To help us through this period of altruistic boredom, I’m happy to announce the first episode of BRANDON’S TRASH CINEMA GUIDE!
In this episode, some pointers for selecting just the right boilerplate ripoff, schlock disaster, and ham-fisted drama to brighten these dark days.
1. When in doubt, go Italian. Chances of finding a “good” movie are about 50/50, but while the risks are high, the rewards are even higher. What you can count on, though, is that the gore effects, and maybe the costumes, will be great, because that’s literally the only thing they’ll spend money on. Acting? No. Directing? No. Plot? What’s that? Go Italian. Avante!
1A: If you find an Italian barbarian movie, especially from the early 80s, stop looking and start watching. Your work here is done.
2. Don’t watch bad movies just to laugh at them or to “see everything they did wrong.” This doesn’t mean you can’t laugh at them, because let’s be honest, you’re going to be watching some truly incompetent movies; it’s OK to acknowledge it’s bad or when things go south. But dismissiveness or pretension are not very healthy ways to go about art, or anything, really. It’s mean, and close-mindedness isn’t a fun game, and it’s certainly not something you should practice. Try to meet the movies on their own terms. Sure, a lot of them are shameless and cynical cash-ins, but a lot of them are also genuine works of passion by the people who (tried) to make them. They’re bursting with enthusiasm, and interacting with that can be rewarding. Also, many of these movies will be surprisingly competent and interesting as films, especially in the directing department. You can get a lot out of them, so don’t hamstring yourself from the start by deciding to be a dick. Don’t be a dick.
3. Prepare yourself for a robust degree of sexism. We’re not talking about “problematic” things here, but truly creepy and not OK. That’s one of the prices you pay for this “hobby” (pathology, personality flaw, debilitating addiction?). Teachers sleeping with their students IN THE DORM, after which the student says “see you in class,” and it’s all played like it’s normal? Yeah, that’s going to happen. Prepare yourself. It’s going to be a ride.
4. In monster movies, the real monster is always sexuality, and almost always (but not always always) female sexuality.
5. All Hammer and TROMA movies are worth your time. You may hate yourself afterwards, like when you ate that entire family-sized bag of chips by yourself in one sitting, but if we’re honest, you had no regrets. You loved it.
6. Early- to mid-90s action and sci-fi films are a safe harbor. Chances of success here are high, especially if the scenes are bathed in blue or green light. Don’t ask me what this means, because I don’t know; it was just a stylistic fad at the time, and it usually signals a cheap movie that was plugged into the Zeitgeist, and also probably had no money and was trying to make up for cheap, sad sets by bathing them in “atmosphere.” It’s the Hamburger Helper of set design, and like the shit from the box, it stretches what you have into a filling meal.
7. If the actors look like they’re in disguise rather than in costumes, it’s going to be a good movie. They either raided a community theater prop closet or the crew brought things from their garages. But if the protagonist looks like they’re trying to “blend in” and conceal their identity because no one would actually wear…whatever that is, the movie’s probably going to be a goodie.
8. If the female protagonist is dressed all in weirdly ill-fitting leather, settle in. It’s going to be good.
9. If the title is [adjective] + women from [planet], you might have a winner. It’s worth trying.
10. The quality of a bad movie correlates directly to how much control one person had over the project. For example: if Matt Rowling just wrote the movie, but someone else directed and produced it, it’ll probably be not good, but not necessarily bad. But if Matt Rowling wrote AND produced it? Chances are good you’re dealing with someone who had a “vision,” and that’s almost always a bad (read: good) sign. And if he wrote, directed, AND produced it? This is just going to be amazing. Make some popcorn and snuggle up. The plane is taking off.
RECENT GEMS TO GET YOU STARTED:
DEADLY INSTINCTS (1997): Category: Monster. An alien monster stalks a girl’s school and the local arts teacher takes matters into his own hands to destroy it. Remember that thing about teachers sleeping with students? Yeah, that’s from this movie. It’s great.
THE DEMOLITIONIST (1995): Category: Cop/Action/Superhero. Robocop ripoff about a sexy undead lady Robocop! Nanobot blood transfusions, questionable scientific
ethics, leather for days. It’s all here.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988): Category: Zombie/demon/high school slasher. This movie’s just great. Want to watch Dead Alive mixed with an 80s high school party movie with some batshit crazy scenes? This is it. This is the one. Just watch it.
PROJECT METALBEAST (1995): Category: Werewolf/super soldier. Dude injects himself with werewolf blood to become a perfect killing machine. That’s all you need to know. That’s it.
That should be enough to get you started. I’ll return in the next episode to give you some more recommendations. This has been BRANDON’S TRASH CINEMA GUIDE! Happy watching, everyone!