So Bad, It’s Hilarious

Not words you ever want to hear in relation to your bedroom skills, but “So Bad it’s Hilarious” is a phrase I’ve batted around more often than “Cack-badgers” and “I love you Emily Browning”. It relates to horror films that are incredibly, incredibly bad, but are so inept that it’s genuinely fun to watch them. We’ve all been there, and a lot of us actually seek them out. Especially me. There’s something wrong with me (okay, there’s a LOT wrong with me, but specifically this). I am a connoisseur of the hilariously-bad horror film.

Can you actually be a connoisseur of shite horror? It’s like saying you’re a connoisseur of Ginsters pies. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a good sense of humour, maybe it’s because I haven’t, or maybe it’s just because I’m a pervert – whatever the case, it’s filmic sadomasochism – deliberately and gleefully hurting oneself like a modern-day Marquis de Sade. Instead of whips, knives, candlewax and cheese-grating it’s abysmal CGI, brain-crushing dialogue and diabolical acting. But why do we enjoy it so much? I’m not alone – I’ve spent countless drunken hours with friends watching cack-arsingly bad horror, with a few beers and a hell of a lot of laughter. Hilariously bad films are a quality social event – films you can talk through, yell at and cry with laughter while you watch. You don’t have to have the lights turned down, the volume cranked up to 11 and a pillow to hide behind – you just need friends, a sense of humour and bucket of cold beer.

But what makes a terrible horror film actually fun? It’s normally a personal thing, and it’s definitely got something to do with alcohol, but the following is my personal list compiled to tell you what to look for and what to seriously avoid when choosing a hilariously-bad horror film. So read on, grab a beer and have a laugh at the expense of hundreds of people’s hard work…

INSANE PLOTTING

Not to be confused with an insane plot. Insane plotting is where the initial plot is a bit questionable, and then it goes off on completely mad tangents throughout the entire film. It keeps it entertaining, confusing and above-all completely hilarious. An “insane plot” on the other hand is just a single idea that is stretched tirelessly until it becomes boring. It has also become a tragic staple of horror and thrillers to have as many twists and turns as possible, crammed into 90 minutes, which actually just confuse and irritate. This is not insane plotting, just an insane plot badly sewn together. Insane plotting is all about ideas and situations that are baffling, not in context and totally ridiculous. This kind of insane plotting can be found in films such as Street Trash and The Tripper, which lob in all sorts of tangents simply for the hell of it.

Winner: Shark in Venice.

Nefarious gangsters who have the stupidest plan in the history of stupid plans, some genetically engineered fresh-water sharks, a treasure hunt for Solomon’s gold, utterly needless motorbike chases, a surprisingly brutal fight scene in a woodworking shop and a nipple-tastic Stephen Baldwin… all set in “Venice”.

Loser: The Happening.

The plot is this: something is happening. People kill themselves. You can’t stop it. You just run away from plants. It’s a yawn-ride to Boredomland, and you’ve taken the slow train.

The Happening

A CELEBRITY

Celebrities – not Jordan or one of those vacuous morons from the puke-worthy plethora of reality TV programmes currently raping televisions creativity, but actually talented people that end up doing that one “pays for my new house” movie. Or ten, if you’re Jonathon Rhys-Davies.

The travesty of celebrity is that more people know who Jordan or Kerry Katona are than they do the likes of vastly-talented Jeffery Combs, Clancy Brown and Danny Trejo. But in this so-bad-it’s-hilarious case “celebrity” means a relatively well-known but tragically washed-up actor (or one who’s heading that way) flapping aimlessly in a grossly inept pay-check film and coming across as a complete buffoon.  It’s cringingly bad, but utterly hilarious. The only problem is when you begin to pity them. Sometimes it can backfire tremendously, and when someone you once respected does something so shockingly terrible it actually hurts to watch it. No laughs, just a wincing unpleasantness.

Examples of painful celebrity falls-from-grace into horror embarrassment include Keifer Sutherland in Mirrors and Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath. Both upsettingly naff. Examples of hilarious-to-watch “celebrities” in terrible horror films are Jonathon Rhys-Davies in Cyborg 3, Stephen Baldwin in Shark in Venice, Gabriele Byrne in Ghost Ship and Steven Seagal in Against the Dark.

 

Winner: Samuel L. Jackson in Snakes on a Plane.

 

He knew what he was doing and didn’t give a damn. Still respected despite his rough career, this could’ve been terrible, but his line “Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!” will go down in history. Hilariously bad, and Jackson’s shocking in it, but he knew it, so it’s okay to laugh at him.

 

Loser: Robert De Niro for both Godsend and Hide & Seek.

 

His performances in both of these films are terrible, the scripts are terrible, the films are terrible. From being the King of Hollywood, these two pap horror films just sadden anyone who ever saw Mean Streets or Goodfellas. It felt like watching your retirement home Granddad being helped off a toilet – imbuing a mixture of pity, embarrassment and pained love. Woeful.

DeNiro in Godsend
 
 

SENSELESS LINES

A terrible script can go one of two ways, and seriously affect the drunken enjoyment of your so-bad-it’s-hilarious experience. On one hand you get the monumentally baffling dialogue, which seems like a twelve year old dimwit had scrawled something on a toilet roll with his own faeces and the studio accepted it wholesale. Kiefer Sutherland screaming “Don’t make me threaten you!” from Mirrors is a prime example, a line which is both hilariously dumb and cripplingly crud. What isn’t great is a perfunctory script that a studio / pay-check writer has batted out to fit to a formula, removing all character and leaving a hollow and dull film to trudge through.

 

An example of a decent and hilarious line is in Shark in Venice (yep, this again) when Stephen Baldwin finds his Dad’s maps to Solomon’s treasure and mutters “herein lieth the rub”. Not “here lies the rub” (‘cause that makes more sense!), but “herein” and “lieth”. So insane and baffling is this statement it had me and my friends crying with laughter and quoting it for months after.

 

Winner: Paul W. S. Anderson’s script for Death Race (2010).

 

Joan Allen’s threat is both unthreatening and utterly bizarre. She growls “Fuck with me, and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk”. What? Shit on the sidewalk? Is that a good thing?! Utterly bonkers.

Death Race
 

Losers: Declan O’Brien and Berkeley Anderson’s script for Monster Ark.

 
 

Utterly perfunctory, with character’s saying lines they clearly aren’t comfortable with and everything simply being plot-movingly dull. Who’s shitting on the sidewalk in this film? No one. That’s who.

 

THE SMALLER TOUCHES

The Title – a title tells you everything you need to know, and also allows you to laugh at it. Samuel L. Jackson was very angry when a certain snake film had its title changed to Air Pacific Flight 121, telling one interviewer “We’re totally changing that back. That’s the only reason I took the job: I read the title.” Dumb titles include Megashark Vs. Giant Octopus, Big Monster on Campus and, naturally, Snakes on a Plane.

Continuity errors – these give you a smug sense of satisfaction. The winner here, as always, is Shark in Venice. Stephen Baldwin’s t-shirt is wet one second, dry the next, nearly every minute of the script. It even changes colour and style. At least his aggressively fame-hungry nipples are always present pressing against his shirt – wet or dry.

Technical effect – CGI and make-up effects that have been lovingly created on a penny-rubbing budget always cause a laugh. See Loch Ness Terror, Shark in Venice and every series of Sliders, ever. But what isn’t funny is shocking laziness – in the case of Megashark Vs. Giant Octopus, the greyscale pre-coloured models of submarines and sharks is not funny – it’s intelligence insultingly crap.

Length – size does matter, and shorter is better (ladies, listen up). Even the most hilariously bad horror film can outstay its welcome. A short, snappy crappy length is a must – anything over 90 minutes isn’t worth trudging through. Winners include Shark in Venice (88 mins), Megashark Vs. Giant Octopus (85 mins) and The Caretaker (82 mins). Losers include The Cavern (97 mins), The Mutant Chronicles (111 mins) and Orphan, which comes in at a patience-raping 123 mins!

Not a Comedy – they cannot be trying to be funny. Tongue in cheek, perhaps, like Snakes on a Plane, but not a comedy. When a line like “Shit, I’ve left Gordon’s foot on the coach… sorry mate” (Danny Dyer in Severance) is used, you know it’s supposed to be amusing. It’s all about the “serious” films that are trying to thrill but instead just make you laugh out loud at their ineptitude. The least funny films are the “comedies” that utterly fail to amuse – and thus become horribly embarrassing. See Boy Eats Girl, Undead and Eight Legged Freaks for examples of comedy-horror gone wrong…

WINNER OF THE “SO BAD IT’S HILARIOUS” AWARD

Shark in Venice

Well, herein lieth the rub…

Shark In Venice
 

It’s got Stephen Baldwin in fat action hero mode, it’s got utterly bizarre dialogue, it’s got completely insane plotting, it’s got shockingly funny special effects and it’s only minutes 88 long!

Is it worth buying? Yes! Being a firm hater of downloading (having worked in HMV and now a DVD authoring and replication facility, illegal downloading is like shitting in my own wallet) I believe you should purchase this. Not for yourself, ‘cause that’d be insane, but as a joke present for a fan of so-bad-it’s-hilarious horror films. Guaranteed that’ll be the option you choose when you’re sitting around with a few drinks on a drunken evening in.

  • “The Shining, anyone?
  • “Nah.”
  • “How about The Exorcist?”
  • “Nah. What about Shark in Venice?”
  • “What? Why?!”
  • “Because it’s so bad… it’s bloody hilarious.”
  • Laugh, jeer, shake your head and point at Stephen Baldwin’s nipples as they attempt to out-act him, and totally succeed. This is brilliantly terrible stuff.

    Don’t think I’m right? Well, if you mess with me, we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk. Yeah. Take that.

    One Comment on “So Bad, It’s Hilarious”

    1. Matt Blythe says:

      I’be had to put a lot of thought into this before replying. A LOT of thought…

      INSANE PLOTTING : Orcs!
      No spoilers, you’ll just have to watch it.

      A CELEBRITY : Orcs!
      Michael Todd Behrens not enough for you? Well I recognised faces from at least three Pete Jackson films. I don’t think you will see them again.

      SENSELESS LINES : Orcs!
      There are way too many to list!

      THE SMALLER TOUCHES : The Adventures of Buckaroo Banz… Nah, I’m kidding. Orcs!

      Ok, it’s not horror. But it is a fantasticly great bad film. (As is Buckaroo Banzai. Although, both are intended to be so). Orcs! is obviously the result of a drunken night ‘What would happen if…’

      I cannot express my respect and gratitude for them sobering up long enough to make it into a film.

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