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Do “So Bad It’s Good” Horror Movies Have Their Place?

From Sharknado to Lavalantula, some might claim that we’re living in a golden age of direct-to-video B-movie franchises. With cheesy digital effects and (usually) inconsequential plots, these films have become the proverbial bread and butter of channels like SyFy and production companies like The Asylum.

As these movies grow in popularity, so does a certain backlash against the “So Bad It’s Good” sub-genre. This is understandable, as it does feel rather questionable to try and profit off of purposefully awful features when there are so many great independent filmmakers who could create something wonderful with that kind of funding. However, This does bring up an important point. As these peculiar films sometimes overshadow productions that are genuinely trying to make good movies, should these modern B-grade pictures even be made at all?

Of course, the phenomena of extremely cheap genre films achieving financial success isn’t anything new. Legendary filmmakers like Roger Corman have built long-lasting careers out of schlocky B-Movies, and I’d even argue that some of these silly productions are necessary to keep the film world alive. The real issue here seems to be artistic intent, as most of the watchable bad movies out there were actually trying their best to offer an entertaining experience.

The effort behind some of these productions is admirable, and a ridiculously small budget is oftentimes the real culprit behind a film’s perceived lack of quality. Movies like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space are downright charming in their earnest attempt at emulating Hollywood’s biggest successes on a tight budget, with little-to-no technical know-how. Watching these clunky films is a rewarding experience in spite of their amateurish origins, not necessarily because of them.

How can you not like this movie?

The same can’t be said of more recent films like the aforementioned Sharknado series, that seem to relish their inferior production values and make no real attempt at compensating for their inherent crudeness. While I don’t judge people who are fans of numerous (and usually shark-related) franchises like Ghost Shark and Sharktopus, it’s apparent that these films are using our love of cheesy B-movies as an excuse to make a quick buck. I mean, regardless of what you thought of the film, you can’t really claim that Dinocroc was anyone’s passion project.

Nevertheless, that’s not to say that these films shouldn’t exist, as despite my criticism I’ve enjoyed my fair share of trashy monster movies. Even seemingly irredeemable train-wrecks like Birdemic can be enjoyable under the right circumstances. As the various incarnations of Mystery Science Theater have shown, sometimes you need a bad movie to have a good time, and that’s awesome!

Even so, we’ll probably never see this modern trend of intentionally awful movies be celebrated the way we celebrate famously bad movies from the past. The honesty behind a full-fledged attempt at making a great film results in a certain kind of charm that you can’t simply replicate on demand. In order to be fun, these movies shouldn’t be produced on an assembly line as if they’re coming from some strange shark-related factory.

To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making movies intentionally cheesy, but there’s a right way of going about it. As with Rodriguez and Tarantino’s love letter to the best (and worst) that the horror genre has to offer, Grindhouse, a little bit of effort can go a long way. In fact, there’s a long list of great movies with downright ridiculous subject matter that manages to be entertaining despite their budgets.

Could this be the best of the good bad movies?

There’s also a huge difference between filmmakers trying to make bad movies on purpose and filmmakers attempting to emulate a different kind of cinema experience that some people consider “bad”. Loving homages to the corny monster movies of old can actually be pretty fun, even if they’re made with the same level of limited production value as most SyFy films. The sad thing is, many of these dedicated productions will be inevitably compared to those arguably lazier movies. Looking at it like this, there’s really no excuse for setting out to make a crappy horror movie, no matter how stupid the premise may sound.

Ultimately, What really bothers me is how the thought process behind these newer “So Bad It’s Good” movies is almost predatory in its intention of profiting off of moviegoers who just want to have a good time with no serious artistic pretenses. This cynical corporate instinct is also the source of several knock-off movies made by many of the same production companies, hoping that grandmas everywhere might somehow confuse Transformers with Transmorphers as a viable gift during the next holiday season.

This is why, in an ideal world, enjoyable “bad” movies should be a happy accident and not a sub-genre in and of themselves. However, overall, these movies aren’t actually causing the horror genre that much harm. No one can really force you to exclusively watch the countless Sharknado sequels instead of original horror movies that put more effort into their productions. And, while it’s unfortunate that some better monster movies will be compared to these trashy films, there’s still nothing wrong with zoning out and enjoying the show as the titular Ghost Shark devours innocent people on a Slip ‘N Slide.

As long as viewers make an effort to value decent horror movies as well as these silly ones, there’s no reason for them to stop existing entirely. After all, in time, most of the unenjoyable crappy movies will be forgotten, and we’ll be left with only the most entertaining and memorable gems that the trashy side of our favorite genre has to offer.



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COMMENTS

44 Comments
  • venerablemonster

    The movie industry is not a zero sum game. The existence of Sharknado does not stop amazing indie horror projects like The Blackcoat’s Daughter from existing.

    If a studio wants to pay to make another Sharknado and there’s still people that want to watch it, then it’s not like they’re drowning puppies. Why should we question the right of those films to exist?

    If you don’t want to support the making of them, then just don’t see them. Otherwise, I don’t see how this conversation is productive.

  • JadedFool

    Yes they do. It’s called SyFy.

  • Lushen72

    Sometimes I want to laugh at goofy horror. Sometimes you just have to have some cheese. I totally agree with venerablemonster, if you hate b-movie schlockfests then turn the channel. Unless you’re being held captive nobody is going to make you watch them. To each their own.

    • Ocelot006 .

      Most of the people complaining probably don’t even watch them. It’s like the people complaining about Transformers.

      “Oh another one?!”

      “Then don’t watch it.”

      “I’ve never watched one.”

      “Okay um so….what’s the issue again?”

      • thetaxxman

        But dont confuse “complaining” with just stating the fact that they’re bad by good movie standards.

        They’re loud, shallow, obnoxious, uncreative, vaguely racist and low denominator.

        On a scale of movies that are generally considered “good”, they’re down at the bottom.

        Although I’ve heard people argue that michael bay is actually an “AUTEUR” (thats French for axxhole), becasue he INTENDS to make low denominator tripe.

        Which is an argument, but then Hitler would be an Auteur too.
        He intended to do what he did.

        • Ocelot006 .

          Michae Bay is an auteur. I’d love to hear what the argument is that he isn’t.

          And what the hell does ‘they’re bad by good movie standards’ even mean?

    • Erik Hanzlicek

      That’s not AT ALL what the article is about, though. It’s saying b-movies are awesome when they are made with a genuine hope of them being good.

      The problem with movies like Sharknado is that they were made to be shitty.

      So one is a genuine “I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m trying my best” and the other one is “I could make this movie BETTER but I don’t want to.”

      I’m not saying I agree, but THAT’S what the article is saying.

  • ScriptGiverrrr

    What this article should have said:

    “Yes.”

    The end.

    • Ocelot006 .

      Don’t worry. Up next is “Can Horror Go Too Far?” Oh. Whoops. We already had that one.

  • Elizabeth

    There’s a huge difference between movies that were made to be fun, but are also bad (Corman, Castle, Wood, etc) and movies made by a corporation for a cheap buck (SyFy, Asylum). The former have soul, even when they’re awful. You can tell when the people involved had fun and the directors loved what they were doing. And, yeah, there’s something special about a director who makes a project into his baby and it turns out to be a steaming pile of ridiculousness. There’s a reason I show Birdemic to friends instead of Sharknado.

    • Ocelot006 .

      Do you show them Birdemic because Sharknado is already so awesome that they already saw it?

      • Elizabeth

        No. No, I do not. Besides, my cat whaps the TV when we watch Birdemic. She doesn’t give a shit about sharks.

        • Ocelot006 .

          So you’re telling me you watch Sharknado and get zero sense that the filmmakers were having fun?

          • Elizabeth

            Dude, I’m not here to tell you can’t like Sharknado. People have different opinions–it’s what makes the world interesting. It’s just not my thing.

          • Ocelot006 .

            Well you seem to be implying one has a ‘soul’ and one doesn’t.

          • Elizabeth

            I can tell you have *very* strong opinions about SyFy movies. Noted.

  • Creepshow

    That phrase is one of the most ignorant things one could utter.

  • Ocelot006 .

    It’s not questionable at all. “Why give money to make Sharknado when it could be given to make some arthouse trash?” Because it’s their fucking money to do with what they please.

    This is absurd. “Should these movies be made at all?” What? Movies that people want to watch? Yes. I think they should be made.

  • ScriptGiverrrr

    “As long as viewers make an effort to value decent horror movies as well as these silly ones, there’s no reason for them to stop existing entirely.”

    Get. Over. Yourself.

  • Necro

    To each their own. If you like them watch them, if you don’t turn the channel or don’t rent it. Very simple. I don’t think these hurt the genre at all and they should exist as long as a director wants to make one exist. It’s their money. I think you know what you’re getting with these types of films when you go into watching it. I’m personally not into these movies but opinions vary so have at it!

  • Biscoito18

    I don’t know a single horror fan who does not like to watch some trashy horror movies every now and then.

  • Bart Crowe

    The unintentional so bad it’s good horror movies are great. It’s your shitty Sharknados that are the problem. We fucking get it! It’s a funny a title and nothing else. Syfy was filled with those shitty movies but for some reason Sharknado caught on while Ice Spiders did not.

    • Ocelot006 .

      ‘It’s your shitty Sharknados that are the problem.’

      The problem being….what exactly?

      • Chance LeBoeuf

        They’re trying too hard to be intentionally bad and absurd while overall just making shitty movies. I think a lot of the charm that comes from the “so bad it’s good” pack is the fact that a lot of these films were made by people really trying to do something genuine.

        When someone is in on the joke, it’s usually not as funny.

        • Ocelot006 .

          Every comedy film in existence is someone being in on the joke. Sharknado isn’t trying to be Birdemic. It’s a parody of ‘so bad it’s good’ and as far as I and most people are concerned, Sharknado has been quite successful in doing that. The movies achieve what they aim for. Obviously they don’t work for cynical movie snobs but hey they’re not for you.

      • Bart Crowe

        The Asylum makes shitty movies with no redeeming qualites. They are a factory intentionally turning out low budget turds that deceive with titles similar to current movies in theaters.
        For the “smarks” to use a wrestling term for a fan that knows it is fake but still watch they make movies with wacky titles like Sharknado, Titanic II, and Nazis at the Center of the Earth to name a few. The movies are just as shit as their “mockbusters” but they turn a profit because of idiots thinking these movies with stupid titles will be “so bad it’s good”. Spoilers they aren’t. For some reason Sharknado caught on and The Asylum always smelling money are running it into the ground for everything it is worth. Much like Michael Bay and the Transmorpher films.

        • Ocelot006 .

          The reason Sharknado caught on is because it got everything right. People enjoy so again, what is the actual problem with turning out movies people consistently enjoy?

        • Joe Brick (TGOL)

          Having already stated Asylum makes nothing but shitty movies it leaves me to question your level of intelligence having watched so many of them.
          I’m guessing somewhere on the lower end of the IQ spectrum.

  • James Allard

    People watch Adam Sandler movies.
    All of the Transformers films make money (lots and lots of money).

    There is a consistent market for “reality” TV shows.
    Sharknado? Just another… symptom. I have to admit I agree with Elizabeth, though; if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

  • Darkknight2149

    Of course they have their place. Two of my favourite bad horror films are “Plan 9” and the first
    “Gingerdead Man”.

  • I’ve never seen Sharknado and it’s purely because they’re so self aware it’s annoying. “Hey guys this film is so shit lol look how ridiculous it is! It’s so bad its good lolol” I don’t know I just don’t fancy it.

    On the other hand there’s something fun and charming about films like Troll 2 or Ed Wood’s movies where they genuinely thought they were making something great but it just ended up hilarious

  • Carl Chrystan

    That ‘Sharknado’ bollocks has completely decimated an interesting part of film. Behind all the overly forced ridiculousness and packed-in celebrity cameos is a really, really boring film; they intended to make it interesting but ridiculous and failed miserably. It’s impossible to make something intentionally bad so it develops its own positive characteristics.

    But people flock to the hype, and they knew by the second film that the concept was tired, and so had to retain interest by making people wonder which celebrity cameos will be in it.

    And the really bad thing is that people are going to continue to waste their time watching this negative trash instead of checking out worthwhile gems like ‘The Room’ or “Night of the Lepus’ or ‘Maximum Overdrive’ or ‘The Wicker Man’. They were made with positive endeavours and they created their own badness.

  • The Sharknad Saga sucks big balls.
    Case closed.

  • MattyM

    I cant say that I enjoy the new crop of movies that fit this subject, but I watched Dr. Giggles for about the 100th time last night, so my credibility may be in question. To each their own

  • This is a ridiculous discussion, honestly. There are people who don’t like “good” movies like Casablanca so of course people exist who don’t like campy bullshit shark movies. Everything in existence has people who do and don’t like it.

    I love the Sharknado movies. You get some booze, get some friends, turn them on, and have fun. Yes, there are films where the intentionally-bad thing was executed far better like Plan 9 or the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, but that doesn’t make them any less fun.

    I think they need to stop making Saw movies, but I’m not writing an article to preach it.

    • Ocelot006 .

      But there are douchebag snobs that believe making a movie ‘purposefully bad’ is an afront to the gods….and they need to be heard…for some fucking reason. I don’t know.

      Sharknado’s biggest sin is that it worked. And people are very upset something so simple got so popular.

  • llcc1103

    This used to work when movies that were intended to be good turned out bad. Now they are made bad on purpose.

  • David Pollison

    I was expecting a list of recommendations with titles like Rat Scratch Fever and Werewolf In A Women’s Prison and Troll 2 etc.

  • Buk Lau

    Bad movies are like Kraft singles.

  • Tor from Yucca Flats

    syfy n purposely bad stuff dont count.

  • thetaxxman

    It would take a deft hand to DELIBERATELY make a bad-good movie.
    Becasue if you do it obviously to pat yourself on the back for your cleverness it comes off as smug and irritating. If you’re so clever why dont you do something good?

    Sharknado kind of cheats that general rule by just being stupid fun.
    But being stupid without being smug and irritating like a lindelof who thinks he’s smart but isn’t,
    or spoofing something thats “stupid” becasue you think your smarter then it,
    is a fine under-rated art.

    Thats what Mike Judge does so well.
    I’ve heard him described as a “gimlet eye” for stupidity so much so that half of people think beavis and butthead is just stupid, which it is, and another half of people understand that its masterfully brilliant.

  • Darren Kerr

    The Room.
    Not a horror film, but fantastically horrific.

  • Thomas DeWitt

    Does anyone really consider Sharknado a horror film, I think of it more as a sci-fi comedy than horror.

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