There is a certain charm to independently produced low-budget monster movies, regardless of technical quality. Like the cinematic atrocities unleashed by Ed Wood in the 1950s, the conjoined efforts of a small team of filmmakers fighting against the odds to tell a story can be surprisingly endearing, no matter how bizarre the end product may seem. This, coupled with my general love for Werewolf movies made me enjoy Opie Cooper’s feature film debut, Big Bad, much more than I could possibly have anticipated.
Big Bad stars Ainsley Bailey, Cameron Deane Stewart and Madeline Thelton as Chase, Donny and Crystal, a group of unfortunate teenagers selected to spend the night in an old jailhouse for a school fundraiser. Once their chaperone, Mr. Howell, played by Daniel Dauphen, vanishes, the teens are left to fend for themselves against a vicious force of nature, possibly related to the creepy urban legends surrounding the jailhouse.
Naturally, the plot is standard enough for a full-moon B-movie romp, but the likeable characters are what really make Big Bad stand out. Despite certain high-school stereotypes, all the main characters are extremely charismatic and the viewer can’t help but root for them in their fight against the hairy beast that stalks the woods around them. This mostly makes up for small issues like the wonky pacing and tonally confusing script (it took me a while to get used to the balance of horror and comedy that Opie was going for).
Though the characters themselves were great, there were quite a few moments featuring sub-par acting and awkward line delivery. This can almost totally be excused by the film’s modest budget, but is definitely distracting at times. There was still some great chemistry between the main cast, and the film’s general feel reminded me of Robert Hall’s charming slasher, Laid to Rest, another independent horror movie that was light on budget but great on charm and character interaction, though this film is a lot less brutal.
Sadly, the movie’s titular “Big Bad” wasn’t very impressive once revealed in full costume. The monster’s design, though functional, wasn’t as memorable or terrifying as something from Dog Soldiers or Ginger Snaps. Again, this can mostly be excused by financial limitations (and also a humorous plot twist towards the end of the picture), but a new and exciting monster would have made this experience a lot more fun, not to mention scarier.
It’s quite clear that a lot of love went into making Big Bad, and that love wasn’t limited to Cooper himself. While the film undoubtedly has its fair share of flaws, be they a few cheap visuals here and there, or the peculiar script, it’s hard not to admire the sheer tenacity of the filmmakers in getting this movie out there. I can’t honestly recommend it as an amazing piece of film, but it’ll be sure to entertain anyone with even a passing interest in the cheesy monster movies of old. This is one of those films where the flaws only make it more lovable.
Big Bad will be available on VOD on August 23rd.