in my dungeon this time. They’re pesky undead creatures that I learned to deal with long ago. Sure they try to bite, but they make decent can openers if you time it right so the teeth bite the can and not you. I just light a fire at the entryway of any room I am in and then the zombies stay away unless I put it out. They typically aren’t fans of fire or bright lights. Or bullets to the head. They really don’t like that. And in a pinch my dapper cane smashed into their craniums works. It’s a bit of a pain to wash the blood off though, so I try not to do that too often. Plus it musses my tuxedo and I simply won’t tolerate that.
How do I know so much about these suckers? Well, I’ve read a zombie book or two thousand in my time. Some are great. Cell by Stephen King is an exceptional standout in the genre to me. And of course the now finished but never forgotten The Walking Dead comic book may be the most brilliant zombie story to ever be told, no matter if you are tired of the television show or not.
But I can tell you that those examples are the stunningly rare exceptions in a genre with a zillion books. This week I read Dead in the West by Joe R. Lansdale. I’ll give you a quick summary of the plot, then we are going to run through the zombie trope checklist together and see how many boxes we can mark off. Fair warning, spoilers follow.
It’s old west Texas, and a preacher comes into a small town called Mud Creek. Prior to his arrival, the town had unfairly executed an Indian medicine man and his innocent wife. The Indian laid a curse upon the town with his dying breath and the dead begin to rise. The preacher and his allies attempt to stop the undead, and only the preacher survives with his life.
Here is our checklist
A lone hero with a storied past comes into town – check
A plucky kid meets the lone hero and we know he is going to a. save the life of the main hero and b. die in the end, even though the hero does not like the kid at first. – double check
A beautiful love interest for the lone hero – check
The father of said beautiful love interest is the first one to trust the hero and figure out what’s going on – checkity check
Hands come out of the dirt in a grave yard – this has not been new since Night of the Living Dead and is no longer necessary to any story but we checked this one off anyway!
A mystical force of evil is causing this, even if you can kinda understand where the evil is coming from – large check
The hero is an alcoholic or has some other life struggle – blindfolded I check this box
Hero teaching the plucky kid how to shoot – was this ever in doubt? Check this box!
No one believes the scientist (in this case a doctor) when he figures it out even though the evidence is extremely obvious – check it in bold
Hero admits he loves the beautiful woman even though it’s been a very short time that they have known each other – Put a heart around this check
A total racist jerkwad who basically causes the whole thing and is then torn apart by the living dead – shredded check mark!
A sheriff who could have stopped the damn thing but through inaction allows everything to go on – put a badge on this check
Dead people moving around left and right but most of the people don’t even notice until it’s too late – sneaky check mark!
Body parts falling off shambling zombies – arm shaped check mark
Love interest blowing her own brains out so she doesn’t become a zombie – gore splattered check mark circled with a broken heart
Plucky kid getting in a few distracting licks so that the hero can survive – made this check with my foot
Hero being unable to shoot plucky kid after he is bitten even though that’s the one darned thing the kid specifically asked him to do – put a bullet hole in that check box
Daylight coming along and frying the big bad, but just a little too late to save the town – sun soaked checkity check mark
Hero riding out of town feeling lost and like he failed – lonely check mark
The feeling that you have read this book before – blood read check mark
Okay, so checklist made. Now for a few things that stood out in this book as, umm… different. First, though, I do want to say, this is not by a long shot, the worst zombie book I ever read. I have read a lot of them though so I don’t know how much that’s worth. I feel like the author might have other good books, and he has certainly written a lot of books and won awards for them. I just feel like this one was too typical of the genre to stand out in any significant way.
So the interesting stuff.
There are a few sentences in this book that I didn’t understand. It could be that’s because this story is part of a larger series or it could just be that I’m not catching a reference. But here’s one. “He had the cool, blue eyes of a cold killer – the eyes of a man who had seen the elephant and seen it well.” Umm… I’ve seen an elephant too. And seen it pretty well, I mean it’s kind of hard to miss and I even gave it an address since it was wandering in my dungeon. I don’t think that’s what makes someone a killer somehow though.
Another odd metaphor, “The sun was easing up over the horizon like a sneaky, blond baby raising its head.” Later in the page, “The blond head was coming up faster, strands of light, like fine lines of hair were lightening the lower edge of the sky.” Now, I’ve been down here in the dark for a while but I have seen sunrises. You know what they never, even once reminded me of? An infant’s head.
The preacher who is the hero of the book rolls into town, gets drunk, shoots a spider in his hotel room, leaving a hole in the wall and causing a ruckus, but seems to think people should treat him nicely.
The author at times, seems to have an unhealthy obsession with describing things in comparison (for lack of a better word) to dung. “The river itself was darker than the s***t from Satan’s bowels.” Later in the paragraph, “Up s***t river without a paddle.” An odd image if I do say so myself.
Usually I am not too annoyed with typos and misspellings. I mean, I know I make those mistakes myself, although I do try to proofread my posts before posting. But this one stood out as either an egregious error or a major Freudian slip. Either way it made me laugh. “…Matt said and walked out of the mom.” I wondered to myself how he got in the mom in the first place.
At the end during the climax, the preacher had a line that stood out as ridiculously funny to me in his righteous fury, “Hallowed be thy name, oh Lord – and shotgun do your stuff.” That sentence belongs in a b movie horror film immediately.
And the weirdest thing I have saved for last. Also, the grossest. The preacher is guilt ridden because he slept with his sister. Then he gets attracted to the woman that he says he loves in the town mostly because she looks like his sister. I’ve gone over this before but let’s leave this stuff to George R.R. Marin please. I don’t need to read any more of that. Also, this preacher seems to be mad at God and his father both, for thinking what he did with his sister was not okay. Clue for ya buddy, it’s not.
To review, zombies make good can openers, they can be fun to read about, but most books in this genre have done everything to death (pun seriously intended). If you want an average time of reading a zombie book and have a couple hours, Dead in the West is not your worst option. But if you have higher standards skip this one and read World War Z or something like it instead.
Come back to my dungeon next week when we will continue with the dead theme for no apparent reason as I read Dare to Die (Death on Demand series #19). Is death on demand a video streaming service? Can I get it for free if I sign up for Amazon Prime on Prime Day?!
I spend a lot of time watching sub par movies and reading one star reviewed books. It’s what my whole site is about. But I do not want people to get the idea that I think there is no value in the garbage I consume. Quite the contrary, I think having the worst of the worst existing in the world, with easy access for everyone, is fundamental and necessary. I realize my opinion might be quite contrary to the majority of humans in existence. So let me take a few minutes to lay out my argument. I am going to defend bad films in this post and plead my case for bad books in another post next week.
I hope you’ll forgive me but if I mention a film that I have done a review for I am going to link to that post below, on the off chance that you find some value in my opinion of it. Don’t let my shameless self promotion sway you from the merits of my argument. I genuinely mean what I say here.
I know that everyone has differing ideas of what constitutes a bad film. One person’s Transformers is their idea of a good, fun time at a summer blockbuster. Another person sees that same film as nothing but a money grab put out by a big studio simply looking to cash in on a bit of nostalgia. I can see the argument on both sides and while I clearly dislike Transformers, I will defend it’s right to exist without question.
There are other films that we might call objectively bad. As in, they are poorly made, have a nonsense plot, terrible acting, bad dialogue and special effects that simply don’t work. Yet some of these can be as entertaining as the best of the Oscar nominated films or summer blockbuster movies out there. Don’t believe me? Then how do you explain the lasting popularity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Room both of which have interactive productions to their credit that consistently sell out. Again I will defend the right of these films to exist without question, entertaining or not.
Why do I think these things should be out there for everyone? Well, as bad as some of these films are, the alternative is worse. Have you been to the movies in the last 3 years? I’ll bet bottom dollar that it’s quite likely you either saw a sequel, an adaptation of another media, or a reboot of something that has been done before. Even if that’s not the case, I bet that what you did watch echoes a film from the past. There are some notable exceptions to this, and I applaud those, but those are rare.
In addition, we are getting fewer and fewer companies making films. If we’re not careful, all media is going to be conglomerated into some kind of mega-corporation (some would even say it already has) and the choice of what we view is going to be severely limited. It’s no surprise that a company sees a success and wants to repeat that success. But unlike producing the same drink formula over and over, making films is a definite art. There are nuances to it, and these works of art can make lasting impact to people’s lives. Not so much if we are shown the same three movies over and over again.
I don’t resent movie studios trying to make money, just to be clear. I resent movie studios actively not trying to make art. Too many executives and shareholders who only see the bottom line as the end product seem to be in charge.
Now don’t get me wrong, I adore the MCU, am a die hard Star Wars fan and pay good money to see Batman films whenever they come out. There’s lots of enjoyment and entertainment I can get out of these films.
But nothing will prepare you for the strange things you find in a film like The Toxic Avenger. Why is that? It’s a film that was made outside of the traditional Hollywood system. With people who could basically do what they wanted with the budget they had, and did. And it turned out in a way that literally no one could have predicted. Toxie is a beloved icon of independence, embraced by the oddballs and weirdos like me who showed up at comic book and film conventions before it was cool.
The only way to get original art and artists is to give room for failure. Some failure is unfortunate and people move on with their lives, others accidentally become successes and can inspire others. The highly sought after director, Quentin Tarantino said he had to make a bad film before he could make a good one. He also watched tons of cinema, including movies that would never be considered box office successes. However, elements of those types of films are clearly present in Tarantino’s work.
Another reason that we need to allow for things that would not traditionally be considered successful is that it can give a voice to those who don’t have one. It’s no secret that big blockbuster movies, that take in tons of money, very rarely have a relatable, realistic LGBTQ+ character. The director John Waters, best known for making the trash cinema classic Pink Flamingos, is and was light years ahead of the mainstream in this regard. And his work has broken through to mainstream success too. Hairspray the Tony Award winning Broadway play is based on one of Waters’ films.
I could probably mention a whole slew of other groups that are underrepresented in mainstream Hollywood films but it would come to the same point. Sometimes, failure is just a bit of culture not understood by the mainstream.
If all we ever want out of a film is for it to be a financial success, we’ll only ever end up with the same type of film that makes the most money. Even Transformers, with it’s financial success I would call a film making failure. The plot holes are big enough to drive a 16 wheeler through. You can see the pain on the actor’s faces as they deliver their lines. It’s only successful in that it made money.
So if I am arguing that I don’t want us to have the same movie over and over, how can I defend the right of Transformers to exist? Especially considering the fact that it has a slew of sequels that look the same? The reason is that, as cookie cutter as those films can be, there is always the chance that they can surprise you and be original.
I think most people would have said that prior to Thor: Ragnarok we knew what to expect out of a Thor film. But that film had the guts to do something different thanks to an independent director, who had not been so constrained by the studio system.
We need to allow the chance for people to try new things. You can’t be creative by only ever drawing inside the lines. Letting movies be out there that are the bottom of the barrel, like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, or Surf Nazis Must Die allows for experimentation, creativity, independence and sometimes a voice for the disenfranchised. Let’s not give that up. Watch bad movies on purpose. Otherwise, you are never going to see anything you didn’t expect.
So what do you think? Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments section. I’m always interested in civil discourse about terrible media.
It’s not easy living in a dungeon alone, watching the worst films known to humanity and Undercover Grandpa is not helping the situation at all.
When the phrase Netflix and chill first became popular, the emphasis was definitely on the chill. Why? There was a time, before Narcos, Stranger Things and Black Mirror where most of what was on Netflix was absolute garbage. Now people get tied up in the Netflix and forget to chill at all. But fret not, those who want to chill once again, Undercover Grandpa is garbage on an unparalleled level. Trust me on this.
This film is about a random teenager who is about to go out on a date. He first has to drive his crazy grandpa back to his nursing home before he can get to said date. Unfortunately for the teenager, his date gets kidnapped by an on the run foreign dictator who has faked his own death. Fortunately for the teenager, his grandpa is not crazy, and really is a special forces guy who can totally take on the foreign dictator with the help of his very retired army buddies.
In the end, Grandpa beats the bad guys and teenager gets the girl and all the retired army buddies got to have their one last exciting mission. Assuming there is no sequel. Which is a very strong assumption.
The star of the film is James Caan who makes a career destroying performance that is about as far away from The Godfather as you can get. In the setup of the film Grandpa talks to the family about how he knew Colonel Sanders when he was just a private. The jokes get worse from there. Also, as a side note, according to Biography.com “Colonel Harland Sanders was born on September 9, 1890, in Henryville, Indiana. At the age of 40, Sanders was running a popular Kentucky service station that also served food—so popular, in fact, that the governor of Kentucky designated him a Kentucky colonel.” This means James Caan (best known in my circle of associates as the dad from Elf) served in World War I if he knew this guy.
I know this was just supposed to illustrate how “crazy” grandpa was but if you are going to make up fake crazy, make up believable fake crazy ok?
For reasons that are unexplained, this foreign dictator has been captured and taken to the United States. He’s a stand in for any generic dictator. And the dialogue they give this guy is so terrible. He yells at his henchmen for what felt like two minutes because he didn’t know the word troubles. My question during the whole thing was why these guys are even speaking in English in the first place? They are hiding from Americans, not trying to be them.
That’s not the only plot hole. For starters, the girlfriend is captured (I’m not using any specific character names because they were too vague and general to remember) for seeing that the dictator guy is alive. Why they don’t do the sensible bad guy thing and shoot her is beyond me.
The grandpa is also a secret agent and his special forces guys can get the job done. This film gives you the unique opportunity to see how low James Caan, Lou Gossett Jr., Paul Sorvino and Jessica Walter can sink. The answer? All the way to the bottom.
I kind of forget which guy was which but there is one grandpa who has a super old room sized computer that can hack into the 911 phone system, one who is a weapons expert with weapons that are surely not only illegal to own, but have literally no chance of still being operational (and some that certainly would be operational), and one who is a camouflage expert who seems to think dressing in a bad tree costume is what constitutes a disguise.
This old team, the “Devil’s Scum” were the best special forces around. And they get to move into action again because Grandpa, teenager, and teenager’s geeky tech sidekick (who is really barely worth mentioning) are able to figure out where the girl is being held.
At first they are excited to get together and do this. Then less than two minutes later, they don’t want to do this. Then they are convinced again to do it. How do they finally get convinced they should do it? Teenager goes on a rant about how his generation has it so good only because of men like his grandpa. The teenager speech sounds like a speech that a grandpa found on a facebook ad, I kid you not. It’s delivered with no conviction yet seems to convince all these guys to go into action.
Lucky for these guys, all of the action is at a very sluggish pace and lots of guys who are in their twenties or thirties never move as fast as any of these guys who are in their seventies. Even the one with the walker is faster than them.
In a series of ridiculously dumb plans, each grandpa gets captured by the bad guys until James Caan, the original grandpa has to come to try to rescue them. At long last, teenager and his tech sidekick come in to help. There’s a battle (I guess that’s what you call it?) and the good guys win.
But here’s the ridiculous. The grandpa with the walker is wearing this fishing vest with all the pockets filled with some kind of devices that have wires running out. He is not wearing any gloves and is using his metal walker. The bad guys ask this grandpa what is up with the vest. He tells them that they are spare batteries for his pacemaker. The idiot bad guys believe him of course. Then at the end of the fight, the grandpa lifts up his walker and electricity comes out of the ends of the walker and zaps four henchmen to the ground and they go unconscious. Let me just point out that’s not how pacemakers, walkers or electricity works.
The climax of the film is this battle. The teenager gets the girl. Then grandpa collapses and has a heart attack. All of us in the audience know he is faking it. It could not have been more clear to anyone with a pulse. But of course the teenager believes he has lost grandpa.
How can I describe the funeral scene? Okay so, not to spoil anything but if you have ever seen, I don’t know, a superhero movie where one of the heroes is dead and there are other people there and you can’t help but cry a little yourself because you liked that character so much… Yeah, this is not that. The teenager does what I would normally call an ugly cry. But it’s clear he is fake crying so it’s not an actual ugly cry. It’s perhaps the most bizarre crying performance I have ever seen. Is it a fake ugly cry? An ugly fake cry? Crying fakely ugly? I have no idea. But I thought about it for a long time.
Then to only the teenager’s surprise grandpa shows up again, lets teenager know he is not dead and that he will be off cavorting with the double agent lady in Florida. But teenager shouldn’t tell his mother about it. Grandpa also hints that he might be up for another mission if called upon.
To which I say – Please dear God no, isn’t it enough that there is a sequel to the Trolls movie coming???
I am going to end the review there but come back next week when I will review another Netflix dud, Locked Up.
Shoot, I forgot to mention the grandpa walking in the pond in a scuba suit. Ah well, maybe next time.